| "Between," the world`s first social networking service built exclusively for couples, is gaining popularity. The service was created by Park Jae-wook, a young entrepreneur who is CEO of VCNC and graduated electrical engineering department of Seoul National University, in collaboration with his four friends.
Since a pilot version was released in November 2011, "Between" posted 5 million downloads Wednesday in just two years. Currently, 10.5 billion message traffic and 120 million photo traffic are accumulated in the server.
Many users are from overseas since the service was launched in not only Korean, but also in English, Japanese and Chinese. The share of foreign users is currently at 40 percent, up from 25 percent in July last year. The share is projected to rise to 50 percent by next year.
At an interview with the Dong-A Ilbo at his office in southern Seoul Tuesday, Park said, "Amid a flood of instant messengers, we targeted customers who were seeking privacy, which proved right," adding, "I am surprised to see the service receiving far hotter response than we had expected."
While social networking services normally allow conversation among multiple users, "Between" has a closed platform, enabling users enjoy nice and cozy space using the service. However, due to lack of networking effect by which one user can have more users join, VCNC had difficulty in expanding business. Many worried that the business could be short-lived, but Park and his four friends didn`t lose hope after Lee Jae-woong, founder of Korea`s main Internet portal Daum Communications, encouraged them.
Following their success, many services mimicking "Between" service model emerged. In April last year, Y Combinator, Silicon Valley`s start-up organization that helps start-up companies, launched a social networking service for couples. Park says he`s not concerned.
"Many similar services are emerging in the U.S., China and elsewhere, yet we have the biggest number of users thanks to ours being world first. Once a person subscribes to a certain instant messenger, he or she tends not to shift to another. Our consumers have high loyalty."
Thanks to rising number of users, "Between" posted positive returns this year for the first time. Various businesses ranging from wedding, movies, concerts, restaurants, travel and theme parks are asking for advertisement opportunities. The wedding industry is especially active in using "Between" as they have been lacking ad channels targeting couples only and thus tried to seek alternative ad channels to avoid pouring marketing costs on wedding magazines. Dentsu, Japan`s largest advertising agency, also proposed alliance, and VCNC is currently preparing its entrance into Japan.
Park said, "Advertising is our main source of income, but we provide benefits including coupons to our customers along with the ad."
"Between" users can use a diary function which allows them experience "exchange diaries" that were popular in the 1990s. Riding this momentum, the service will be upgraded Friday to add a calendar function. Users can write down birthdays and anniversaries there, and gift recommendation and offering services will also be added.
VCNC is also preparing a platform that can service various content and applications using "Between." Park said, "The platform will play its role sufficiently if we reach 8-10 million downloads next year," adding, "We will add functions for husband and wife and family for those users getting married."