Posted on: itmilk.com
I interviewed my younger brother Gunhee Park about the common user experience with Korean search engines. Gunhee is a good candidate for this interview because a) he is part of the “net generation” or whatever the pundits like to call people who grew up with the internet and b) he’s been immersed heavily in both Korean and American culture, thus having experience with all types of search engines.Gunhee has lived in Korea most of his life (in contrast to my short years up to 3rd grade), so he is completely in touch with Korean culture. But now he is a Sophomore at Mount Michael Benedictine High School in Omaha, Nebraska. I don’t know what else there is to do in Omaha besides eat Omaha steak and tip some cows. But wait, it’s worse for Gunhee because he’s at an all-boys Catholic boarding school.
Me: What are the dominating search engines in Korea right now?
Gunhee: Let me see…. Naver, Daum, Yahoo, and Google.
Me: Which one is the most popular?
Gunhee: Probably Naver.
Me: What? Why not Google?
Gunhee: Naver seems to work best for the Korean search results. Also, it also has all this useful stuff like “Knowledge iN”. This is where someone posts a common question, and an expert on the subject answers it. I find a lot of my common questions answered in this section.
Me: From what you see, what’s the major difference between Korean and American search engines?
Gunhee: Korean search engines are more organized. There’s almost no spam.
Me: As opposed to? Google doesn’t have that much spam either. And Korean search engines look spammy with all the weird results that show up. (A whole slew of things like Sponsored Links, Power Links, Pro Plus Links, Encyclopedia, Knowledge iN, Directory, Business Sites, Local Results, Books, Videos, Professional Results, Music, News, Web Pages, Images…This is all on one page.)
Gunhee: But it’s all relevant and useful. Like cafe posts, blog posts, images… and it’s all very organized.
Me: Which section do you find the most useful information?
Gunhee: For me, cafe and blogs are all useless information. But I know that my Korean friends click on that stuff. I just use the web results.
Me: Do you think that Google Korea is different than the Google we use in America?
Gunhee: It’s the same search engine, just translated in Korean. (My bad. This was a stupid, obvious question.)
Me: Okay… I’m looking here on Naver’s “Popular Keywords” (a tool similar to Google Trends). So, for example, search “Hogzilla” (real news story: pig + monster = Hogzilla) on both Google and Naver. What do you notice that’s different?
Gunhee: Well, first of all, Naver has more things that would be interesting to Korean culture. Naver shows a lot of cool and relevant images in the search results, whereas Google shows a bunch of text. Koreans might not like it because they have to read lines and lines of short descriptions. But in Naver, it shows everything: recent news, videos, images, cafe posts, blog posts, common questions — all on the first page.
Me: You’re mentioning something called “cafe posts,” but what is it?
Gunhee: Groups of people make cafe groups about a certain theme. For example, dramas or video games. And then others with the same interest subscribe to the group. Then that “cafe” uploads videos and images about the topic, and they share knowledge that’s interesting to others. They can also buy and sell items like on Ebay.
Me: And what’s the advantage of showing cafe posts on the search results?
Gunhee: Nothing really… It’s just people’s opinions. And most of them just copy & paste from websites anyway. But if you want an opinion about something, it’s useful. Whatever, next question.
Me: Do you think American search engines lag behind Korean search engines?
Gunhee: Korean search engines offer better service. It has everything you want or need to know at your fingertips, like the weather and movie times. Anyway, I think Korean search engines are more advanced because Korean people in general spend a lot of time on the internet.
Me: Did you know that Korean search engines don’t have their own proprietary technologies? Naver is based on Yahoo technology and Daum is based on Google technology.
Gunhee: No, I didn’t know.
Me: So, obviously Korean and English have way different syntax and grammar. So do you find that the efforts you put into search queries different?
Gunhee: I think it’s the same. Also, just like Google has the “Did you mean this (spelling)?” technology, Naver has it too. But Naver doesn’t even ask and fixes it for you.
Me: Do you use boolean operators and quotations in Korean search too?
Gunhee: Um… I never used it. But the Advanced Search option exists only for Google Korea, not Naver.
Me: You know how the English Google has the Sponsored Links on the right side? I’ve seen that Naver has theirs within the main column so that it looks like the actual search results. What do you think is a better layout for sponsored links? Google’s way or Naver’s way?
Gunhee: Google’s sponsored links look like spam sitting on the right side. But Naver’s sponsored links look like real results. And since those come up usually when I’m looking to buy something and they’re the first links I see, I end up clicking on those a lot. (Naver puts a shitload of weight on its sponsored links by putting them at the very top. It even has 3 levels of sponsored links: Sponsored Links, Power Links, Pro Plus Links.)
Me: Lastly, why do people use Naver more than Daum?
Gunhee: Naver shows better results. Daum has a bad reputation of having crappy results (like spam). So more and more people have moved to Naver.
Me: That’s weird, because Naver is based on Yahoo technology and Daum is based on Google technology. In America, Google is the spam-killer search engine.