Social Networking Korean-style

BusinessWeek has written a nice overview about Cyworld. No shocking news, but always interesting to see the whole Cyworld picture: Launched five years ago, Cyworld has almost 19 million members, close to 40% of South Korea’s population. It pulls in an average of 900,000 unique visitors daily, and 20,000 users create some form of content every day. That makes it one of the most popular Web sites in the country. Members chat with their friends via the site’s instant-messaging service, keep logs there, put up photos, and meet new friends when visitors stop by their Cyworld site. “I met my husband at a Cyworld club,” says Kim Hye Kyung, a 31-year-old furniture designer. “Now I keep a photo log of my family at Cyworld.” Like other social networking services, Cyworld lets people create their own home pages that can accommodate an unlimited number of photos, documents, and other data. The site has become so popular that some 40,000 companies, non-profit organizations, government agencies, and universities have joined as members to promote their businesses and activities through Cyworld.

One thing that differentiates Cyworld is that users personalize their home pages, known as mini-homepi, by decorating their “rooms” with digital furniture, art, home electronics, wallpaper, and music. All these digital items are sold for anywhere from 20 cents to $9. Users first have to convert real money into cyber-currency called dotori (Korean for acorns), which costs 10 cents each. Cyworld gets an average of $270,000 a day selling this virtual currency.Cyworld is not just a PC community. The company is owned by SK Telecom, Korea’s largest mobile carrier, and 3 million Cyworld users regularly log on with their phones. To encourage loyalty (and use of mobile phone service) SK allows users to post as many photos as they like, and every day Cyworld users upload millions of photos, many of them directly from camera phones.


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