Korea’s quest for homegrown social media success continues with a new site called Showfar.
Calling itself a “micro-cafe,” Showfar aims to take the basic format of Korea’s online cafes, make them more egalitarian, and also throw in the advantages of social media services. Though perhaps not as hip as they once were, “cafes” are the still enormously popular online communities in Korea that coalesce around a certain issue or niche. They can be huge or tiny, serious or trivial.
Showfar is extremely easy to join, allowing you to log-in via your Facebook, Twitter or me2DAY accounts. Once you’re in, the site prompts you to enter keywords that direct you to “cafes” related to issues you’re interested in. I joined one about SNS marketing, which, as you can see below, only has a couple of members so far.
Money Today says that Showfar’s two main attractions are its openness and equal treatment of all members. This comes through the aforementioned ease of joining up, and by the fact that once you’re in, you’re immediately free to comment in any “micro-cafes” on equal terms with the admins. Regular online cafes often require new users to submit extra profile information that must be approved by the admins before you can get started — a process that can, I’m told, take anything up to a few days.
Choi Jang-hyun, head of the design team at Showfar’s creator Erounnet, said this about the platform’s development:
We noticed that after joining SNS, users often felt as if they were talking to themselves or had no one to share their interests with. That’s when our opportunity arose. Through the micro-cafe Showfar, SNS users can “show” what they’re interested in, and distribute it “far,” hopefully making it possible to have deeper interaction with more people.
Lee Kyung-sook, the company’s boss, added:
A lot of people start using SNS hoping to gain some kind of social capital that might be missing from their relationships, but discover that many people in those sites — stars, specialists and so on — already enjoy enormous social capital in the offline world. Through micro-cafes where they can easily gather with like-minded people, we want people with smaller social networks to be able to accumulate information and social networks easily.
This notion of social media sites being somewhat cold places for newcomers was also mentioned by the people behind Helizet, another Korean social media startup. This raises an interesting question: Is it possible that Facebook and Twitter perhaps lack some kind of personal element that Koreans hanker for in their social media sites?
Admittedly, apart from an apparent temporary blip in Twitter’s progress, there is little evidence of this so far. But as Mike Hurt so eloquently indicated, there’s perhaps a sizable gap between the kind of apps and social media that would appeal to iPhone-toting, power-Tweeting Koreans working in marketing or startups, and the mass of Koreans who may feel more at ease homegrown smartphones and Cyworld.