Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Google Korea to "Koreanize" its Home Page

The Korea Times yesterday notes that Google Korea plans to "Koreanize" its home page!   The article notes that Naver has a 66 percent share of the search market and Daum is in second place with 20 percent.  Meanwhile, Google has only 2.2 percent of the Korean search market.  The article also points out that Google's strength has been simplicity, but that now it is ready to compromise that to make its web page more attractive to Korean users who "have grown accustomed to fancy websites crowded with features."  The article then proceeds to discuss the load time factor, or how long it takes Google's home page to load.  Everyone knows that Google favors speed.   Number three of its "Ten Things" states that "Fast is better than slow."
All of this is interesting, but I don't think it gets to the central point of explaining why Google has such a minuscule market share in Korea.  For insight into that, do a search of this blog for "Google" and read one of my earlier posts on the topic, including this one.    I'd like to repeat some of the main points.

  • Naver is not really an internet search engine, since it searches only Korean language materials and ignores most of the information on the worldwide web.
  • Korea is one of four countries in the world, including China, Russia and the Czech Republic, that pursue this walled garden approach to so-called "internet search"  Coincidentally, while the rest of the world was enthusiastically adopting an innovation called the Apple iPhone, Korea was content to use its own, Korean-language only mobile services for two and a half years before bring in the iPhone to this market.
  • The popularity of Naver versus Google obviously has a great deal to do with language and culture.
  • Conclusion:   "Koreanizing" its home page will not do much for Google Korea's market share.  Language, culture and mindset issues are never solved that easily.   Perhaps a more focused approach, simply telling Korean consumers that there is a whole world wide web of English and other language information out there would be more helpful.

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