Internet Explorer now used by less than 50% worldwide; meanwhile in Korea it has jumped to 94%

Friday, October 08, 2010

While worldwide usage of browsers besides Internet Explorer continues to rise, Korea is one rare case where the opposite is the case. According to this article, IE usage actually went up to 94% the past year, an increase of 6 or 7%. Why? I'll explain in a second, but first the numbers.

The numbers come from StatCounter, and show a drop of 17% worldwide of Internet Explorer usage since last September. IE is now at 49.87% compared to 67.2% last year, while Google Chrome has gone up by 8% to 11.54%. Firefox is around 30% and hasn't changed much.

In the rest of Asia, IE usage has gone from 70% to 56.76% this year, while Firefox has gone up 4% and Chrome up 8%.

So why not Korea? That's thanks to ActiveX. Korean banks and most other sites that enable online purchasing use ActiveX to make transactions happen, and that requires IE. If you want to buy a product on GMarket (the largest shopping site in Korea) you need to use ActiveX. Online banking? ActiveX. Want to download a movie? Most sites have an ActiveX program that you need to install in order to do that.

In addition to that, a huge number of sites still don't even function properly without IE. Take a look at this travel site:

They have some pretty good airplane ticket deals there. Try to do a search with Chrome. One person...leaving from Incheon, leaving on so-and-so date, coming back so-and-so, okay, and now let's click search. It looks like this, and the search button is in green.

What happens when you click search? Nothing. It won't search. Click click click response whatsoever. Now it's time to start up IE and begin the whole process over again.

Let's try downloading a movie now on one of their most popular sites. Oh, this one looks good.

Let's click the download button, the one there in blue on the left. It presents you with the following image telling you to install an ActiveX control if you want to do it as well as instructions on how to.

If you're using Chrome or another browser, of course it will just present you with this image as there's no prompt to install the actual ActiveX control. Once again it's time to start up IE if you really want that movie. Across the whole Korean internet, after just a few minutes you're guaranteed to run into a situation where if you're using a browser other than IE you can't use a site the way you're supposed to.

Some sites won't even allow you to look around unless you have IE. Here's one of Korea's largest banks.

Clicking on just about any link on the page will simply take you to a page telling you to install its ActiveX control, even if you just want to look around.

Even the bank's FunnyZone links are behind this wall. No Economy, no Health, no Good life, no Fun & Joy, no Together unless you have installed their ActiveX control.

Will IE's market share falling to below 50% affect this at all? Very likely not since the Korean internet hardly functions without IE, and IE 9's beta is apparently quite impressive if you have Vista or Windows 7 so Koreans may simply switch over to that. The only browser that I suspect would be able to dethrone IE in Korea is Google Chrome, simply because usually script-heavy Korean pages load quite quickly using it, whereas the advantages that Firefox provides (add-ons) aren't quite so useful over here considering how many of them only apply to English language users, and there simply isn't a large enough Korean Firefox community in the first place to make developing add-ons geared for them worthwhile. Also, the name Mozilla is a bit unfortunate as it sounds just like the Korean word for sucks, slow or stupid. It's actually a dialectal version of this word, but you hear it in standard Korean a lot too.

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