Cyworld expands, English US version

With Myspace rising to prominence I was curious about what are the big social sites on the web now.

Well Read/Write Web has an interesting article on Web Apps Around the World.
Being a computer geek you read a lot about Flickr and MySpace all the time.
Living in Korea you can’t escape OhMyNews and Cyworld.


Good news for Cyworld fans. There is now an English language version.
paulofierro.com has an interesting article on the new CyWorld US beta

He discusses some of the problems

My biggest problem with CyWorld is the code. Its a complete piece of crap. From the invalid, oh-so-nineties table based HTML to the buggy as hell JavaScript. These issues make each visit painful since you never know where its going to fail. Sometimes buttons don’t work but after refreshing the page they come to life. Other times even refreshing doesn’t fix things. My guess is you already know why.

Yup, I’m not using Internet Explorer. Silly me, right? However, on the Mac I have no IE (and thank god for that), and Safari/Shiira/Opera all handle CyWorld pretty badly. The best choice, the only choice, is FireFox/Camino and even that doesn’t work in certain places.

As I’m writing this I’m trying to preview a background image, but nothing happens. The web developer toolbar tells me there’s a problem and lets see, “strUrl is not defined”. *Sigh*

The site is of course in beta, but since I have the same problems with the Korean “finished” version of Cy my guess is that non-IE compatibility is not at the very top of the to-do list.

In addition, you have to create a new account so there’s no inter-country operability which is a shame. It would have been great to use my Korean account in english and finally understand what’s going on. Add that to the wish list.

On the plus side

The US version looks alot sleeker than what I’ve seen on the Korean side. Not so much the hompy’s themselves, but the behind-the-scenes bits when you’re logged in definately have a fresh look to them. The huge attraction, and money-maker, is the way you can easily customize your hompy by purchasing items (backgrounds, furniture, etc) with acorns. You start off with 50 acorns, but these quickly run out and then you need to trade dollars for more acorns.

This ease of customization is what MySpace is severely lacking. I would guess that 99% of MySpace users have no knowledge of CSS and use stylesheet generators, which butcher pieces of CSS together to create something that 9 times out of 10 looks like crap. In CyWorld you click and drag items to create the exact look you want, based of course on the furniture/wallpaper/etc that is available.

OhMynews talk about it here

Cyworld placed a 30-man team in San Francisco eight months ago to work on the American version of the social network, which cost about $10 million to build.

Cyworld’s popularity in Korea is astounding. Reports indicate that 90 percent of Koreans in their 20s have Cyworld accounts, and that there are 18 million Cyworld members in Korea, which is about a third of the nation’s population.

The social network will be pitted against MySpace for market share on American soil. MySpace will, obviously, be a formidable competitor, as it has a dominating share of the U.S. social networking population, and was recently reported to be the most popular Website in the U.S., garnering 4.46 percent of all online visits in the country, and gobbling up a whopping 79.9 percent of all social networking visits.

However, there are key differences between the networks. Whereas MySpace is, in its most simple form, a page with different sections, Cyworld presents users with a different experience that is placed wholly in the hands of its users.

“Minihomes” are the backdrop to the whole Cyworld experience. These are essentially virtual rooms that users can decorate and customize by purchasing objects with acorns, which must be bought with real money.

A user’s avatar is called a “Minime,” and can be customized for free (or rather, for no acorns).

Cyworld users can also indicate their current mood, write journal entries, and upload photos to share with their friends in their Minihome window.

In Korea, Cyworld’s revenue is derived largely from the acorns users purchase in order to alter their Minihomes. Cyworld sells about $300,000 worth of virtual items per day in Korea, which translates into more than $7 per user per year, and puts MySpace’s $2.17 per user per year to shame.

The current beta mode has obvious flaws, some of which are visible even when someone tries to register for an account.

The registration process goes much more smoothly in Internet Explorer than in Firefox, and the email verification hyperlink takes a few minutes to actually take the user-to-be to the page they need to go.

[NOTE: for me, 2 hours .. stephen ]

Nevertheless, Cyworld presents American consumers with a new and interesting choice to fulfill their social networking desires. Its business model seems to hold much more potential for profitability than, say, MySpace, but that all depends on how popular the social network actually gets here in the states.

And that will be a difficult goal to achieve in such a busy market that includes not only MySpace, but Xanga, Facebook, and Friendster.

Though Cyworld offers nothing technologically advanced, or even a user interface that is mindblowing in any regard, it gives users a social networking channel that allows them to express themselves in intimate and fun ways. And if its success in Korea is any indication, America could very well see some very involved and addicted Cyworld users within the next few months.

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