Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Korea's Microsoft Monoculture: The Problems of Active X

The introduction of Apple's iPhone has helped to highlight the problem posed by Korea's continued heavy reliance on Microsoft's Internet Explorer Web browser and corresponding heavy reliance on Active-X controls for online banking and financial transactions. (see the accompanying graphic--click the graphic to see full-size version)  As noted in a Joongang Daily article today, internet users in Korea waste an untold amount of time downloading and installing security programs that use Active-X controls.  It can take five to ten minutes to install such programs in order to access a banking page.  If a program is installed once a year on ten million PCs in Korea, that could amount to one million hours of lost work time, assuming ten minutes for installation.  Since Korea's minimum wage is 4,000 won, annual losses would total 4 billion won, in that example.
The Joongang Daily article does not even mention the fact that Active-X has been recognized as a web security risk for years and therefore is not widely used in other countries.  Now, the problem is compounded with the rapid introduction of "smart phone" devices, most of which use web browsers that are not compatible with Active-X.  Clearly, something has to give here, and it would appear that it will be use of Microsoft's web browser and its proprietary Active-X technology.  This will be good for Korean consumers and will put this country more in line with global trends.

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