While the popular Internet Explorer (IE) browser breathed his last on June 15South Korea would find it hard to do without some of its services. Just like its neighbor Japanmany corporate and government agency websites did not transition to a new browser in time.
South Korean sites struggle to update
South Koreans find it difficult to turn the page of Internet Explorer. Google Chrome does not allow making online payments as a customer of one of the largest foreign banks in the country. The Ministry of Culture and Arts website does not allow applications for artist funding on Safari and it is not possible to register a childcare facility with the Ministry of Health and of Social Protection using Mozilla. To achieve these actions, it is necessary to use the Microsoft browser released 27 years ago.
While the majority of the country’s inhabitants have moved to other more modern web browsers, several sites require Internet Explorer to function. This is particularly the case for banking or government sites using some of its functions.
Last May, the South Korean branch of British bank Standard Chartered began warning customers of the upcoming changes. She then explained that they had to switch to Edge, Microsoft’s new browser, to access its online banking platform “Straight2Bank”.
It was during this period that Naver, one of South Korea’s largest Internet companies, introduced a feature of its Whale web browser, “Internet Explorer Mode.” Kim Hyo, manager of teams working on Whale for Naver, told the New York Times that this functionality appeared in 2006 should have disappeared with Internet Explorer.
South Korea and Internet Explorer: a long love affair
South Korea has a special relationship with Internet Explorer. In the 90s, the country became one of the forerunners of the Internet, using it for banking or shopping. In 1999, to strengthen the security of Internet users, the South Korean government implemented a law requiring the issuance of encrypted digital certificates for any document that previously required a signature.
The government has authorized five companies to design plug-ins, browser extensions, to verify the identity of people using the Internet. Among them, ActiveX, a plug-in created by Microsoft and working only on Internet Explorer. The company founded by Bill Gates being the leader of the computer market at this time, in particular thanks to its Windows operating system, ActiveX will be widely adopted by South Koreans.
James Kim, director of the South Korean branch at Microsoft from 2009 to 2015, explains to the Times that Microsoft” didn’t really have a competitor at that time “. He points out that even if Microsoft did not try to put a spoke in the wheels of its competitors, many things did not work without Internet Explorer, making it essential. Between 2004 and 2009, the browser held 99% market share in South Korea.
Kim Keechang, a law professor at Korea University in Seoul, said Internet Explorer’s monopoly was so big that people on the peninsula ” were unable to name another internet browser “.
It wasn’t until 2009 and a cyberattack that things started to change. Hackers manage to exploit ActiveX to deliver lots of malware to users of the plugin. Public opinion is changing and South Koreans are complaining about the inconvenience of using ActiveX for their online purchases. A year later, the government abolished the 1999 law and forced government sites to be compatible with at least three browsers. In 2012, Google Chrome became popular and became the most used browser in South Korea. In 2022, 54% of the South Korean population will use Google Chrome.
If internet users mainly remember Internet Explorer through jokes and memes about its execution and loading speed, some have sought to pay it a final tribute. This is the case of Jung Ki-young, a South Korean software developer, who erected a tombstone in honor of the browser, with the epitaph ” It was best to download other browsers “. For him, ” using Internet Explorer was complicated and frustrating but sometimes helpful. I didn’t want to just uninstall it and tell it “I don’t need you anymore” “.