Anissa S. Febrina , The Jakarta Post , Jakarta
Several years ago, Toor — the online name he would like to be known by — saw online community website Kaskus as a place to find information on things that interested him and to meet like-minded people.
Back then, he went to the website only to seek information on where to play with airsoft guns (firearm replicas), his new-found hobby.
Today, he makes a living out of Kaskus, as the school project created by Andrew Darwis a decade ago has grown into a more serious business in need of staff members who know the online community inside out.
“The beauty of this job: I get to open Kaskus all day long, stretching from one window to another,”
Fellow Kaskusers whose companies have banned them from opening the website at their workplace might envy Toor’s privileged status. But with the website currently adding services like on-device portals, one needs not join the company to be able to access it 24/7 from their iPhones and BlackBerrys.
So long for dependence on the office internet connection! As long as you have Blackberries, that is.
“Without developing this ODP, we will surely loose the game [in the internet industry]. We will officially launch it next month, along with some other features we have in store like e-commerce,” says Danny Wirianto, chief marketing officer of Darta Media Indonesia, a company set up a year ago to transform Kaskus into a more serious business.
Created a decade ago for a school project, Kaskus.com has grown into the 8th most popular website in Indonesia. Seven of the websites listed above it are foreign ones, making Kaskus the first local go-to page for Indonesians online.
Developed as an underground and informal online forum for Indonesians abroad, Kaskus has far surpassed the achievements of predecessors like IndoCampus. It hosts various chat rooms based on interests from self-proclaimed political observers to hobbyists like Toor.
This is where the latest and the juiciest words are spread. Underground and informally, just like its namekasak-kusuk (buzzing words) would suggest.
Want to know the latest news? Go to Kaskus’ chat forum. The news on Evan Brimob, a Facebook account user who posted a provocative status on his page, was already being discussed there sometime last Tuesday.
Two days before national online media wrote about Evan’s “… go Indonesian police, keep swallowing little geckos!” status, Kaskusers were demanding that Evan be summoned for questioning by the authority for allegedly “pouring gasoline into the fire” as an Indonesian saying goes.
Well, he did.
During the most recent Kuningan bombing incident, just two minutes after the bomb exploded, a Kaskuser who worked in an office building nearby posted a picture of the blast taken from the window of his office. Just five minutes later, the news was all over national television.
That’s how words and events get around these days.
“The Web 2.0 platform makes it easier for people to become citizen journalists. The ODP will make it so much more,” Danny says.
Spreading the word around is what Kaskus does best. From spreading porn video clips during its past under the BB17 category to propelling rapper Saykoji into fame and collecting donation for victims of natural disasters like the recent earthquake in West Sumatra. Kaskus has become the first and the last to keep one updated on a certain issue.
Long after the mainstream media got tired of writing and airing news on Padang quake victims, Kaskusers continued to give updates about what victims of the calamity needed.
“I’ve traveled around Pariaman, The city post still needs Vsat and HT [walkie-talkie]. I was helping the Yarsi medical team assist around 4,000 families, but communication was hampered,” wrote Ivan Sudirman, a Kaskuser volunteering in Padang.
As a community, Kaskus differs from the so-called social networking websites.
“In Facebook, you meet a new friend and you add them online. In Kaskus, you meet like-minded friends online and then meet them face-to-face to do various activities depending on your hobby,” Kaskus founder Andrew Darwis explained.
As a community, Kaskusers even have a vocabulary of their own that outsiders who speak Indonesian will still wonder if the lines they read make any sense.
“Pertamax sampai kelimax! [pertamax till climax]” or “Bagi cendolnya dong, Gan! [give me a cendol, boss!]” are phrases coined by Kaskusers and slowly grew on others. A Nubie (newbie) would likely find it necessary to first learn Kaskus language before posting a comment.
“No one really knows which word was coined by whom. It just goes naturally,” Andrew said.
Even Andrew’s typo — mistakenly typing saya (I) as saia – has become one of the unique ways Kaskusers communicate.
Aside from those who only enjoy the fun of browsing issues of their interests, there are also those who make a living out of Kaskus in a different way to Toor.
“A friend of mine quit his steady job and got into serious business selling gadgets through Kaskus FJB [forum jual beli or marketplace]. His monthly revenue is around Rp 150 million now,” Toor said.
Gadgets and automotives top the list of items on sale and on search, making Kaskus a man’s playground.
But, hey, you’re in for a surprise if you open the category of “Others”, where people are offering various stuff ranging from Tamiflu to a gas station.
All in all, the company recorded some 750,000 items on offer monthly in that online marketplace. Well, it’s not quite a marketplace as transactions are still mainly done through bank transfers or even the conventional face-to-face transactions.
“Seeing the potential of FJB, we plan to develop it into a real marketplace by next year,” Kaskus CEO Ken Lawadinata said.
“Next month, we will start by launching e-payment system Kaspay with which users simply log in, top up their deposit with bank transfer and shop. We will be open to any vendors who are interested in joining.”
This is where the business side of Kaskus will subsidize the maintenance cost of providing 1.2 million users with chat forums.
From using a US$7 per month shared web hosting maintained by Andrew alone, Kaskus has grown into a website with more than a dozen servers, 25 staff members and 70 moderators. Last year, the company finally moved all its servers to Indonesia as monthly maintenance cost had reached Rp 400 million (US$40,000.
“We do rely on ads, but we are a user-generated website so the ad content should not make users feel uncomfortable,” Danny says.
“We need to do the business seriously. But, users are still on top of our priority.”
Kaskus-speak for beginners
Kaskuser: A term referring to Kaskus users.
Gan: A short from juragan (boss).
A friendly nickname to refer to fellow Kaskusers.
BB17: A short from buka-bukaan 17 aka adult content, this was a sub-forum removed from Kaskus following the ban on online pornography in 2008.
Cendol: A rating system in the form of a small green comma that users give to forum thread-posters they regard as interesting. Its formal term is GRP or
Good Reputation Point, as opposed to BRP or Bad Reputation Point in the form of a red block, known in slang as bata merah (red brick)
Pertamax: Some kind of portmanteau of pertama (first) and x (kali/time). Usually shouted by a Kaskuser who has responded the first time to a thread.
Maho: A short from manusia homo, which is used to mock someone.
Trit: An Indonesianized form of “thread”, a page containing the same topic that Kaskusers can respond to.
TKP: A short from tempat kejadian perkara (site of crime) referring to an outside link for a reposting.
Momod-Mimin: Momod refers to moderators and Mimin refers to web administrator.
Main tenis: An Indonesian pun for