Micro-Blogs Taking Off
By Kim Tong-hyung
The newest Internet phenomenon, Twitter (www.twitter.com), has South Korean companies rushing to create similar services as they leap onto the micro-blogging bandwagon.
Twitter and other micro-blogging services allow Internet users to broadcast their real-time status on computers and portable devices.
Although the expensive and closed nature of mobile Internet services provided by local mobile-phone carriers are preventing Twitter and other micro-blogging services to be used extensively on handsets, it seems that ``broadcast texting'' is taking off anyway.
Nearly 600,000 Internet users visited a Twitter account in June, according to Rankey (www.rankey.com), an Internet market research company, and NHN, the operator of Naver (www.naver.com), the country's most popular Web site, is generating an impressive buzz for me2Day (me2day.net).
NHN is not the only Korean Internet company that is being opportunistic, as local Internet users suddenly have an abundance of micro-blogging services to choose from.
One of them is Runpipe (www.runpipe.com), developed by none other than Lee Dong-hyung, co-founder of Cyworld (www.cyworld.com), the immensely popular social networking service that later inspired global products such as Facebook (www.facebook.com).
After SK Communications acquired Cyworld in 2003, Lee stuck around for a few years before leaving the company last year and launching a startup named Now Profile.
Runpipe, which debuted in April, is Now Profile's latest product and distinctive for its open approach, allowing users to subscribe and log on to the services using different accounts in Twitter, Google and Windows Live.
Tocpic (tocpic.com) is another local service that takes a leaf from Twitter's book, but looks to connect users on a more personal level. Unlike Twitter, where ``tweets (text posts)'' are displayed in the reverse order of time, Tocpic enables users to submit comments on posts and also communicate privately in member-only Web communities. Itgling (www.itgling.com) shows a similar approach, allowing users to integrate posts on similar topics.
There is also much anticipation about User Story Net (userstory.net), which is expected to be launched sometime during next month. The micro-blogging service will enable users to connect their personal pages with a broad range of social networking services and Web-based aggregators such as Google Reader. And unlike Twitter, which has a 140-word limit on each post, User Story Net allows its users to ramble for as long as they want, and also upload video clips.
Despite the enthusiasm by the Korean industry, it currently seems that only me2Day has a hope of competing with Twitter in popularity.
NHN got involved in micro-blogging when it acquired me2DAY (me2day.net) late last year. The company had been struggling to generate excitement for me2DAY, but the Twitter buzz seems to have provided a shot in the arm.
When NHN bought me2DAY, the number of subscribers was around 28,000. Now, it is happy to report more than 72,000 me2DAY users for July, benefiting from a growth spurt over the past four to five months.
``We believe that the micro-blogging trend is here for real,'' said an NHN official.