Have readers ever heard of Cyworld? Cyworld, which started its service in 1999, was a social media where people could freely express themselves and have social interaction with different kinds of people. The cumulative number of users reached 32 millions, and more than 70% of Internet users at that time enjoyed great popularity in the 2000s. However, as some functions of Cyworld have been suspended since 2015, the web service has been temporarily suspended since October, 2019 due to a failure to access the website. Plus, on April 2, 2022, Cyworld reopened by launching mobile apps and providing various services, and proved its popularity by reaching the top of the app market popularity chart. MBC’s variety show, Hangout With Yoo was aired in January this year. In the program, the most popular singer and song on Cyworld were performed in the name of ‘Acorn Festival.’ We could listen to the songs of singers who had hit songs from the 2000s, such as Ivy, Sung Si-kyung, Youn-ha, and Sunny Hill, and answer people’s nostalgia for those days. Professor Lee Eun-hee, Dept. of Consumer Studies at Inha University, said, “In the digital society, modern people who are tired of interaction and communication seem to be enthusiastic about Cyworld with the desire to return to their past.” Why did Cyworld, which was once discontinued, open to service? Cyworld seems to be seeking the title of the national social media again as it returns with new services such as Metabus and the launch of the cryptocurrency ‘Acorn’ based on blockchain technology beyond finding people’s memories. In fact, Cyworld’s users are increasing, and Hangout With Yoo Singers and songs who appeared in the ‘Acorn Festival’ after the broadcast took up popular chart on music sites, it shows people’s hot reactions to Cyworld. What was changed in Cyworld, and what is the difference from the representative social media ‘Instagram’ that the public use the most these days?
1. Characteristics of Cyworld and Instagram
First, let’s look at the characteristics of the two Social Media. ‘The First Generation Social Media’ is blogs and Cyworld based on personal production-oriented content by applying offline-like relationships online. ‘The Second-generation Social Media’ includes Facebook and Twitter, has the characteristic of expanding and communicating with an unspecified number of people. Finally, ‘The Third-generation Social Media’ can provide customized services that users need on a relatively limited network, that is Instagram. Cyworld letter cy means a combination of ‘cyber’ and Korean words, between or relationship. It has emerged at a time when the importance of user-led platforms are increasing and has the characteristics of personal websites, communities, and blogs. Furthermore, there is a particularly strong community attribute that can actively express oneself by presenting various exmotions. It also provides a space to express young people’s strong desire for self-expression through multimedia means such as writing and photography.
According to the Korea Culture Promotion Agency, Instagram has the characteristic of sharing information based on images and videos, and it has a way of forming a consensus with specific topic-oriented interests, so it can easily elicit immediate mutual communication and visual reactions between users. Therefore, visual information which is more emotional, more private can be delivered compared to the information expressed only in text. This gives high value to the simplicity and intuition corresponding to interesting and visually understandable information characteristics.
2. Cyworld Service Introduction
Cyworld basically provides services such as personal homepages, surfing, forming ‘ilchon’, which means close friend. First of all, personal homepage is a small space allocated to users who have joined Cyworld, and they can decorate their homepage using items whatever they want. Items that can be purchased by using Cyworld’s virtual currency which called Acorn, include a homepage background, background music, banner, fonts and character that represent oneself. On the mini-homepage, which fills with things you like or are interested in, they can implement their inner identity more honestly than offline. This is because online space is a very easy space to create a persona. Next, users communicate together based on cousins in other word ilchon. Cyworld’s ilchon is formed when one user requests another user to establish a ilchon relationship, such as Instagram’s follow, and the other party accepts it. In the ilchon relationship, you can see hidden homepage posts from others, exchange personal information such as contacts, and establish a closer relationship. In addition, in the case of ilchon relationships, the function of allowing users of the homepage to cross to other homepages in ilchon is surfing, and they can share their experiences and exchange greetings using guest books. Since these homepages are recognized as a more self-centered ‘my space,’ they can be used in various ways, such as personal autobiography and album functions. In addition, it is possible to freely interact with people through homepages based on offline relationships, which means that it is possible to strengthen relationships with acquaintances who know each other in reality. Currently, Cyworld has released a safe cryptocurrency acorn, and is providing a new Metabus map service that users can enjoy. The newly issued official cryptocurrency acorn is safe because it is protected from hacking and forgery by the blockchain system. The Metabus service provided by Cyworld has been implemented in 3D with both avatars and maps, and there are various geographical features and spaces with various affiliates such as squares, performance halls, stores, and airports as day and night change over time. Cyworld is planning to show a higher level of scalability by introducing extended reality technologies under the slogan ‘Cyworld is a daily life.’
3. An in-depth interview with Department of Consumer Affairs professor Lee Eun-hee
An in-depth interview was conducted with Professor Lee about the characteristics of Cyworld and the possibility of future development. The CBT reporters asked what is the difference between Cyworld, which has returned with a new service, and Instagram, which is currently established as a representative social media. Also the reporter asked professor Lee whether Cyworld could create a new culture beyond finding people’s memories.
“Cyworld is a different sensibility from Instagram and Facebook. Instagram and Facebook are very convenient and have the advantage that communicating with many people is able. However, there are uncomfortable things and pains experienced by interacting with an unspecified number of people. On the other hand, Cyworld has the advantage of being able to decorate our own space based on its unique sensibility. Cyworld’s cumulative number of subscribers is huge with 32 millions, and those who have been waiting for Cyworld’s relaunch seem to be divided into two types.The first is a type that people who rejoin because they are curious about people who have previously contacted each other while downloading old photo albums and videos, but they do not want to continue to use Cyworld. The second is a type of that people continue to use Cyworld, decorating their own space and accumulating their own contents. Therefore, it is difficult to determine the successful revival of Cyworld, but the possibility in the future seems to be positive. When Naver recruited Naver blog operators for people in their 20s and 30s, a huge number of people gathered. In this regard, people can see that some people only like to post pictures, but others like to organize their thoughts in writing. Since photography is a kind of directing, all of one’s thoughts are not included in the photograph, and there is a gap between objective facts and authenticity. Especially, people who want to show others the image they want or hope superficial interchange with others like photography. Writing is more appropriate than photography when the case of sharing thoughts in mind. Like Naver blogs, photos are needed, but there are people who want to leave something in writing more, so the reporter think they want Cyworld to decorate their space rather than blogs. From that point of view, Cyworld has enough future possibilities. Instagram and Facebook are slightly rough American sensibilities mainly oriented with contents. Also, Cyworld has more oriental sensibilities. The problem depends on how much Cyworld supports consumer’s demands, so it is not without possibility. This is because Cyworld, which aims at its own space, is differentiated from Instagram, which aims to exchange.”
Lastly, it is said that people use Cyworld to record their daily lives and recognize it as a more self-centered ‘own space,’ so the CBT reporters asked if the use of Cyworld, which takes time to focus on them, will greatly help people overcome difficulties in reality.
“Young people are having a very difficult time these days. It is difficult to get a job, and even if you get a job, it is difficult to adapt and the difficulty of work is very high. I think Cyworld is a great place for young people to emotionally solve this difficulty in reality. Because they can organize their mind and thoughts and write their feelings frankly. The factor that Cyworld users can directly determine the disclosure and non-disclosure of articles written by them also support this. However, this also ultimately depends on how well Cyworld captures the diverse needs of consumers in its use.”