Facebook clone launched in North Korea

North Korea touts beer, beauty brands

If you think Facebook’s gotten a little too big and you miss the intimacy of a smaller social network, maybe give North Korea’s version a try.

Go to starcon.net.kp and you’ll find a very familiar looking website. It’s called “Best Korea’s Social Network” and the homepage has a thin blue banner at the top with a search field for “people, #hashtags, !groups.”

After you register for an account, you can upload a cover photo and profile picture, find friends and message them, post a status message and scroll through a News Feed.

Doug Madory, director of internet analysis at Dyn, stumbled upon the site on Friday.

He suspects that someone in North Korea made it as a test, but finds the whole thing puzzling for several reasons.

“It’s very unusual to have websites hosted in North Korea,” Madory told CNNMoney. Many North Korean sites are hosted in China. “[I’m] not sure this was an official North Korean government project. But someone inside the country had to have done this.”

He says it’s also unusual that people outside of North Korea can access the site.

Someone built Best Korea’s Social Network using phpDolphin, a template-based software system that lets anyone build a clone of Facebook (FB, Tech30).

That helps explain why a lot of the site is filled with placeholder Lorem Ipsum text. (Publicly available internet records could not identify the person or entity that created the website.)

Here’s a screen shot of my profile on Best Korea’s Social Network

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North Korea internet laws are notoriously strict. The vast majority of citizens are banned from using the internet and those allowed are monitored closely, according to Martyn Williams, a senior correspondent at IDG news service.

It’s unclear when exactly the site launched, or how many people have already signed up. But some who have have also found a way to exploit its weaknesses with a little fun.

The homepage, for example, was at one point full of photos of Kim Jong Un as the boy from “Up in the Air.” And there were a few phony accounts posing as the North Korean leader.

“Enjoy it while you can,” Williams wrote on his blog. “I expect the site will be taken down when an engineer at the [internet service provider] realizes it’s public and attracting attention.”

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Facebook and phpDolphin did not immediately respond to request for comment.

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