Written by Berislav Lopac and edited by Richard MacManus
IDC. However, the same study tells us that as many as 54% use the Internet to read online publications - the highest in Europe in that respect. And this accurately describes the most active part of the Croatian Web scene.Croatia is a small market for any industry - and especially when it comes to the Internet. It has about 4.5 million citizens, but only 35% of them regularly used the Internet in 2005, according to a recent study by
Portals and News
The most popular sites in Croatia are traditional, all-encompassing news sites and portals. Most of them belong to ISPs, such as T-Com's T-Portal, VIPnet's VIP Portal or the net.hr - which belongs to the second largest ISP, Iskon (recently acquired by T-Com). Most media also operate their own online counterparts, as is the case with Jutarnji list (the most popular daily newspaper) and Dnevnik.hr (operated by Nova TV). These sites are often used as alternatives to traditional media and many users have started to use them as their main online source for news and information. The primary competition consists of similar sites owned by independent teams, not affiliated with any media company or an ISP - a prime example is Index, which specializes in cracking "scandal" stories - like the notorious homemade video of the local pop idol Severina.
Recently, some projects aiming to make news more accessible entered the Croation market. One is Naslovnica, which uses automated techniques such as RSS and HTML-scraping to gather news. Another is Moje vijesti, which is pursuing a similar goal - only it uses "human power" in a digg-like fashion. Another site that provides an alternative way to finding current news is XPortal, which turns every visitor into a potential journalist.
The most distinguishing feature of the Croatian Web is the surprising popularity of blogging. The first real blogging service, called simply Blog.hr, was established in 2004 and soon attracted a lot of users looking for a public outlet for their thoughts. Currently blog.hr boasts over 200,000 blogs. Although many of them are not active, there are approximately 1,750,000 total posts.
Following their precursor's success, other similar services soon appeared. Currently there are MojBlog and Bloger. Most of the bloggers on these services are teenagers and young people expressing their everyday thoughts and experiences, but some bloggers have almost become celebrities - to the extent of being quoted in mainstream media.
Other, more specialized and focused blog communities have also appeared recently, like Bestseler and pollitika.com - the later mainly catering to politically minded authors. Also, many of the most popular authors - who invariably started on one of the services mentioned above - have recently moved to their own domains.
Social Networking and Dating
It could be said that in Croatia blogs fulfill the same purpose as MySpace and other social networking sites do in most of the world. A lot of discussions take place in blog comments; and as many commenters are also bloggers, a number of "communities" have naturally evolved. This may also explain the lack of social networking sites in Croatia - the existing contenders are relatively small and underutilized.
Povez has been touted by media as the first real Croatian SNS, while ekipa.hr is trying to emulate the success of their Hungarian partners iWiW. There are also some more specialized networks, such as Stari prijatelji (which serves to connect old friends that have lost touch) and Tulumarka (which connects parties and their attendees throughout Croatia).
However, arguably the oldest social network - very popular outside the country's borders - is Iskrica. Started about five years ago as a simple dating site, it now offers services like blogs and forums - and many of its users have since created virtual communities.
A relatively active area on the Croatian Web has been sites offering classified ads for all kind of services. Oglasnik is the oldest such service, started as the Web presence of the largest local free classifieds paper. It has recently been acquired by Trader Media East. Their Web application shares all of the ads that are available in the print edition; and all the ads submitted online also appear in print.
KupiProdaj is a main competitor in this market. But most of the classifieds sites focus on a certain area. A very active field is that of job ads, where currently MojPosao dominates - a job board which has recently become almost an exclusive source of applicants in some industries, such as IT. Their main competitor, Posao.hr, was recently acquired by Oglasnik.hr. It is important to note that on all of the job boards, it is free of charge to publish an ad because the sites have other ways to create revenue.
Other Croatian Web Applications
Apart from blogging services, there are very few widely used Web applications - especially those following the modern "Web 2.0" approach. One of the most prominent examples is Dvanula (conceived and run by Boris Ličina Borja, a journalist and editor who is also one of the most influential bloggers himself, as well as the author of a book about the Croatian blogging scene). The name Dvanula means "two-zero" and the site consists of a number of features that are usually associated with "Web 2.0": an RSS aggregator, a Digg clone, a "photodigg", a social bookmarks feature, a social network and numerous other features.
One of the most popular Web applications in Croatia is Coolinarika, a food and cooking-related site sponsored by the food-industry giant Podravka. Besides regularly updated content written by professional authors, it contains numerous features where visitors may participate - such as recipe-sharing.
Ptičica is a Flickr-like photo-sharing site, with a clean modern design and no superfluous features.
Aukcije.hr tries to create an eBay-like online marketplace.
One site which has the potential to be a prototypical Web 2.0 application in Croatia, is Gorivo.com - a virtual marketplace for travelers looking for people traveling to the same direction as them, with whom they could share fuel costs. Unfortunately, the site has stuck to an old-fashioned design and unintuitive application UI.
Another useful service is TV Phazer, which lists up-to-date schedules of TV stations viewable from Croatia.
Dužnici.net gives a place for entrepreneurs to list companies who refuse to pay their bills.
Magister is a visitor-driven site where you may ask questions to be answered by your peers, while Hoću to! is a clone of I Want One of Those. Klopa gives you a central place for ordering food in Zagreb (the capital), while Eudict offers a simple translation between Croatian and a number of foreign languages. GElin by Mireo is an original application, in the vein of Google Maps, which provides easy location of places and addresses in Croatia (other similar applications are Karte gradova and VIP Navigator, the latter being an "Ajax" application originally written some five years ago).
During the last quarter of 2006 a number of other new projects have been announced. Plus it is expected that some of the local Web applications will break the national boundaries and expand to regional - and perhaps even worldwide - markets.
This post is part of Read/WriteWeb's continuing coverage of international Web markets. Other countries profiled so far have been Germany, Holland, Poland, Korea, United Kingdom, Russia, Spain, China, Turkey, Italy, Brazil, France, Japan, India, Austria, Sweden, Australia, Hungary and Serbia.