While YouTube will likely always reign supreme as THE video sharing site around the world, it still faces tough competition in Japan in the form of NicoNico.
Originally known as Nico Nico Douga (literally “Smile Videos”), the site first launched in December 2016 using YouTube as its video hosting service. The site rapidly grew in popularity and was subsequently blocked from YouTube in February 2007, just a couple of months after their original launch. Luckily for fans, the downtime was minimal as the site relaunched in March of that same year with their own server and from there has ballooned into one of the top 200 sites in the world.
Changing their name to NicoNico in April 2012, the main features of the site which set it apart from the competition is the very distinct commenting style. On this site, viewing videos is a shared experience thanks to every single comment being locked to the video via timestamp and scrolled across the video player every time someone views the video from that point forward. As you might imagine, this can create a mess of text when a video is particularly popular which is why the site gave users the option to filter or even turn off the comments entirely.
In order to comment on videos on NicoNico, you must be a registered user. A big part of the money that NicoNico makes is from selling premium memberships which run ¥540 a month (though they also have free memberships). I haven’t been able to find up to date statistics regarding their registered user accounts but it is known that in 2012 they had 1.5 million premium members around the world.
In addition to the scrolling comments, NicoNico also has a special live feature for premium members which allows them to easily broadcast themselves. That feature launched for all premium members in December 2008 and gained popularity very quickly. By July 2012, the total quantity of programs broadcast on the service reached 100 million.
In terms of content, NicoNico isn’t all that different from YouTube… they’re kind of like YouTube’s sugar-fueled, hyper, smaller cousin. There are plenty of people who stream themselves gaming, regular videos of people celebrating holidays, personalities from various walks of life, commercials for the latest eiga, music (there are even several stars such as the original members of pop duo ClariS who got their start on this site), and, of course, various anime content. Perhaps my favorite trend on NicoNico is the MADs. In these nuggets of joy, users remix anime dialogue into original songs and sometimes they can be quite catchy.
The one downside to the site being translated into different languages is that you can’t use it to learn “internet Japanese” any longer as most of the comments you see will be in your own language.
If you’re a fan of Japanese pop culture and you’re looking for an alternative to YouTube to get your fix, NicoNico has more than proven themselves as being worthy of your attention.