A look at Korea's social media platforms of times gone byAlthough Cyworld is the best-known social media platform from the 2000s, it was neither the first Korean social media platform, nor the only one, to gain viral popularity in that era. The following are some of the domestic social media services that were once widely loved but have waned in popularity, with most eventually shutting down.
Considered to be one of Korea’s first online communities, Freechal launched in 1999 and quickly gained popularity by operating “communities” that allowed people with common interests to gather. It had 10 million users at its peak with a million communities, but the rapid increase of users forced the platform to start charging fees in 2002. The sudden policy change stirred backlash among users and caused them to leave for other platforms such as portal site Daum or Cyworld, sparking the boom of the latter. Freechal shut down its services in 2013.
Launched in 2000, Buddy Buddy was one of the most used messenger services throughout the 2000s. Its main userbase were teenagers, which is why the platform is remembered for its plethora of teen lingo and emojis. It also offered chatrooms based on common interests where people could gather, much like “open chats” on Korea’s currently most used messenger service KakaoTalk. However, the platform was so lax on identification that many of its text and video chatrooms started being misused for illegal or obscene purposes. The bad reputation led to the service’s decline and it eventually shut down in 2012. In March, however, IT company and Buddy Buddy’s owner Wemade announced that the service will return within this year.
Me2day was initially launched in 2007 by a small IT company and offered blogging services with a 150-word limit; an attempt to create the Korean version of Twitter. Users could comment on each other’s concise posts, and the platform was easy to use via smartphone. In 2008, IT giant NHN purchased Me2day and started aggressive marketing, especially centered around celebrities. After girl group 2NE1 and G-Dragon of boy band Big Bang joined the platform in 2009, many of their fans followed. All accounts were public in the beginning, enabling interactions between various users, but the platform later switched to only allowing users to interact with their Me2day friends, not every user on the platform. As it lost its openness, most celebrities and users moved to Twitter or Facebook after 2010. Me2day shut down in 2014.
KakaoTalk launched KakaoStory in 2012 in an attempt to create its own social media platform. Since it was linked with the nation’s most used messenger app, KakaoStory quickly gained users; 25 million in the first five months. But for the same reason, a user’s KakaoStory friends naturally tended to be limited to their already-existing KakaoTalk friends. By the mid-2010s, this lack of openness had led most users in their teens and 20s to leave for more trendy platforms such as Facebook and Instagram. KakaoStory is still being serviced and actively used, but is now mainly known for its older middle-aged userbase and has lost its position as a mainstream platform in the youth-dominated online sphere.
BY HALEY YANG [firstname.lastname@example.org]