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KIM HYE WON DOESN'T LOOK LIKE a journalist, which is to say that she doesn't look like Hildy Johnson in His Girl Friday. Kim looks like a 45-year-old Korean housewife, which is what she is. More and more journalists are starting to look like her.
Kim is a citizen reporter for a South Korean website called OhMyNews. There is nothing quite like OhMyNews in the U.S., or not yet. Imagine if the Washington Post were produced entirely by bloggers. OhMyNews is written mostly by a floating staff of 47,000 amateur journalists all over the country. The site gets 1 million to 1.5 million page views a day.
OhMyNews was founded in 2000, after decades of authoritarian rule had left the South Korean media deeply co-opted. The website was a revelation for Kim. "I felt the mainstream media was one-sided," she says. "But after I began to read OhMyNews, I found out there were different views and perspectives available." Kim read the site for about a year before she tried her first piece, about her son, who was studying for exams, and her husband, who was dealing with corporate burnout. The headline: DADDY'S DEPRESSED, SON'S TAKING TESTS, AND I'M WORRIED. She was a natural.
Over the past three years, Kim has written about 60 pieces for OhMyNews. The site awarded her Citizen Reporter of the Year for 2005. "Korean housewives become nameless after marriage," Kim says. "They are often just called someone's wife or someone's mother. I finally found my name through OhMyNews."
WHEN BLAKE ROSS WAS 15, he moved from Florida to California to take an internship with Netscape. This was a rather quixotic thing for a 15-year-old to do, because Netscape was on life support at the time--its Web browser was getting the stuffing beat out of it by Microsoft's Internet Explorer.
Netscape had one thing going for it: it was open source. Most software is developed exactly the way you think it is: you pay a bunch of geeks in cubicles to write it. Open-source software works differently. You release a rough draft onto the Internet, and anybody can open the hood and go to work on it--streamline it, fix bugs, suggest features, pretty up the interface, whatever. The people who write open-source software "aren't necessarily professionals," Ross says. "It gives you a breadth of experience outside of just computer geeks. It also means the people are truly dedicated because there's no payday." Open source is as much a community, even a subculture, as it is an approach to creating software.
In 2002 Ross and some colleagues decided to start up a new version of Netscape, one that would chuck all the fancy features and go for simplicity, stability and speed. They called the new browser Firefox, and it was a monster hit. When Firefox 2.0 appeared this October, it clocked 2 million downloads in the first 24 hours. Web surfers are switching to Firefox at the rate of 7 million a month.