Chinese Web Surfers Embrace Facebook Clone

'You have to respect the local user' says Berkeley-educated Facekoo founder

By Victoria Floethe,  Newser User

Posted Jan 14, 2009 7:09 PM CST

(Newser) – Since its March introduction, Facekoo has drawn 350,000 users and is one of the fastest-expanding social-networking sites in China, the San Francisco Chronicle reports. And, says its Hong Kong-born, Berkeley-educated founder, that’s because it fills a void left by Western sites whose mere translations to Chinese miss all kinds of cultural differences. “You have to respect the local user,” Calvin Pak says.

While “face” is one of the first English words Chinese learn to spell, and “koo” means “cool,” the Facebook sound-alike was designed in its language and function to match the Chinese approach to the web. Facekoo offers a virtual world in which young people can interact playfully and choose imaginary careers. “It’s a tool for people to hang out with friends, in a silly way, with no pressure,” explained Pak.

Last year, for the first time, there were more Internet users in China than in the US; by 2012, there will be 373 million Chinese Web users to 223 million in the US.
Last year, for the first time, there were more Internet users in China than in the US; by 2012, there will be 373 million Chinese Web users to 223 million in the US.   (AP Photo)
Though Facebook has been translated into Chinese, it's designed for Westerners, says the founder of Facekoo, a social-networking-cum-role-playing site aimed at young Chinese users.
Though Facebook has been translated into Chinese, it's designed for Westerners, says the founder of Facekoo, a social-networking-cum-role-playing site aimed at young Chinese users.   (Facebook)
For China's 162 million Web users, surfing the Internet can be like running an obstacle course with blocked Web sites, partial search results, and posts disappearing at every turn.
For China's 162 million Web users, surfing the Internet can be like running an obstacle course with blocked Web sites, partial search results, and posts disappearing at every turn.   (AP Photo/Ng Han Guan)
Many Western outfits mistakenly assume their sites' appeal needs no translation to fit into China's youth culture, Facekoo's founder says.
Many Western outfits mistakenly assume their sites' appeal needs no translation to fit into China's youth culture, Facekoo's founder says.   (Facekoo.com)
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People get bored easily ... so we tried to imagine building a society where users have multiple places to go. (It's) a tool for people to hang out with friends, in a silly way, with no pressure. - Calvin Pak

It raises the question, is there a universal social network? If you look at the way people communicate and feel comfortable communicating, it's different from one group (and one country) to another. - Charlene Li, the founder of a Bay Area research firm

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