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Date: Thursday, 28 Jul 2011 23:24

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Author: "Web 2.0 Asia" Tags: "Other"
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Date: Wednesday, 07 Jul 2010 08:18

Open Web Asia, the conference that I created together with some good folks, was last held in October 2008. In 2009, we nearly held the Open Web Asia '09, but the plan faltered as the main sponsor backed off at the last minute (and besides I was too busy having my freshman year at Google.)

But the good spirit lives on, and a group of energetic and capable folks in Malaysia rekindled the pulled off the South East Asia version of Open Web Asia -- dubbed "Open Web Asia South East Asia" or "OWA-SEA". It's a very long name, but as I expect the future Open Web Asia conferences to take place in various cities in Asia, I think it makes more sense if we just go with the city-as-the-postfix system, a la TEDx

Open Web Asia SEA will be held in KL, Malaysia next week. The conference will host great local speakers (and some foreign ones including myself, and Serkan Toto over at Techcrunch), and the conference has already seen 270+ registrants. (You can register here.) I'm really hoping this to become yet another successful Open Web Asia conference.

The guy who is doing the bulk of heavy-lifting for this conference is Daniel CerVentus. Daniel and I exchanged many emails and I'm really looking forward to meeting him in person finally. He and I have a lot to catch up, as we both know what it takes to pull off a conference of this scale.

Another heads-up for the Open Web Asia conference is that Dr. Gang Lu and his gang (no pun intended ;-) are preparing another Open Web Asia in Taiwan, hopefully to be held this year. Yet another good news is that we have started talks for sponsorship for Open Web Asia Seoul 2011, and it looks very promising so far. (It's too early to share any plans at this point though.)

For any future Open Web Asia's, I will check back and share any progresses; For the upcoming one in Malaysia, I will try to cover any interesting companies that catches my attention. But I'm sure Serkan will do a much better job spotting and introducing interesting services anyway. 
Author: "Web 2.0 Asia" Tags: "Other, Open Web Asia, OWA, OWA-SEA"
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Date: Wednesday, 07 Jul 2010 08:17

Sorry about the long blogging silence -- ever since I became the main product manager at Google's Blogger, I've been too swamped. I am learning tons of new stuff these days, and those are definitely worth a separate post later on.

I figured a good place to pick up from where I left off with my blogging was recapping on the Geeks on a Plane Seoul, a conference held about a month ago in Seoul. About 20 "geeks" from Silicon Valley and the rest of the world flew all the way to Asia and spent nearly three weeks learning about Asia's IT and Web (while at it, of course, doing lots of social drinking and friendship building.)

I organized the Seoul leg of the conference and it was a blast. Given the short time we had (only one full Sunday), Geeks on a Plane Seoul was squarely focused on startup pitches. Though some companies left room for improvement in their deliveries (Korean startups should hone their elevator pitch skills!), in general the pitches were very good.

Thanks to our brave journalist Serkan Toto, we had a very good coverage on Techcrunch. If you are a startup in Seoul Korea, you don't get to be featured on Techcrunch every day. Especially, John Kim of Paprika Lab had the honor of having his big headshot featured on the Techcrunch post. I met with one of the startup CEOs that pitched in GOAP, and he said his company has seen a new, increased level of interest from investors and other folks after the Techcrunch post. 

There is also a blog with detailed introductions to some of the companies that presented in the GOAP Seoul. The blog is here, and it's running on none other than Google's Blogger platform (what a coincidence! :-)

Hope the next year's GOAP will stop by Korea too - next time, hopefully with more folks (so we can have a bigger party!)
Author: "Web 2.0 Asia" Tags: "Web 2.0, Geeks on a Plane Seoul"
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Date: Thursday, 04 Mar 2010 16:50

A bizarre, sad story related to online games. A married couple in Suwon, Korea has been arrested by the police for negligence of their parental duties. The couple left their three month old baby starve to death, because they were "too obsessed with online gaming." Ironically enough, it turned out that the online game they were playing to their baby's death was themed around, well guess what, raising a virtual avatar.

So in short, the couple were too busy taking care of their "virtual baby" that they kept their "real baby" completely unattended and starved to death

The game is called "Prius Online" and the players can adopt an avatar and grow it. Game players can also buy the avatars virtual items such as clothes, or even write a blog about their avatars, much resembling a parenting diary.

The parents in charge are said to have been under great parenting stress, presumably due to their financial difficulties, and as their parenting stresses mounted, they became more and more obsessed with the game -- their "escape" from the real world.

This is really unheard of, but I'm afraid the world might see more incidents like this as games become more real and blur the lines between the real world and the virtual world. Unlike packaged games, online games and MMORPGs often do not have a clear ending, forcing users to put in endless amount of time and energy into the game. Some players become seriously obsessed with the game and play it for days straight without a wink of sleep. After days of immersive gaming, they might get to confuse the real world and the virtual world, like the way the characters in the movie Avatar gradually became more familiar with the virtual world.

Author: "Web 2.0 Asia" Tags: "Other, game, prius online"
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Date: Tuesday, 23 Feb 2010 05:54

1forME is a newly launched Korean e-commerce site that sells hand-made, artists-produced goods. That's quite a mouthful, but long story short: 1forME is Etsy of Korea.

Etsy saw a gross merchandise sales of about US$ 180M last year, showing some 105% year-over-year growth. This shows that the handmade goods e-commerce is a proven business model, and for every proven business model there's always an Asia opportunity, especially if the model is culture-neutral. Well, both e-commerce and the love for handmade goods seem to be pretty universal concept, I guess.

But according to the company's heatmap, Etsy doesn't seem to have a big Asia presence. This leaves plenty of room for Asian startups to grab the opportunity. 1forME has just thrown hat in the ring, a move that's expected to be followed by many others in the region.

Author: "Web 2.0 Asia" Tags: "Web 2.0, 1forME, etsy"
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Date: Monday, 08 Feb 2010 16:14

With the rise of internet advertising, there were lots of promises for free music, supported entirely by advertisement. (Remember Spiral Frog, anyone?) But the problem of such free, ads-supported music service was that the ads revenue was never enough to cover the licensing and other costs. Meanwhile, paid streaming services like Spotify (or Korea's Melon et al) seem to be gaining ground fast.

A new service called fanatic.fm tries to rethink ads-supported free music streaming service. Taking the same old text ads or banner ads and slapping them onto music streaming service is like trying to put a round peg into a square hole, fanatic.fm says. It's just not the best way to combine the ads and music consuming experience, they say.

Instead, fanatic.fm built a better ads system for music streaming service. It's more like a sponsorship system, where individuals or brands can "sponsor" artists so that the sponsors' brands or messages can be presented to their visitors in a more powerful way, fully blended with the right music. For example, Red Bull could strategically sponsor certain rockbands popular among X-gamers. Then people can enjoy the rockbands' songs for free, with "sponsored by Red Bull" messages. This would potentially be a better way to present Red Bull brand than simply placing textual ads next to the rock bands' music videos. Also, the sponsor doesn't have to be a corporate brand -- it could be a group of dedicated fans who would do anything that might help the artists they love, certainly including some sponsorship and donation.

Looking at the website, fanatic.fm doesn't seem to be fully launched yet, but they had already been mentioned in the MIDEM, the big music industry event held in Cannes, France, as "a company to pay attention to". fanatic.fm is the brain child of a Korean team (the same folks who did QBox), but as hinted on their website, the service is very much eyeing for the global audience.
Author: "Web 2.0 Asia" Tags: "Web 2.0, fanatic.fm, qbox"
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Date: Wednesday, 03 Feb 2010 04:02

NHN, the company behind Naver.com, recently announced 2009 financial results. The company posted annual profit of KRW 540 billion (roughly US$ 540mm) on the revenue of KRW 1.3 trillion (about US$ 1.3 billion). Both figures are all-time high, according to NHN.

NHN's profit rates, about 40% of the revenue, again proves that NHN is one giant cash generating machine. NHN is actually one of the most profitable companies in the whole Korean stock market, across all industries. The biggest contributor of this financial success is of course Naver's dominating market share in the web ads. Fueled by Naver's 60-70% search market share, Naver also sees a healthy market share of 65-70% in the nation's internet ads market.

However, apparently there are some concerns over the company's long term growth potential too. About 1/3 of NHN's profit comes from Hangame's gaming business (Hangame is the online gaming arm of NHN corporation). This is a pretty unique revenue mix; Imagine 1/3 of Google's profits are being generated by games, though clearly Google and NHN are different companies as apples and oranges are. In and of itself, generating huge profits from a gaming business would be perfectly fine; However, the problem is that much of Hangame's profit gets generated from what's called "web board games", or things like Korean poker ("Go-stop"). There are increased social concerns towards these games: As people can exchange virtual currency into real money, these games can become too addictive and potentially become borderline gamling.

Also generating investors' concerns is the under-performance of Naver's overseas operations. Naver has always been criticized as a service that achieved its greatness by monopolizing the Korean market, not by building technological unfair advantage that can also work in other countries. To overcome these concerns, Naver has been trying hard to venture into new markets and move the needles there; However, Naver's current progress in other markets can best be described as "still trying".

Naver is a great company: after all, it's the world's 7th largest internet search provider, a remarkable position given that the majority of its users are only Koreans. But without meaningful signals coming from overseas market, and less dependency of its gaming business on the poker-like games, at least Naver's stock price could stall for a while.
Author: "Web 2.0 Asia" Tags: "Web 2.0, Hangame, Naver, NHN"
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Date: Thursday, 28 Jan 2010 08:24

MBC, a major Korean broadcasting company, announced (link in Korean) it will make nearly all of its content available to anyone for sharing. This means any individual or company can freely grab MBC's original content and put it up on their server without any restrictions. 

MBC says they are doing this as they are confident they will be able to monetize successfully. End customers who want to download MBC content should pay around KRW 500 per episode (= about half a buck). MBC will collect the revenues from P2P service providers, and has signed agreement with 40 P2P companies. As a way to make sure there is no loophole, MBC will use the technologies that can detect free-riders -- content downloaders who do not pay for the content. There are startup companies, such as Enswer, that can filter out illegally downloaded content. 

MBC's new policy can be summed up as: Encourage more sharing/uploading, and monetize at the point of downloading. To me this seems to be a better strategy than what MBC (and all other content owners) have been trying so hard to do in the past, only in vain: Putting heavy penalties to content uploaders, in a hope such measure will scare people away. But the problem is, many of the content uploaders turn out to be 16-year highschool students, who may not be aware of all the laws and regulations, nor are easily scared in general. 

MBC says they are giving the new system a try until March this year. 

Author: "Web 2.0 Asia" Tags: "Other, Enswer, MBC"
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Date: Tuesday, 29 Dec 2009 00:01

It looks like TEDx Seoul videos are now up. Mine is here. Show some link/share love!

Since the video is offered in Windows Media plug-in, not in Flash media (a la YouTube), I can't take the share codes and embed them in this post. Also the audio quality is obviously less than desirable, with quite a few portions of the talk sounding broken and incomprehensible -- thanks to the wireless mic that came on and off all the time, leading to the frustrations of some speakers including myself. For a conference speaker, nothing is worse than a malfuctioning mic. About 2 paragraphs of planned talk got wiped out from my brain on stage, and those were the funniest 2 paragraphs! Sigh.

As a Korean, I definitely feel more comfortable talking in Korean, but given the subject and the global nature of the conference, I did my talk in English. Subtitles don't seem to be offered yet -- but as soon as they are up, please come back and see some TED Talks by our Korean speakers. They are as much entertaining and engaging as any other TED speakers from around the world.

Chang Kim's TEDx Seoul talk: http://tedxseoul.com/xe/5491

Author: "Web 2.0 Asia" Tags: "Other, TED, TEDx, TEDx Seoul"
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Date: Tuesday, 15 Dec 2009 01:32

Disclaimer: Not tech-related 

(Via Lovesera) It's holiday season! For anyone interested in visiting Korea anytime soon for whatever reason, here's a good (and free) Korea guidebook. Korea Tourism Organization published an English tour guide for Korea. You can download the pdf file from the link below. It could be a good in-flight read. 

It looks KTO put the slides up on Scribd themselves, which is pretty amazing. Is Korean government finally embracing web 2.0 technologies? By the way, the organization recently had a new CEO, Lee Cham, a German-converted-to-Korean, and are moving aggressively to invite more visitors to Korea. They even hired Bae Yong Joon as an ambassador.

Let's go korea (English)

Author: "Web 2.0 Asia" Tags: "Other, Korea, Let's go Korea, tourism"
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Date: Tuesday, 15 Dec 2009 01:27

(Via Bloter.net) According to Atlas Research Group, a mobile-focused research firm in Korea, iPhone came out as the best selling phone in Korea in the week of November 30. During that week, iPhone posted 10.2% market share of all mobile handsets (not just smartphones) sold in Korea.

The actual market share would be higher, as the figure does not include corporate bulk sales. For instance, Daum, Korea's #2 internet portal, announced to give free iPhones to all its employees. (The plan later changed to include an option to select a Samsung phone instead.)

The biggest market share loser turned out to be Samsung, which seems pretty natural given the company's high market share. Thanks to iPhone, Samsung's smartphone market share in Korea took a hit of 25.4%, and it turned out that 43.5% of those who switched to iPhone were Samsung phone users.

Just as the iPhone was a boon for AT&T (which is now taking all the blames for poor 3G coverage in the US), iPhone is helping KT, the Korean carrier for the iPhone, gain market share. The stop-loss strategy for the market-leader SK Telecom? A killer Android device, which is rumored to be similar to Motorola Droid but is better, bound for January 2010 launch.

Image Google

Author: "Web 2.0 Asia" Tags: "Mobile, Altas Research Group, Apple, blo..."
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Date: Monday, 07 Dec 2009 13:52

Discaimer: Google is my current employer. This post is purely personal and therefore does not represent the company's official voice in any ways whatsoever.

Google Korea has unveiled a new homepage that radically breaks out of the company's trademark scantiness. Google's Korean homepage now displays more content right up on its front page, featuring popular search keywords, most searched-for people ("who's hot"), and the directory of Google Korea's services. 

What's most interesting on Google Korea's homepage is machine-produced "topical search keywords". Google looks at what topics people are most interested in, and present those topics as search keywords in the form of short headlines. (This is purely algorithmic and no human efforts are involved in the whole process.) This way, viewers are immediately drawn into the subjects and are likely to click on the headlines -- by doing which they are essentially undertaking internet search on Google. In Korea, much of internet search is done this way, meaning browsing through links and clicking on interesting ones, as opposed to entering fresh search keywords into the search box. (Not that the latter is nonexistent, though.)

Korean blogosphere seems to be torn on this "portalization" of Google Korea's homepage. Some like it, saying Koreans should give credit to Google Korea for its efforts to radically customize its global service to better suit the local needs. Others say Google Korea may lose its identity, and this catch-up game won't help Google to overcome the local incumbents. 

It remains to be seen if Google Korea's move will help or hurt the company to gain more turf in this tough Korean market, but one thing is very clear: This is a very big move by Google. This new, content-rich homepage is only available in Korea -- and this is worlds apart from Google's seemingly unrelented pursuit of simpleness. In a way, this shows Google is very much committed to the Korean market, even to the point where the company is willing to ditch its hallmark simpleness, something many in and out of the company has long regarded to be near impossible. Will Koreans like this move and pay more visit to Google Korea for their internet search? The jury is still very much out. 

Author: "Web 2.0 Asia" Tags: "Web 2.0, Google, google korea"
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Date: Monday, 23 Nov 2009 16:15

No more "in Korea, iPhone is the next month phone" joke.

KT is launching Apple iPhone soon and has opened a pre-order site this past Sunday. For the first 2 days, KT sold 22,000 iPhones (which are to be shipped out on the 28th). With this run-rate, KT will likely sell 400K-500K iPhones within the year. The sales figures are quite promising, considering it's been only 2 days and some people might be giving it just a little bit more time to see if they can get a better deal. 

Speaking of the deal, iPhone in Korea looks fairly affordable. iPhone 3G S (32GB) costs KRW 946,000 (about US$800), but with KT subsidies under a 2-year contract, the phone comes in at KRW 396,000 (approx. US$ 300), and the user can pay that amount in 24-month installments. And here are KT's iPhone monthly plans: 

  • i-slim (KRW 35,000 or about US$ 30 per month): 150 mins of free calls, 200 free texts, 100MB free data use
  • i-light (KRW 45,000 or about US$ 40 per month): 200 mins of free calls, 300 free texts, 500MB free data use
  • i-medium (KRW 65,000 or about US$ 60 per month): 400 mins of free calls, 300 free texts, 1,000MB free data use
  • i-premium (KRW 95,000 or about US$ 90 per month): 800 mins of free calls, 300 free texts, 3,000MB free data use

I'm a bit bothered by the data usage cap, but then assuming that many users will resort to Wi-fi for some of the data-heavy uses, iPhone's monthly price plans also seem pretty reasonable. Besides, these plans are not too much more expensive than the current ARPU of many mobile users anyway. 

Of course many bloggers and Twitter users, who have been crossing their fingers for the iPhone in Korea for such a long time, are rejoicing. On the contrary, Samsung and LG don't seem to be too much excited by the news. For example, Samsung's uneasiness is hinted by this news: Daum, Korea's #2 portal, had announced a plan to give free iPhones and free data charges for 2 years a while ago. Recently, Samsung has lobbied itself into the deal, and Daum is now giving an option between iPhone and Samsung's newest smartphone on its free phone program. Of course Samsung's new smartphones are no slouch and have better specs than iPhone in quite a few areas. But the talk of the town, at least for now, is clearly the iPhone. 

Author: "Web 2.0 Asia" Tags: "Mobile, Apple, Daum, iPhone, Korea, Sams..."
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Date: Monday, 16 Nov 2009 15:26

TEDx is an extension of TED conference that are independently organized and hosted by local groups around the world. Various cities have held TEDx's, and now it's finally Seoul's turn. The inaugural TEDx Seoul will be held on Saturday, November 28, in Sinchon, Seoul (near Yonsei University). For more info, visit TEDx Seoul website

I've been invited as a speaker (many thanks to those recommended me! Thou shall receive karma). The topic that I chose was, well, what else could it be? The Korean web. Given that TEDx Seoul is not a super geeky conference, I will keep my talk to be pretty high-level. 

Here are some of the underlying thoughts for my talk, as can be found on the website: 

"Ten years ago, Korea was an innovation powerhouse in the web industry -- The country was filled with entrepreneurship and was churning out some of the most interesting web services before any other countries did. But these days Korea-born innovations are hard to come by. On the contrary, some worry that Korea might be becoming "internet Galapagos", inflicted by walled gardens and lack of entrepreneurial spirits. What happened, and what should Korea do? Are there any signs of hope we can find?"

Based on this, I have put together some slides that may form the foundation of my talk (definitely far from being a final version, as you can see). Final slides will likely feature bunch of pics and images, true to TED tradition. 

Now, I'd like to ask your collective intelligence to help me build my cases. My talk will be roughly organized into three parts: a) good old days of the Korean web industry, b) challenges we are facing, and c) signs of hope that we can see despite all those challenges. I will especially focus my talk on the c), namely the "signs of hope" part, because that's what matters most anyway. This is the area that I'm having most difficulty finding compelling cases too. 

So anyone out there reading this post, please help me out: Let me know any interesting people, companies, ideas, or trends that you believe will help re-igniting the Korean web. I know it's a big and awfully vaguely defined question, but I'm intentionally leaving it open-ended for now so that you can give me, well, anything. Let's keep good ideas coming. Thanks in advance!

Author: "Web 2.0 Asia" Tags: "Other, seoul, TEDx, TEDx Seoul"
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Date: Monday, 16 Nov 2009 12:45

Stumbled upon yet another new e-learning service trying to help Korean students learn English. Yes, English education is indeed a huge market in Korea.

Word Sketch is a simple yet powerful concept: Pictogram meets vocabulary builder. It allows easier vocabulary study by presenting "sketches" (pictograms) and having the student associate those pictures with the words' meaning. 

At the end of the learning cycle, Word Sektch gives tests and pop quizzes as well, to make sure the student fully memorizes the word's meaning: 

All this is offered on a handheld device, which is no other than a custom version of Mintpad (which I had covered in this blog). Word Sketch was smart in that it didn't choose to produce a hardware device of its own in-house, but leveraged what's already out there and customized it.  

So in a nutshell, Word Sketch is the digital version of 4x6 memory cards. The good part is that the whole concept is totally extensible to other languages as well as English, as the meaning stays even if we change the language and therefore we don't have to re-draw the whole "sketches" every time. The company was founded by a former co-founder of Gamevil, a prominent mobile gaming company of Korea whose current market cap is north of KRW 100 bn (~$100M). 

Author: "Web 2.0 Asia" Tags: "Mobile, English, mintpad, Word Sketch"
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Date: Thursday, 12 Nov 2009 05:34

Open Dictionary is a natural-language English expression search service, brought by a prominent English education institute in Korea. The idea is simple enough; You enter a sentence in Korean, and then Open Dictionary finds the best English expression for the particular sentence for you. Open Dictionary is sort of a Google universal search for English studies: It crawls data from various sources, including news articles, Q&A content, literatures, bible, and even movie clips. 

It's a pretty simple service, but I find it working quite okay. When I typed "당신은 정말 멋져요" (You look gorgeous), Open Dictionary gave me some quite relevant search results. The service also allows viewers to add annotations to provide tips, which could come handy when experts (e.g. English teachers) could add more context to a certain expression. ("By the way, this is a great pick-up line at the bar.")

Author: "Web 2.0 Asia" Tags: "Web 2.0, Open Dictionary"
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Date: Wednesday, 11 Nov 2009 04:45

Samsung announced its new mobile platform called Bada. Bada means "Ocean" in Korean; the word can also mean "to download" (an app), so I guess branding-wise, Bada couldn't have been more aptly named, at least for Korean-speaking audience.

So what is Bada? The "About" section of Bada homepage gives an intro, which I think is unnecessarily long and yet somehow fails to get to the point. In a nutshell, Bada is Samsung's Symbian. Bada entails a new, Samsung-developed smartphone operating system, Samsung's app store, and Samsung app developer program.

So Bada joins Symbian, iPhone, Android, Windows Mobile, and Blackberry as yet another "mobile apps platform". One has to wonder why the world needs yet another "platform" when it has iPhone and Android, but after all this might not be insignificant, given Samsung's footprint in the global mobile handset market. Samsung's Q3 2009 worldwide market share was 21.0%, putting itself in a solid #2 spot and getting more and more neck-and-neck with Nokia (37.8%). Of course these are total sales and we would see a significantly different landscape if we focus only on smartphones, which Bada seems to focus on. But one can imagine the proportion of smartphones in Samsung's phone lineup will only grow, hence the higher importance of Bada. For developers though, Bada may translate into yet another platform to customize their apps to.
Author: "Web 2.0 Asia" Tags: "Mobile, Android, bada, iPhone, Samsung, ..."
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Date: Tuesday, 10 Nov 2009 05:55

Remember Lycos? One of the original internet search pioneers, Lycos was pretty big back in the nineties. I still remember people almost automatically citing Yahoo, Alta Vista, and Lycos as the "top three" major internet search services (This was pre-Google). To this date, the company's mascot, the black German Shepherd, is pretty strongly entrenched in the memories of many people who had ever experienced the Dot Com boom. 

Those were the heydays for Lycos, but the company went downhill as the Dot Com boom became Dot Com bust. The company ended up in the hands of Spain's Terra Group, and then later got sold again to Korea's Daum. Lycos didn't flourish under Daum's ownership either -- Lycos was a money-losing business for Daum for a long time, eating away Daum's what little profits. 

But (drum rolls please) not anymore. Recently Lycos announced the company posted the first profit in over 5 years. Jungwook Lim, Lycos CEO (whom I know well), is obviously gung-hoed by the company's surprising turnaround. According to Lim, Lycos posted around $1mm quarterly profit in Q3 '09. This is a remarkable feat, especially given the fact that Lycos is not a major internet destination site anymore. 

It remains to be seen if Lycos will continue posting profits, or more fundamentally, churn out good services that will put Lycos on the map yet once again. But Lim and co. definitely deserve huge credit and kudos for what they have already achieved. Turning Lycos around? That's a heck of a job. 

Author: "Web 2.0 Asia" Tags: "Web 2.0, Daum, Jungwook Lim, LYCOS"
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Date: Monday, 09 Nov 2009 14:12

This is from last week, but definitely needs revisiting. Cyworld US announced it's closing its service. Well, services can close (though basically it's a disaster and it shouldn't happen, as people lose their data), but the real problem is how horribly the company is handling the whole situation. I am appalled by the lack of professionalism in the email notice they sent out. How could they not hire a single English-speaking person to write an email of this importance? The email is so full of grammatical errors that almost half of commenters in the Techcrunch article actually think it was poorly translated by Google Translate, while the email was originally written in English. 

Thank you to all members with Cyworld.

Due to Cyworld shuts down US service, US Cyworld will no longer be able to service. We sincerely apologize for shutting down the service with unavoidable reason.
Before US cyworld close the service, you will continue to access to US cyworld contents but not purchase items. Also, you will not use your acorns.
If you have unused acorns, you will be given a full refund for paid acorns only.

Refunds and data backup service is in progress, using the acorn will no longer be able to purchase for miniroom items, skins, etc.

@ Schedule for closing US Cyworld service
Due to Data Back-up and closing service issues, the service will be unavailable.

* Shop service will be unavailable since Nov 03, 2009
Club service, Profile photo/data upload serivce will be unavailable since Nov 23, 2009

But the poor English aside, a more fundamental issue is how they handle the user data. They do not provide any data back-up (in .zip or .xml), nor do they provide a smooth transition path to other Cyworld domains (such as Cyworld Korea). They are so hastily taking off that they are leaving everyone's data behind. This is so wrong. Apparently "graceful retirement" is not in their dictionary. Well, judging from the quality of their email, I wonder if they have a dictionary in the first place. 

Before discounting Koreans in general, I would like to say that this is a rather universal case of a big company screwing a small startup it had purchased without understanding the whole industry thoroughly. (Cyworld had been acquired by SK Telecom, and reportedly many senior Telecom folks had moved out to Cyworld to head its business).

Author: "Web 2.0 Asia" Tags: "Web 2.0, cyworld, cyworld US, Engrish"
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Date: Tuesday, 20 Oct 2009 05:08

ShowStreet, dubbed "Virtual Street Walk", displays actual photos of streets on top of Google Maps, making user feel as if he was virtually walking along the street. The service is now live in New Zealand, and will soon be launched in Australia too. 

Users initially see the customized version of Google Maps where streets of interest are highlighted (blue lines in the picture above). Click on one of the streets, and the actual photos of the selected street will be displayed on the top half of the screen, so that user can see the building facades and shop fronts. User can scroll the photos left and right, and the location marker on the Google Maps move correspondingly. 

Local shops and businesses are tagged with clickable links; Click on the link, and the popup layer displays shop information such as phone number, business hours, and reviews. ShowStreet also allows business owners to add their business information to ShowStreet directly (See video). 

ShowStreet is a product of collaboration between Korea's PlayStreet, which I had covered in this blog earlier, and a New Zealand company called Web Concepts. This creates a great case of a Korean web service getting launched in other countries through partnership. 

Often, internationalization means launching an English version, which many people somehow automatically accept to be the same thing as launching in the US market. But of course the two may not be the same, and launching an English version in a non-US market first may also be a good way to test the waters, potentially with lower costs. With the experiences gained from New Zealand and Australian market under the belt, the PlayStreet/ShowStreet team would hopefully be better prepared to launch a more rock-solid US/global service. 

Author: "Web 2.0 Asia" Tags: "Web 2.0, maps, playstreet, RainD, Showst..."
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