KTH Opens Door to Facebook, Twitter Logins on Paran, I’m In

KTH is prodding Korea further along the path to global internet standards by allowing users to login to the Paran portal and the I’m In location-based service, among other things, using their Facebook or Twitter accounts.

However, Korea’s netizens aren’t quite free of “the man’s” watchful glare just yet.

Via KTH’s new OAuth authorisation system, users can ignore the requests for a Paran ID and instead login by clicking on the Twitter or Facebook icons. After providing an email address from any account and making up a new password, visitors will then be (mostly) free to use the portal, I’m In and the Pudding photo service.

KTH apparently has global aspirations for Pudding (which includes face-recognition technology), and the adoption of more international standards for its internet services is clearly an essential step in achieving this. KTH has been something of an early adopter in the past and is — with Paran occupying a far smaller chunk of Korea’s portal market than Naver or Daum — perhaps more open to innovation with its portal and other services.

As the need for another email address suggests, though, OAuth still has to cater to the demands of the Korean market — and the government.

As discussed elsewhere, Korea’s regulators have acknowledged the special circumstances of social media sites. In order to grant them a level playing field with foreign competitors, the government has exempted domestic social media from the country’s “real name system,” which requires any site with more than 100,000 visitors per day to have commenters register using their real names and national ID numbers. For KTH, this means users can have ready access to I’m In via their Twitter or FB accounts, without having to verify their identity.

However, this freedom still doesn’t extend to leaving posts on Paran’s noticeboards or news sites, for which users will still need to verify their identities.

I sent an email to Chun Sunghoon (@dminer), the head of KTH’s social media team, and like the gent he is, he sent me the following replies:

Re the requirement for an email address:

(We) originally thought about allowing logins via Facebook and Twitter alone. But as the recent Facebook and Twitter API white lists remain a little unclear, and as as websites in Korea are required to hang on to users’ data for a fixed period, we decided to install the email requirement in case people end up closing their Twitter or Facebook accounts.

And regarding the real name requirements on notice boards and news sites:

Under the current law, news is subject to the identity verification system, so we had to arrange the service in that way. We can’t flout the law, and it’s also difficult (under the current regulations) to add a service such as “social postings.”

Despite their restrictions, KTH’s new policies are a welcome move toward bringing Korean sites more in line with prevailing standards elsewhere. And while the government has recently shown it’s lost none of its taste for heavy-handed regulation, we can only hope that developments like this are building a momentum of their own.

Sources of info and pics: Bloter and ZDNet Korea.

Bloter: Is Korea’s Gaming Law Worth the Hassle?

Korea’s new “Cinderella Law”, which bans kids aged 16 and under from playing online games between midnight and 6 a.m., has stirred a fair bit of controversy since being passed by Korea’s National Assembly last month (it’s due to come into effect in October). Now, a new study from Nielsen Korea raises questions about whether it was even worth all the bother.

Implying that — gasp! — this legislation was based on populism rather than any rigorous analysis, Bloter complains that there are no clear definitions of what constitutes addiction or “over-immersion,” that the law will be difficult to enforce and, most fundamentally, that it may have little effect in achieving its stated aims.

Here’s why:

cinderella law korea statistics

As this graph of leisure time among different age groups shows, Korean kids — aged between 9 and 19 — do indeed spend an awful lot of their time playing games: between 41.8 and 44.1 percent. (TV and music are a distant second and third.)

In terms of raw numbers, in April of this year there were roughly 12.67 million gamers in Korea, of whom around 3.7 million were aged between 7 and 18. This means approximately 30 percent of Korea’s gamers fall in the age group that the Cinderella Law is aimed at.

But, as Bloter points out, between the hours of 12 and 6 the share of kiddie gamers already plummets to well below 15 percent:

As this graph shows, from a peak of 26.4 percent at 6pm, by midnight just 10.2 percent of gamers are between 7 and 18. This drops to 4.8 percent by 5am, before recovering slightly to 6 percent by 6am.

In the case of popular MMORPG Maple Story, that contrast is even more pronounced. At 5pm, a massive 44.8 percent of Maple Story players are between 7 and 18, a proportion that drops to practically zero between the hours of 2am and 6am.

As Bloter rightly asks, with so few young ‘uns apparently playing games between the witching hours of midnight and 6am, what difference will the Cinderella Law really make?

You: Where’s my bus? Daum Maps: It’s here!

Daum Communications has launched its is Daum Maps and Digital View service on an iOS app.

The rather handy app provides information on bus stops in your vicinity and the best route to reach your destination. If you touch the stop’s icon on the screen of your iPhone, it’ll give you real-time updates of when your next bus arrives and  (a la Daum Maps) provide a 360-degree panoramic view of the area around the bus stop. It can even, Bloter says, tell you the name of the driver of your bus.

Kakao Talk Counts the Cost of Success

Kakao Talk, an app that allows members to send messages and photos to one another for free via their smartphones, is creaking under the weight of its phenomenal success.

Now boasting more than 13 million users, Kakao Talk’s dizzy ascent is under threat from technical issues arising from the vast amounts of data the service now handles. Over the last two or three weeks, the service has been unable to function properly on at least two occasions, eliciting the wrath of Korea’s netizens on notice boards and social media sites.

kakao talk korea app

Launching in March of last year,  Kakao Talk had a million users by September, growing to 3 million by November and 5 million in December. By February 10 that number had risen to 7 million, a number that rose by another million within two weeks.

But as the numbers soared, and the service’s popularity spread around the world, Kakao Talk’s servers have begun to wheeze. The app now typically handles 300 million messages every day, according to the ZDNet article, with much of that concentrated in peak times.

Unfortunately, Kakao has yet to find a way to monetize that huge popularity, hence the problems it faces in tackling the technical glitches. Extending its servers while also handling privacy issues — Kakao suffered a bit of a security breach last December — is an expensive business.

However, if Kakao is to stay successful, it clearly has no choice but to try. In the last three months, according to the ZDNet story, the company has doubled its number of servers from 300 to 600, but this still hasn’t been enough to keep up with demand, let alone handle updates and new features.

Kakao Talk has been Korea’s biggest app success story so far, demonstrating that Korean start-ups can compete with the world’s best when given the chance (and when they have a decent idea). For its strength in inspiring other Korean app developers and start-ups, it would be great to see it overcome these problems and continue on its upward trajectory.

UPDATE: @aaronnamba made the following excellent point on my Twitter feed:

[blackbirdpie url=”http://twitter.com/#!/aaronnamba/status/72880025011097600″]

Anyone have an answer?

New Groupon App Aims to Liberate You of Your Cash on the Go

Groupon Korea, currently the third-largest social commerce site in the country, has become the first such service to launch its own Android and iPhone apps in Korea.

The new apps have all the functionality of the website and offer three modes of payment: credit card, bank transfer and mobile payment. To make payments via the app, users must also download two other apps: a secure payment system and the Inipay mobile payment service.

Continue reading “New Groupon App Aims to Liberate You of Your Cash on the Go”

New Site Invites You to Take a Seat on the ‘Showfar’

Korea’s quest for homegrown social media success continues with a new site called Showfar.

Calling itself a “micro-cafe,” Showfar aims to take the basic format of Korea’s online cafes, make them more egalitarian, and also throw in the advantages of social media services. Though perhaps not as hip as they once were, “cafes” are the still enormously popular online communities in Korea that coalesce around a certain issue or niche. They can be huge or tiny, serious or trivial.

Continue reading “New Site Invites You to Take a Seat on the ‘Showfar’”