Hungarian social networking service iWiW was shut down on Monday. Once the most visited website in the country, owner Origo Ltd. said the main underlying reason behind its ever-decreasing popularity was the growth of Facebook.
“iWiW had a major role in the spread of Hungarian internet browsing practices and online content usage,” Origo CEO Miklós Vaszily said. “However, for the majority of people it is absolutely sufficient to use only one social network site.”
Following the announcement on 15 May that iWiW would end, the number of users increased threefold, from 60,000 a day on average to nearly 200,000. Nevertheless, the number of website hits returned to its original level after a week, showing that while people may have felt sorry about the closure of the site, their interest did not last.
As one of the first social network sites in the world, iWiW was launched on 14 April 2002. In its early years it used the name WiW (which stood for ‘Who is Who’), and then became iWiW (‘International Who is Who’) in 2005.
The site soon became a great success as it helped users to contact long-lost friends and relatives, keep in touch with them, organise events and build communities. Between 2005 and 2010 iWiW was the most visited website in Hungary: in its golden days, about 1.5 people used it on a daily basis.
In 2006, when iWiW was still profitable, Hungarian Telecom bought it for almost HUF 1 billion. Two years later iWiW Ltd. was incorporated into Origo Ltd. During its 12 years, the website had a total of 4.7 million users.
As Origo pointed out, the turning point came in 2010 when the number of Facebook users in Hungary reached the number of iWiW users. In the past four years, the number of Facebook users has increased.
According to iWiW’s own statistics, lately it has been used only by the middle-aged and old people living in the countryside, while the younger generations slowly migrated to Facebook. One of the main strengths of Facebook is its international profile; unlike iWiW, it allows users to contact not only their Hungarian but their foreign friends.
Soon after the shutdown was made public, iWiW announced its plans to provide site users with the possibility of keeping their old memories forever. For those who were concerned about losing their data, iWiW provided the opportunity to obtain their entire iWiW history.
Until the closure, a button was available that enabled visitors to download their profile with only one click. An even more appealing option was the so-called time capsule. By clicking on the button “Prepare my memories”, users obtained all their pictures, messages and contact lists within a single zip format file.
Altogether, more than 350,000 users saved their data, according to Origo. Anyone who did not opt for the time capsule lost all their data.
Many phishing companies sought to benefit from the shutdown of iWiW and, despite warnings not to give out personal data, a website called iWiW2 succeeded in obtaining passwords from unsuspecting users and invaded their email accounts to send spam. The Hungarian National Authority for Data Protection and Freedom of Information has initiated ex officio procedure against phishing sites.