Yahoo Japan has announced that most of its online services will no longer be accessible in the European Economic Area and the UK from April 6. The company’s email, credit card, and ebook services will continue to be available, but everything else will go dark.
The stated reason is the costs of complying with European regulations, including the GDPR. In a statement, Yahoo Japan says it would be difficult to provide continuous service to customers in the EEA and the UK, further telling the Japanese publication IT media that it would be “impossible” to cover the costs of complying and responding to the related laws.
Yahoo Japan is an entirely different entity from the former US web giant now owned by the private equity firm Apollo. Founded as a joint venture between US-based Yahoo and SoftBank in 1996, Yahoo Japan remains extremely popular in Japan as a web portal and search engine, with numerous other Japanese-language services including online auctions, e-commerce, and well-regarded weather and mapping apps.
The decision to withdraw completely from Europe comes as Yahoo Japan ramps up its efforts to expand beyond its home market. Z Holdings, the parent company of SoftBank owned by Yahoo Japan, merged with dominant Japanese chat app Line last year to create a new tech giant with global ambitions. Takeshi Idezawa, Line CEO and now co-CEO of Z Holdings alongside Yahoo Japan CEO Kentaro Kawabe, said at the time that the new company “would like to launch a global smartphone app”.
Yahoo Japan has clearly decided that its user base in Europe is not large enough to be worth the cost of complying with EU regulations. Its services are usually only offered in Japanese so the reach will have been limited, but it is remarkable that a web company with such a huge presence in its own large market feels it is unable to operate in Europe.