1 Web page, please; hold the javaWith the advent of the World Wide Web came the notion of everyone having a home on the Internet, where you could express yourself and fascinate people. Alas, the complexity of programming languages, such as Java Script and HTML deterred most would-be Web “residents.”
Lately, the obstacles to owning a home on the Internet have fallen thanks to a widespread and simplified means of creating a Web page. Ask any youngster in Korea if he has a personal Web page, and he will probably say “yes.” It has become such a crucial part of some folks’ lives that not a day passes without them tendering to their online abode. Some even call it their “other self.”
In Korea, this trend dates to 2001, when Cyworld, a Web-based community site, introduced a simplified means of creating a personal Web page.
It began as a humble menu window with an individual’s profile. Gradually, as Cyworld added more functions over the years, it took on the form of a regular Web page. The concept soon spread like wildfire among other online communities and portals such as Sayclub, Dreamwiz, Damoim, and Freechal to name a few.
According to Rankey, which keeps data on Web site usage, Cyworld boasts the largest number of mini-Web pages, 448,000. “Many of Cyworld’s three million members are now using a mini-Web site,” says Lee Dong-hyeong, a Cyworld executive. Sayclub is second, with 327,000 visitor-hits daily.
Korea’s largest portal, Daum, recently announced it would soon introduce a version of the mini-Web site. “Although our focus is mainly on communities, we realize the need for more individualized services, where netizens can express themselves more freely,” said Daum official Park Hae-jin,
Anyone belonging to an online community or portal gets a roof and four walls: a message board, an “album” to upload digital photos to, a cartoon scribble pad, a drawing board and a scheduler. Further, Web denizens can personalize their little virtual space by adding their choice of wallpaper, cursor icons and background music. Though each of these extras costs from 500 won (40 cents) to 1,000 won a week (paid through the cell phone bill or by credit card, many netizens appear willing to invest a bit in preening their “other self.”
“I drop by my mini-Web page every day to check out what’s new and to update it,” says Han Sue-hyeon, a 21-year old college student, who spends 3,000 won a month on add-ons. “Mostly, I get new items from my boyfriend as gifts. I find the mini-Web page fascinating because I can stay in touch with friends who I do not have a chance to meet often.”
By registering as “direct kin,” Web page owners can gain greater access to their relative’s content. They can also exchange gifts, just like in the real world.
Owing to the dramatic spread of digital cameras these days, photo albums on Web pages have grown in popularity, especially among the younger generation who are so keen on visuals.
“Photos are a perfect way of expressing myself and there are always enough megabytes for pictures,” says Sungkyunkwan University student Yoon Seung-man.
Cyberspace is no longer a community-bound place where people remain anonymous. Koreans are expressing themselves on their own terms, using these sophisticated interactive tools. Such advantages have led some to confess they could not imagine their lives without their virtual selves. Mr. Yoon claims to visit his Web page five times daily. “Since it is a space of my very own, I feel a special attachment to it,” he says.
by Park Eun-sil