Monday, January 25, 2016

The "death of Internet Explorer" in Korea?

A week ago today I was interviewed by Chance Dorland, a reporter for TBS eFM 101.3 MHz, an English language station in Seoul. The topic was the "death of Internet Explorer" and its implications for South Korea, which continues to be heavily dependent on the browser despite the fact that Microsoft and most of the rest of the world are moving away from IE. (you may listen to the interview here with an mp3 player)  The interview prompted me to do a bit more research on the current status of Internet Explorer in South Korea.  Its hold, or perhaps one should say "iron grip" on the browser market here is one of the fascinating stories of ICT sector policies and growth here.
To place the matter in global context, the overall pattern of browser usage worldwide is shown in the graphic at left (click to see a full size version) which is based on statistics gathered by StatCounter and published by Wikimedia.  Note that StatCounter records data from 3 million or more websites and its statistics are based on page views.  It makes no adjustments and weightings and it is independent with no commercial support.  However, the data it reports can still be influenced by sample size and other factors.  For that reason, the accompanying graphic is mainly useful for showing several broad, long term trends over the seven year period represented.  First is the dramatic decline in usage of IE (blue line).  Second, there is an equally clear increase in use of Chrome (green).  Finally, the pink line shows a rapidly rising percentage of internet browsing is done on mobile devices rather than desktop computers.
The rapidly increasing usage of mobile devices is a major factor to keep in mind when interpreting the above line graph from StatCounter.  In fact, data from the 2015 Mobile Internet Usage Survey published by The Korea Internet and Security Agency (KISA) show, not surprisingly, that mobile internet usage in Korea is far higher than the global averages.  As shown in the second line graph based on data for only desktop internet usage, IE is still being used by more than 60 percent of Koreans to surf the web.  This is a much higher proportion than the global average.
So, as noted at the conclusion of the radio interview, IE is far from dead in Korea.   This raises a key question.  What are the costs to the Korean economy as a whole and individual consumers, both Korean and expat of this continued heavy reliance on an outdated Microsoft product?  

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