Naver is the most used search service in Korea. Some Koreans even have a viceral repulsion for the way Google looks and works. Here is a small comparison. [Big Thanks to my friend Dayo for making me write this small piece]

This comparison, I hope, will help answer those 3 questions :

  1. Why is Naver so used in Korea ?
  2. Why is Google not used in Korea ?
  3. Why is Naver not used outside Korea ?

Naver Most Used Features (All on the same page)

  • Web search
  • Blog and blog search
  • Maps
  • News
  • Image search (better than Google’s in the User experience, not the accuracy in my opinion)

Crowd generated content

  • Content is mostly generated by users blogging. Koreans blog about anything. I’m amazed to see my wife looking for a restaurant in Paris, on a Naver Korean Blog ! But she is right. You have more chance to find pictures (a lot, and it matters) on a Korean blog more than in the local Google search (maybe because France is not well served on the subject)
  • The pitfall is that sometimes, like with Wikipedia, the content lakes objectivity. My wife experience confronting someones error on his blog. When told the owner of the blog argued that he was right because all other Naver bloggers put the same piece of information. But they were all wrong (about a movie filming location in Italy). Even the official-looking Naver equivalent of IMDB was re-using bloggers wrong information. Very dangerous in my opinion.

Form/Appearance

  • As you may know, Hangul is 20% more compact than latin Alphabet. Hence the amount of information that can fit on a page is higher. And because they can, they do. My wife like other Koreans prefers scrolling through a long page with  a lot of info instead of having to click deeper.
  • For some Korean people I know : “Google is ugly and messy”, and “Naver is ordered and easy to read”
  • Naver is only in Korean as far as I know.

Technical / Performance

  • As a developer : this is kind of a mystery : the Naver site, like so many Korean websites, have to be IE6 compatible (because of a custom government certificate problem). Hence it is terribly inefficient  Yet the speed of the broadband connection is so high that most Korean don’t realize. But as soon as you look at the way pages are built, you discover how much bandwidth is needed every time the page reloads. Horrifying !

Advertising on Naver

  • Very disturbing and intrusive in my opinion (Especially cosmetic surgery ads)

Advertising of Naver

  • On TV, no brand is putting it’s web address on screen, instead a Naver Box appears and the brand name is filled in. This is a powerful model I think. Both part are winning. Don’t know the detail of the deal between the brand and Naver.

Habits

  • Koreans are used to it. Hard to change for a “new” player like Google. I believe Naver was first there.
  • Everybody uses it. Following the trend is also a habit in Korea.

Nationalism

  • Naver is made in Korea.

 

And you my Korean friends ? Why do you like Naver so much ?