Naver, Korea’s No. 1 portal site, now lets uses switch off its “real-time soaring search terms,” (실시간 급상승 검색어) long one of its most prominent features. Updating every 15 seconds or so, the function purports to show the portal’s most popular search terms in real time, generating very high volumes of click-through traffic to whatever is lucky enough to be in the top 10.
However, portals being what they are, and Naver being what it is, no concrete standard or algorithms have ever been revealed for how the real-time search comes up with its results. This has led to persistent accusations of manipulation and other shenanigans at the top portals, culminating in this exhaustive demolition by a local blogger. (See here for my post on this.)
On the second of this month, Naver added a small, upward-pointing arrow to the top-right of its “real-time soaring search terms” box, along with all the other real-time lists, including “hot topic keywords” and “popular terms with youths.”
Clicking on the arrow will conceal the list for a week, and users don’t need to log-in to Naver disable the function.
Talking to Bloter, a spokesperson from Naver parent NHN said:
The “real-time soaring search items” is the best platform in Korea for showing the different questions people have, and representing group sentiment, so it’s always received a lot of interest from our users. That said, we’ve had requests regarding the exposure of results on the service. So to accommodate these requests, we’ve decided to continue offering the service but with a choice on whether those results are shown or not.
Though this measure on its own is unlikely to silence Korea’s Naver discontents, it is surely an encouraging indication that, after long being somewhat tin-eared to public sentiment, Korea’s portal giants are being forced to adjust to an age with genuine competition.