The most serious competition to MySpace may come from another country.
Already, it's been noted that MySpace will likely face the problems of fleeting fidelity that have typically befallen social sites dominated by youths. But it may confront an even more formidable challenge based on the habits and sensibilities of an entirely different culture from Cyworld, the wildly popular social network in South Korea, which is opening in the United States.
Is Cyworld the next MySpace?
New Korean social-networking site hopes to make a splash in the United States.
The ubiquity of Cyworld in South Korea makes MySpace look like a fringe hobby. More than 90 percent of South Koreans between 20 and 29 are estimated to have pages on the network, and about 80 percent all citizens in that age bracket use the site daily, members and non-members alike.
Some of the factors in Cyworld's success are specific to its native country: Members can join only with their national ID numbers, a requirement that helps limit predators but would likely raise privacy issues in the United States. In addition, South Korea's unprecedented broadband initiatives have undoubtedly contributed heavily to the site's massive growth.
At the same time, Cyworld has shown how a social network can become a natural extension of everyday life, regardless of geographic boundaries. People often keep hourly logs of their activities, posting pictures from their camera phones and using real-time avatars to show what room of the house they're in at any given time.
So what factors would result in Cyworld overtaking MySpace? Maybe none. But the real test will be whether Cyworld can grow into the first truly international social network.
That status could conceivably play into the political altruism that defines youths of all countries and cultures--something that would prove far more durable than just ranking high on the cool factor in a single nation.