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Summary:

Cyworld, the South Korean-born social network, has opened its U.S. site into “public beta,” meaning anyone can now access the site and create those lovable “minihomes” and “minirooms” that have captured more than a third of the Korean population (see screen shots of the U.S. site […]

Cyworld, the South Korean-born social network, has opened its U.S. site into “public beta,” meaning anyone can now access the site and create those lovable “minihomes” and “minirooms” that have captured more than a third of the Korean population (see screen shots of the U.S. site below.)

Like MySpace’s web pages, U.S. Cyworld users are able to customize their sites with photos, images, and music and can send and receive messages for other users. Unlike MySpace the site is based around cutesy avatars called “Minime’s”, buying and shopping with “acorn” points and design elements that evoke a wholesome goodness that’s both kitchsy hip and a bit pollyanna.

Dozens of new social networks are coming to market this year, but Cyworld has seven years of experience and the backing of SK Communications, a subsidiary of Korea’s largest wireless operator SK Telecom, to kick off its attempt at global domination.

Cyworld’s U.S. efforts are more than just a way to tap the American market, the site is the platform for building sites that will be launched in Europe — Germany and the U.K. among other EU countries — as well as South America, and east Asia. Cyworld already has sites in China, Japan and Taiwan.

cyworld usa

While MySpace has similar plans to launch in Germany this summer, Cyworld plans to open a site in Germany early next year in a partnership with Deutsche Telecom.

In some markets like Germany, Cyworld would rather partner with a local company, and a local telecom company like Deutsche Telecom is a natural fit given Cyworld also offers a mobile service. In different countries the site might take on different flavors, and in Germany the site could take on more of a dating element, says Michael Streefland, Vice President of marketing for Cyworld.

For the U.S. site, the 30-person Cyworld team in San Francisco has spent months localizing the Korean content to make it more U.S.-friendly, altering the layout and getting rid of Korean-content that just doesn’t translate. Cyworld’s music service, which broadcasts music for visitors to homepages, and has been wildly popular in Korea selling some six million songs a month, will be used for the U.S. site. Deals with U.S. music labels are now being finalised.

Cyworld is also working on its mobile service for the U.S., which won’t likely launch until next year. Part of that is because the company wants to watch and see the moves of MySpace mobile, which has an exclusive deal with SK Telecom’s MVNO Helio. Cyworld Mobile won’t likely have a direct relationship with Helio, given both are newcomers to the U.S. market says Henry Chon, Cyworld US CEO.

Henry gives a ballpark figure of $10 million for launching Cyworld’s U.S. site, but says SK Communications will give them whatever they need to succeed in the market. He says he’s talked with all the major venture firms in the valley, and isn’t interested in raising money for financial reasons. That said, he might be interested in a strategic partnership.

Cyworld’s U.S. site could be more of a testing ground for the company’s international plans rather than an attempt to dominate the U.S. market. The Cyworld team knows there’s a slew of social network sites in the U.S. already cleaning house. “We are being realistic. There are a lot of hardships in the U.S. market,” says Henry Chon. “But we’ve been here since 1999. We’re going to bring that experience here,” he says.

The U.S. site officially launches in August, but anyone can access it now. Go check it out and give us your feedback!

  1. The signup doesn’t work. It keeps kicking out an error message for the verification code.

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  2. Signup works if you use all lower-case no matter what the box states. This is one of several bugs on the site, especially if you’re not using IE/Win.

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  3. The code you entered did not match the image.
    Please enter the correct registration code. Tried a few times with capital letters and small too. No luck.

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  4. It was very successful in Korea and Asian regions. I hope it will be familiar in American teenagers too.

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  5. yep, allready heard that Korea trying to expand to Usa region.

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  6. I tried to sign up and got the confirmation email, but everything errors after I try to click from there..? Also I can’t log in, oh well…

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  7. CyWorld is getting way too much hype. Anyone who’s actually tried it would strongly disagree with all these people saying how great it is. CyWorld sucks. MySpace is, even for its outdated appearance and lack of technology, still the best social networking site.

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  8. Link correction: The previous comment should link here. CyWorld sucks.

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  9. Thank for your interesting article :)
    Whether it may be a good business model or not,
    I think, Cyworld can be a remarkable site.
    Unless myspace.com will be a great one. ;)

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  10. Free Code = death to CyWorld in USA

    Fortunately – users in the US have many options, and CyWorlds – take-it-or-leave-it from their collection of graphics and mini items is not likely to appeal to many myspace users.

    MySpace may be terrible tecnnically – and not appeal to the geek “technorati” in elegance – but it is King with users – and it’s easy to see why:

    FREEDOM

    The fundamental problem is diversity with the CyWorld Approach – MySpace has created a huge ecosystem of companies like http://www.skem9.com http://www.blemeshack.com http://www.glitter-graphics.com http://www.dolliecrave.com http://www.myonda.com http://www.createblog.com

    the list and diveristy of sites serving different interests – with different layouts, graphics, video, music etc. to customize your profile – or ANY OTHER profile on another social network is astounding. There are litterally millions upon millions of items from thousands of sites. CyWorld only offers their items – yes for cute acorns, but C’mon?? Who would pay? All the sites offer Free Code – that you can put on any blog, website, profile, wherever…and they are not going away.

    http://www.blemeshack.com has even launched a meta search engine to search all the other sites to find these free items and the free code…

    You Tube is another Major market force – in distributing their video codes free – they have grown to be the market leader – and the dozens of video offerings that have followed – have all had to offer their video codes for distrbution – to MySpace profiles, blogs, and anywhere else…

    Other social networks will grow – and in time – one may top myspace – but it will be based on leveraging all the FREE decoration and enhancement codes ALREADY out there… not by building a closed walled community – and trying to trick users with cutesy garbage into paying for a poorer choice of items.

    Look at Tag World – which has tried to push and push it’s own “widgets” (technically elegant and loved by techies) to enhance your profile – after tons of money spent – it’s numbers still suck. Lost Cherry is a good example of an SN that is embracing all of the MySpace content sites – and enhancing some messaging features – and growing like a rocket. They have another revenue idea which is getting users to review advertisers offerings more closely – in exchage for points – but they are doing nothing to try to lock users in, and fully support HTML grabbed from any where – and stored in users bleme Shacks.

    In the end – the equation is simple:

    Free Code + Leveraging Existing Content + Demographic focus => Social Networking success.

    joe

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