ViiKii is Youtube for international videos

Web 2.0 | 2009/06/03 12:46 | Web 2.0 Asia

A few days ago, I met with the founders of ViiKii, a Valley-based startup specializing in sharing subtitled international videos. The husband-and-wife team originally come from Korea and they have extensive startup experiences under their belt. They started ViiKii a few years back when Changseong Ho (the husband) was still at Stanford MBA. Now the site is a booming and bustling place, where lots of subtitle creators and viewers interested in watching international videos hang out. Also the service is already profitable with ads and donations, they say. 

People gifted with translation skills can create subtitles for videos produced in foreign languages. Right now translators do not make money directly from their work, but they get reputation among the community - which is enough of a motivation for so many subtitle creators that there is sometimes even competition going on among them as to who gets to translate a certain piece of video. 

Thanks to the contribution of those subtitle creators, viewers can watch various international videos without so much of language barrier. The site's reputation system makes translators do a good job, and after a quick spin I find the general quality of translation very good. The site has clean design and has all necessary features like sharing, embedding, comments, etc. You can call this a Youtube of translated videos. 

As the world becomes more globalized, more and more people will develop interest in foreign culture, as observed in the recent popularity of Korean pop culture among other parts of the Asia. That means the number of people who want to consume subtitled international videos will only increase, suggesting a bright future for ViiKii.  

TAG viikii

Top Korean sports celebrity to join Twitter

Web 2.0 | 2009/05/27 16:49 | Web 2.0 Asia

After Oprah's blessing, Twitter has become officially mainstream, and many celebrities are joining the micro-blogging service. Yuna Kim, a Korean figure skater who is one of the most popular sports figures in Korea, also started her own Twitter recently. Kim's Twitter has instantly got . 

Whenever I talk to folks from the Valley, many of them ask me why no one had started a Twitter clone in Korea. It turns out that we do have a cool Twitter-like service in Me2day, which is now part of NHN (the company behind Naver.) Also there is another service called PlayTalk, which became famous after a famous Korean book author published a best seller book, based on his "Twits" on PlayTalk. 

Speaking of a famous figure using the service, Me2day also saw increase of use after having Epic High, famous singer, on board. Key takeaway here: Whether it's Oprah, a figure skater, or a best selling book author, having a celebrity on your service can make it much more visible to the mainstream users. 

Last weekend, the news that caught all Koreans in shock was the former president Roh's death. The nation is in mourning, and many of the major Korean internet sites were quick to participate in the mourning by employing monotone hues on their front page. Portals also have opened public forums where users can leave messages of condolescence. As societies become more connected, internet portals are becoming more and more the default window that reflects the society's current sentiments and the zeitgeist.  

Playstreet is a new service that sort of combines the best of Google's street views and In a nutshell, Playstreet, a Seoul-based startup service, is a local review service on select hot spots. Hotspots in cities are usually represented by streets -- think Paris' Champs-Elysees, New York's 5th Avenue, Los Angeles's Rodeo Drive, or Tokyo's Harajuku Dakeshita Dori. Playstreet displays local review content on those popular streets in a unique way, where street view images are overlayed onto graphical maps, so that it can give users a feeling as if they were actually walking on the particular spot. 

Playstreet only focuses on "hot spots", and for Seoul, currently there are 29 hotspots. I think that's plenty. 

Select a hotspot, and the default view presented is a graphical map. But notice the map doesn't try to cover everywhere, but specifically focuses on most interesting streets. When mouse is over a blue line on the map (i.e. certain street of interest), it gets highlighted. 

Click on the highlighted blue line, and you get a more detailed view for the street. Now you see a mashup of street view (top pane) and the matching graphical map (bottom pane). The two panes are synchronized, so whichever pane you are scrolling in, the other pane gets scrolled at the same time.  

Notable places on the street view are tagged; Click on a place tag, and a popup window shows basic information and review content about the place. (There isn't so much of content for the time being, it appears). 

It's interesting they are not using Google's street maps (which doesn't support Korea right now anyway), or anything equivalent, but are producing their own version of street images. They say they have a partnership program with colleges, and through that program they can hire college students for a low-cost photo taking. Playstreet says the key reason they have to produce their own images is the needs for more frequent update - in Korea, shops do change all the time. But I'm still wondering if producing the street images in-house is the best approach for them in the long term. 

It also remains to be seen if Playstreet will be able to amass enough content, either through crawling or through user generation. At the end of the day, local information sites would be all about content. Having said that, I think this is a quite interesting concept and a brilliantly unique user interface. 

TAG playstreet

Cyworld to embrace Open Social

Web 2.0 | 2009/05/14 20:00 | Web 2.0 Asia

Image from Google

Cyworld, Korea's largest social network famous for its Minihompies and virtual goods marketplace, announced it will embrace Google's Open Social technologies. Finally.

At this point, it is not 100% clear how far the company will go in terms of integrating Open Social in Cyworld. Most basic implementation can be something like making Cyworld an Open Social container so that Korea's third party developers can introduce and sell interesting small applications to the minihompy users. That's almost given, I would say, but it will be more cool to see Cyworld's social graph become available to third party developers so we can see some interesting apps that leverage Cyworld's "1-chon" social graph, or better yet, Dotori (acorns) virtual payment system. If app developers can piggyback on Dotori system, it will allow micro payment and help monetizing apps -- which will lead to more active participation of app developers. 

Largely, Cyworld Minihompies have been called a closed ecosystem. Now Cyworld wants to become "as open as Facebook", according to the article quoted above. Hope Open Social will rejuvenate the recently stagnating Cyworld, the "mother of all social networks", by bringing in lots of interesting apps to the game. 

TAG 1-chon, cyworld, dotori, open social, social graph

Boys Over Flowers was the nation's most watched TV drama. Based on a Japanese animation, the Korean TV drama saw phenomenal success, with its ratings as high as 30%. 

In this Youtube era, people upload TV content on the web literally the minute after programs are aired. Content owners are almost frantic to chase after those non-copyright uploaders and delete their uploaded content. But it often ends up being a mere hide and seek game, as for every deleted piece, there is always another piece of the same content getting uploaded. Also, content deletion leads to a bad user experience, as people often see the image of a video, click on it, and end up seeing "This content has been deleted due to the request of the original owner" sign.  

Back to the Boys Over Flowers. The content owners of Boys Over Flowers knew that their program would be put up on the internet in no time, and their effort to hunt down the illegal uploads would be simply not enought. So intead they worked with, a video startup (which I covered in my previous post), to search the user-uploaded Boys Over Flowers content on Daum and Cyworld, and put relevant ads. 

Content owners, instead of relentlessly chasing after user uploaded content and deleting them, could generate fresh ads revenue -- the more users upload content, the more money content owners make. Enswer's video search technology enabled such targeted video ads, and anyone would agree that this would be a far better way to monetize video content than banning user uploads and restricting the viewing experience to those channels that the content owners have direct control over. Job well done. 

TAG Boys Over Flowers, Enswer,, Video,

Wetoku is Interview 2.0

Web 2.0 | 2009/05/11 23:46 | Web 2.0 Asia

Wetoku is a new web service out of Korea that doesn't try to do too many things, but does one thing very well -- interviewing someone on the internet. Doing an interview can be a rather cumbersome process: think all those travels and equipment-carrying. But Wetoku makes doing an interview as easy as filling out some basic info, creating an interview session, and sending the created interview session's URL to the target interviewee. 

Once the recording is done, the interviewer can embed the copy of the URL to easily embed the interview content on blog or other sites. Here is an example of an interview done ovder Wetoku and embedded on a website. 

Wetoku is a product of Zenitum, a Seoul, Korea based professional service agency cum small-scale venture incubator. As for the name, Wetoku is the Japanese way of pronouncing "We Talk", according to Wetoku. This is just a fun and hip way of coming up with a new brand, never meant to be making fun of Japanese accents at all, Wetoku says - in fact, they say the name came from one of the Japanese speakers at the firm. Well, with the likes of Wetoku and Big in Japan (which has nothing to do with Japan anyway), maybe Japan is becoming the newest source of inspiration for Web 2.0 names? We'll see. 

The guys behind Wetoku are agile application developers, who also produced Edufava, a web service whose tagline is "Find and learn from the world's best educators." Both Wetoku and Edufava were built in Korea, but they are obviously targeted for global audience, both being available in English. Also both sites have very clean, uncluttered design. Hope they become the long-awaited Korea-born, globally-hit web services. 

TAG Edufava, Wetoku, Zenitum
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