I get this question so frequnetly that I consider replacing my personal profile on this blog with the answers for it: Why is Korea so dominated by Naver? Lucas, a terrific guy who recently joined SEOmoz.org and pays regular visits to this humble blog, is the latest person to ask the question.
Without further ado, I’ll jump right to the point.
1. So how dominant is Naver in Korean market?
According to a recent study, Naver has 78%+ search market share in Korea, so it’s pretty dominating. Naver’s Q&A service has 70 million+ entries. I recently saw a news that Wikipedia (English ver.) recently reached 2 million entries. With Naver Q&A being in much shorter form than Wikipedia, no direct match is possible here, but still it’s a remarkable feat for Naver.
2. What’s their strategy?
These days everyone talks about platform strategy, but another good ol’ success strategy in a business is to build a “benevolent cycle”. Naver did just that, with the Korean web content – they built a self-reinforcing cycle around Korean web content, all within their walled garden. It’s like a giant flywheel now – with so much of momentum built up, even Naver itself seemingly can’t stop its growth.
What the heck does that mean?
1) Naver successfully collected virtually all the web content written in Korean out there, and stuffed that content onto its giant DB.
How? Two ways. First, by commercial contracts with various media. A little known secret is that Naver’s aggregated news service (since circa 2000) played a critical role in its ascent to a household name from a tiny internet venture. Young people, when they came home from work or school, didn’t flip through newspapers as their fathers did – they turned on the computer and browsed through Naver News, which conveniently collected all the news from various news media. Even to day, the #1 time killer on the net in Korea is Cyworld and Naver News. Naver still continues the practice of signing good content prodviders. (a Yahoo strategy, maybe?)
As well as this “B2B aggregation of content”, perhaps more importantly, Naver collected content from general users (“B2C aggregation of content”) by providing them free, dead-easy content entry systems in Naver blog and Naver Knowledge-iN (Q&A). But often the content wasn’t only produced: It was also copied.
2) Content multiplication through copies
Naver didn’t actively discourage people from copying others’ content. For example, Naver blog UI has a “scrap” button, which allows one-click scrap of someone else’s content onto one’s own blog. This led to a culture where people think copying someone else’s content is a normal thing to do.