Why is Naver Beating Google in Korea

Naver is the most used search service in Korea. Some Koreans even have a viceral repulsion for the way Google looks and works.

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.


  • 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.


  • 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.


  • Naver is made in Korea.


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

5 Korean Tips To Improve French Restaurants

In Paris, franchised restaurants, posh establishments and very small food shops are doing well.

However medium sized independent restaurants are not in good shape in my opinion. They are not expensive but not cheap, food is good but not extraordinary, tables are sometimes empty and service is slow.

Here are 5 tips from Korean restaurants to inspire our French ones.

[Cet article est disponible en français]

Continue reading “5 Korean Tips To Improve French Restaurants”

I’ve done goofed by koreanair.com

The other day I tried to buy a ticket on koreanair.com. I had to try 31 times to achieve the transaction.

Here are the ordeal I encountered.

E.T. go home

First of all : the Home page. Or should I say : one of the numerous home pages. There are so many ! Home page when you are logged, home page to select your country (which should be automatically detected, come on in 2010 !), home page in Korean when you encounter an error ! Great.

You must put one and only one page in you site you Korean Air people. And please, don’t use 2 home pages with just 2 pixels and a combo of difference.

Don’t follow the link, it’s broken

Maybe you would say : “OK, I’ll copy/paste the url and try to put it in Internet Explorer or Firefox or Safari or Chrome or Opera.” Fail ! Copy/paste does not give you a valid URL. It seems to be randomly generated to put you back on the one of the home pages.

Hey ! This text is an image !

Some buttons and some texts are images ! So if they are not translated from Korean, you have a chance it stays in korean even if the page is in english. Texts are horrible but it seems like korean websites use them an awful lot to create pixel-precise pages. Go away you semantic web, we don’t need you !

Unstable environment

One of the thing you don’t want to happen when your are manipulating real plane tickets with real money is server errors. This is what happens. Is my money transfered ? Are my tickets issued . No way to say because :

We don’t need no feedback

This is true, I don’t like to know if my transaction worked, if my credit card number if securely transmitted. I don’t care ! I prefer pink heart floating away.

I’m a little harsh with them : there are informations. Many, many informations. But not the one I need !


At the end of a lost request please meet Useless-Support-Girl. She will be very pleased to tell you the phone number you cannot call to have no information.

Back to the future

If you try to print the source code of some pages, you will see code comment dated of 2002. Wow, was it HTML 1 or HTML 1.8 at the time ? Don’t look for AJAX. This little snobbish way of doing so-called modern-pages. It’s outdated in 2002. Or at least, not invented yet maybe.

Frames and tables

Yes, here they are. Many of them. Frames to avoid loading pages and tables to put stuff in rows. Yes, because CSS is so modern. It won’t be compatible.

Pop it up !

One great things about browser is ad blocking extensions and serial popups blocker. Koreanair.com uses popups to inform you about crucial stuff. Bummer. Please turn off this horrible feature. And you will be able to nearly try to maybe buy a ticket. Otherwise “ya dun goof‘d” man.

IE is the root of evil

You know what ? Internet Explorer is maybe the only browser used in Korea. Google Chrome ? Firefox ? What’t that ? We don’t need it. Our code is IE 4.3 fully compatible.


Thinking like a technology engineer (juste being IE compatible in 2002) makes bad UX.

Not thinking about the technology (putting great graphics but with no code evolution perspective) makes bad UX too.

You’ve got to consider both. Put a designer and a programmer in your team. Make them work together. Not one after the other.

Korean air is not really a nightmare of graphism and color, but truly of experience. Things seems right at a glance. But when you click and use it seriously it’s just impossible.

And you know what ? I tried to buy a tickets to it’s competitor Asiana. Same problem ! Do you believe it ?

Busan people : “We use Google to find Naver”

In the last 7 days, Busan people only used Google to find Naver !

Ok, that’s not directly a Busan citizen who told me this. I used Google Trends to search the last keyword trend in Busan region.

What I found is that the only keyword (compared to other countries) is 네이버 which is the name of Naver.

What is Naver ?

Naver is the Google Killer in Republic of Korea. For what I know, nobody uses Google. Even my wife, in France, uses Naver to find places in Paris. Why ?

  1. the philosophy behind Naver is totaly different. It could be seen as a Yahoo-Google merge. Powerfull.
  2. the Korean alphabet (Hangul) makes it easy to see more info on the same page (more compact)
  3. Korean I met like to have more info on one page, they feel that Google’s homepage is empty. By the way, I read somewhere that Google changed it’s front page in Asia to make it more attractive and less empty. Question of design taste.
  4. there are more information coming for more blogging people. Because people blog more in Korea. They take pictures of food, of restaurant, addresses, tutorial on how to get refund from duty free… So specialized. There is a human response for everything compare to just machine keyword analysis.

What is Busan ?

Busan is the second largest city in Korea. This is where I went most of the time when I traveled in Korea. This is the city of my wife’s familiy.

Why are Busan People using Google to find Naver ?

Do you have an explanation ? I think it’s a statistics artifact.

How to negotiate with Korean

[avhamazon locale=”FR” asin=”2708134558″ linktype=”pic” picsize=”medium”]

[Not in Personal MBA]

The book is called “Being successful with Asian people” (Réussir avec les asiatiques). I’ve read the general introduction about Asia and the chapter dedicated to Korea only.

Like the author says : those information should not be taken as rock solid. It’s a general trend about asian behaviour in negociation.

I wont give you all the details, only some aspects I remember. If your interested or curious, go read this book !

Do not loose your temper

Going crazy, thumping the table, throwing objects at you incompetent colleagues. Even if  you dream of doing it. Don’t.

Of course a few of this people exists. In France we say that they are “Terrible but fair” or “They know what they want”. I call them crazy.

But apart from this extreme, be careful with any sign of irritation or impatience. This will show your weakness. Sometimes Korean negotiating with you will wait for the last moment to answer your proposition. for example : 2 hours before your leave for they airport. Be patient.

Study the major religion of the country

After reading this book, my first interest is to read about Confusianism. The entire korean system is based upon this phylosophy.

Sometimes in my personal travels I didn’t get some aspect of the Korean behavior. And my Korean friend could not really explain. This is because it’s deep inside their mentality : respect of the eldest, notion of Face,…

Learn how to drink

One of my nightmare : being condamed to dring after work in Korea. If you don’t, be careful to have a good reason.

After emptying your shot-glass of Soju, pour the glass on top of your head to show that you finished it.

Of course I’m exaggerating, but Korea has a really high alcohol consuming rate.

The author says that you don’t have to be drunk, just being social.

Do your karaoke homework

Another social event when working with Korean is Karaoke (and food, but that’t all the time). Try to learn some song from your country.

My dream : learn by heart a 2NE1 song and a Bobby kim song to impress youngsters and hajumas. But unfortunately that’s not the kind of people you work with…


For our Korean friends : of course Korea is much more diverse than this article seems to show. And you Korean have a really good sense of humor, so you won’t be hurt, yes ?