To test Robert’s theory and to offer some belated support to his Google killers, we’re going to get this party started with the story of a little Korean website that could.
Outside of its native country, there are few people who have heard of Naver, a Korean web portal that launched back in June of 1999. Despite the presence of Yahoo, Google and rival Korean search engines, today Naver is the undisputed king of Korean search, enjoying +1 billion daily page views and an astonishing +77% search market share. Naver is a David and Goliath story well worth studying and there are bloggers better qualified to talk about the history of Korean search so to cut a long story short, a significant part of Naver’s success is derived from two services.
1. Knowledge iN is a ‘knowledge search’ service – essentially the Korean version of Yahoo! Answers but predating Y! Answers by three years. Users ask questions and other users that answer are rewarded with ‘knowledge points’. Its database of over 75 million articles is 10 times the size of the entire Wikipedia database.
2. Integrated search service – there’s no doubt South Korea is switched on, boasting an incredibly high broadband penetration rate and a very sophisticated online userbase. However, even Google is irrelevant when there are no documents for Googlebot to crawl and index. Back in the early days of the Korean Internet, there simply were not enough Korean language documents to answer queries so Naver began paying content providers a fee to create a walled garden of content. Seven years before Google or Ask’s universal search, Naver was already algorithmically serving up a mash-up of search results from their bucket of ‘collection’ databases.
Korean web 2.0 observer Chang-Won Kim believes Naver has created a benevolent cycle – Naver, as the go-to guy for both user aggregated content and vendor aggregated content, has made it seamless and natural for South Korean content providers to place all their content on Naver.
What can we learn from the South Korean search industry?
Yahoo! In Pole Position For Once?
When Yahoo! Answers launched in December 2005, few analysts foresaw the upside in a Q+A service that tapped into Yahoo’s almost half a billion global users. Within two years, Y! Answers has accumulated over 95 million registered users and is one of a few good news stories to come out of Yahoo on a quarterly basis.
Let’s not beat around the bush, like Naver, Yahoo has the ‘ecosystem’ to make knowledge search THE search experience that online users are looking for. Mahalo provides hand-picked results from a small team of writers, Yahoo Answers provides hand-picked answers from millions of users. Which place would you turn to first, especially if such a search was already seamlessly embedded into your social network (hi Yahoo! 360). Figure out how to best mash-up Yahoo Answers into Yahoo! Alpha, take it mobile with Yahoo! oneSearch and we might just have the Naver of the Western world.
Facebook Could Really Kill Hurt Tickle Google
Okay, snap back to reality.
Yahoo! has thus far sucked at integrating their myriad properties and we also know that Yahoo! 360 hasn’t really taken off.
Q+A is a social network. People ask questions and other people answer. At 45 million users, Facebook is a social network that has a critical mass of answerers. While Facebook already has question apps (eg. Slide’s My Questions) we’re talking about taking it to the next social level where Q+A becomes search.