By Cho Jin-seo
Cyworld, the most popular online social-networking and blog service in Korea, opened a German version of the site last week, its operator SK Communications said Thursday.
The company said the German version is the first step of its European expansion plan. French and English sites are almost ready too, it said.
``Cyworld provides a lot of tools and visual effects to express oneself that are not common in Western social-networking sites, so the European citizens will find it fresh and new,'' Park Jung-ho, chief of SK Communication's business development, said in a statement.
With the opening of the German site, Cyworld now operates in six nations _ South Korea, Japan, the Untied States, Taiwan, Vietnam and Germany.
Often referred to as ``mini-hompy'' in Korea, Cyworld is one of the pioneers of the online social networking service. Opened in 1998, it has become extremely popular among young people, though its popularity has somewhat cooled down in recent years. It was also the first Web service to continuously make stable profits by selling Web accessories and virtual currency called Dotori.
Cyworld Germany will have many distinguished features from the original Korean version to meet the local people's taste, the firm said.
Most of all, the German version is built on the Firefox web browser platform, which is rapidly becoming the norm in the region, while the Korean version is tailored for Microsoft Internet Explorer. Also, there will be no pop-up windows in the German site, the firm said.
The Avatars, the small cartoon characters that represent each user in Cyworld, will be drawn in 3-D graphics for a more mature look, it added.