Google’s relative anonymity in Korea has long been a symbol of the country’s peculiar mix of extreme high-tech and general disdain for international internet platforms and standards. In a country with some of the fastest internet connections and highest rates of broadband penetration in the world, many websites still use Adobe Flash or ActiveX, and it’s not uncommon for web designers to be unaware of Firefox, let alone Chrome.
Even today, Google holds just 1.2 percent of the portal market on Korean PCs. But a look at the figures for mobile devices, from this piece on ZDNet, reveals a very different picture.
The first graph shows that while Naver remains the dominant portal in Korea, its strength is considerably diminished on mobile devices, where Google now has almost one-fifth of the market. The second demonstrates how this translates into actual site visits. For both PC and mobile access, Naver, Daum and Nate hold the top three positions. However, for positions 4, 5 and 6, the top PC sites — Cyworld, TiStory and Chosun.com — are displaced on mobile devices by Google, YouTube and Twitter.
For reasons I’ve discussed elsewhere, this development should have Naver very worried. According to the ZDNet article, the number of Koreans accessing the web via mobile devices topped 14.7 million in November, marking a rise of 35 percent over the course of the year. As with so much else, the explosion of smartphones, and especially the iPhone, is transforming Korea’s internet landscape. And with the hugely successful iPad arriving in Korea just last month (and a bunch of other tablet PCs set to arrive soon), 2011 looks to be a very happy New Year for Google in Korea.