Cyworld, a new social-networking site, launched with bells and whistles Tuesday in the U.S.
It's been around in Korea since 1999 and is wildly popular within their community. A man from Seoul even calls it "a social obsession" and goes on to say "if you don't have a Cyworld account, you're likely to be ostracized by peer groups." In the U.S., social-networking sites are used to unwind, and are a place far from alienation.
Cyworld launches in U.S.
Cyworld officially launched in the U.S. on Tuesday, and CNET News.com was there to speak with CEO Henry Chon about what to expect from the company.
Some predict Cyworld will take over MySpace as the reigning king in the digital space realm. I would have to disagree. I may be wrong, but I don't think MySpace is going anywhere. In fact, I don't even think MySpace's Tom should be shaking in his boots.
Cyworld will never beat MySpace for a few reasons. MySpace truly is your man's man of social networking. You can make your page as fruity or as bland as you desire. With Cyworld you have no choice; there will be a googly-eyed doll called your "minime," which will be your online avatar. Sure, you can make him punky or preppy, but you can't get rid of your Cyworld avatar.
Then there's the backgrounds. Now, I thought a customizable URL (as seen on MySpace) would be enough for people to feel as if they have a space to call their own online. Cyworld takes it a step further. With Cyworld, you have a "minihome," which is literally your space online. It's where your silly-faced avatar lives and breathes online.
You even have a currency (acorns) with which you buy furniture and people for your home. You start with 45 acorns, and each item costs approximately five acorns, but can cost up more than 20. After you run out, you are asked to refill them with a payment option (that will be "set up in August," but is still not active as of Tuesday).
Is Cyworld the next MySpace?
CNET's Neha Tiwari, a self-proclaimed social-networking site addict, sees how Cyworld stacks up.
One of the great things about MySpace is that it doesn't ask for your money (though its advertisers may--but that's assumed with Web sites). Social networking should stay free, and customizations should be a part of the site. Acorns may just be cute little word for real money. Not to say that people don't spend money on online alter ego. A perfect example would be "Second Life." This alternate reality often employs real money and real products into the game, which you can acquire in your second (as well as first) life.
The difference is on Cyworld, you buy the things that are placed in your miniroom, including people (not real products). Why are other avatars (the bodies that represent you in Cyworld) on sale? Isn't that theoretically avatar prostitution (even if they have no real name or site attached to them)?
Maybe the idea of Cyworld seems foreign to me because of the culture. I don't mean the Korean culture, but rather the online avatar culture. If you are into the idea of having an online alter-ego, as well as the typical photos, blogs and commenting features, Cyworld would be good for you.
I think I am just more into having a simpler and more direct experience when I am on social networking sites like MySpace. Don't get me wrong, I love customizing my page. However, I would never go as far as to create a pretend or mini version of myself or home. Though it may not be for me, Cyworld is worth a look.