Friday, March 31, 2006

CyWorld US

Via Mashable, CyWorld launches a US site. More like Habbo Hotel than MySpace or Facebook, CyWorld is a bid deal in Korea.

From the CyWorld US site:

"Cyworld is a FREE online community that brings people together like never before. Family, coworkers, schoolmates, and best buds are all here -- playing, working and just hanging out.

Our Minihome service is a fun way to express yourself while keeping in touch with your friends (and making new ones!) Post pictures, keep a journal and lots more… in style. Join one of our clubs (or start your own) to meet other people who share your interests. Whether you’re into cars, crafts or calculus, there’s a conversation happening right now."

From the post:

Having used the Korean version of Cyworld in the past, I can attest that it’s a fascinating place. In essence, it’s a closed social network with some blog-like features and its own internal economy.

Each user has a “mini-hompy” - a pixelled room that can be decorated with furniture, wallpaper and other items. All these items must be paid for in Cyworld’s virtual currency, dotori (Korean for “acorn”).

If I remember correctly, users can buy virtual currency using their cellphones, or purchase vouchers in real-world shops. Users can also buy each other gifts. There is a huge amount of pressure to be popular and have the best hompy. Unsurprisingly, this has turned Cyworld into an enviable money-making machine - in September 2005, BusinessWeek reported that the company was making “$12.5 million on sales of $110.4 million”. It’s a high stakes game.

Well, I get the sense that the demographic will be much younger than that of MySpace, perhaps more of a rival to Habbo Hotel, the popular pixelated pre-teen hangout. And while MySpace allows you to integrate external services into your page, Cyworld is a closed platform that charges for most additional items. Clearly, this is a very different model to most US social networks, and seemingly at odds with the openness proposed by Web 2.0 and new media advocates."

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