Joi Ito's Web

Joi Ito's conversation with the living web.


Highlights from my story on Lunarstorm, the giant Swedish online community.

Claiming a youth audience three times larger than MTV in Sweden, two times larger than the entire readership of all of the Swedish evening newspapers combined and more members logging on daily than the total number of young Swedes watching almost every television show, Lunarstorm has become an accidental media titan here.

Lunarstorm's impact on Swedish youth is widely recognized. Church leaders used the community to console young people in the aftermath of the Asian tsunami that killed more than 500 Swedes. Meanwhile, concerns over the safety of minors prompted creation of a full-time security staff of six to scour the site for predatory behavior.

The site's question of the day - polling for anything from your favorite potato chips to political parties - garners an average of 150,000 respondents, more than any poll in Sweden apart from the actual national elections themselves.

Can closed garden communities survive - even if free - or are they Compuserves amid a more broadly emergent digital lifestyle?


Estonian similar youth-oriented service has over 351 thousand registered users, out of a population of 1.35 million, meaning up to 25% of the total population using the service (although there are definately some users registered twice). It has over 775 thousand photos of the users posted there and most of the service is built around rating each-others photos. It is the most popular website in Estonia and highly profitable (although the total profit is smaller than in Sweden, which after all is a country 7 times bigger than Estonia).

There are youngsters who are almost addicted to the service, spending their whole days on the service, communicating to each other and looking at the photos. has its own popular ice cream brand available across country and runs a weekly radio show matching girls and boys over the air.

Similar trends can be seen in other Baltic countries with same kind of social sites. Just like Facebook or Myspace, most young people in any country use one of such services.

If you live in a country which does not have such a service, go for it. You will make millions and create one of the strongest online brands in your country.

My personal view is that Lunarstorm is successful because of the limited size of the young Swedish population and the centric nature of their market. It makes the group far less inclusive than others. Same for the Estonian site. It's a language of relatively limited use, and it's easier for their online community to have something in common than for ours. With us, each forum, each blog service targets a different part of the youth audience. And even, say Japan has a more varied scene online despite their ethnic and linguistic homogeny because of the larger population (12 times larger) and a more diverse market.

i think europe in general is just wrong, it's a hot bed of lechery and drug addiction and terrorism.

I agree with Jüri - online communities where the people themselves are encouraged to create the content is a very quick and effective way to build a strong brand, something Rupert Murdoch, a very savvy businessman, understands well, evidenced in News Corp's purchase of MySpace.

I'm not sure Lunarstorm is a "closed" garden community though since it is open to all comers.

I don't think centralized content is going away anytime soon. As long as these "walled gardens" can continue to provide compelling publishing tools, fun user experience, and most importantly, an audience, I just don't see the Web fragmenting into all blogs, for example.

MySpace use, at least in Seattle, has exploded in popularity among youth. When I discovered my 12 year old daughter spending hours on her Space I did some checking. Virtually every kid in her school has a ‘space.’ My older daughter, 21, and all of her friends have a MySpace also. MySpace is HUGE.

There is similar service in Finland also. The IRC Gallery claims to be the biggest Finnish Internet community. 281 594 users.

weird, I wrote about the same topic few days and compare it with croatian blog service which is amazing success and I was trying to explain that to Joi when meet him in Zagreb.
Eastern Europe web communities are often overlooked and ignored.

well I wanna join too, but Im not swedish or british, so I would need a free one. anyone has got a good site??