3 Articles for '2009/04'

  1. 2009/04/28 Korea's leading games company to downsize its web business unit
  2. 2009/04/27 Newspaper says "Cyber exiles" are increasing in Korea
  3. 2009/04/14 Does the concept of country matter any more in the internet era? (7)

NC Soft, Korea's leading online games company, appears to have shifted down on its Web 2.0 play through Openmanu business division. (Link in Korean). NC Soft is one of the world's biggest online games company, most famous for its Lineage series. The company recently launched another smash-hit-ready title, AION. 

Openmaru is an NC Soft business division that's been dedicated to developing new web applications, generally themed under open source and Web 2.0 spirits. Openmaru was supposed to be the seed for new business for NC Soft, it appeared: The gaming company wanted to use Openmaru as its pioneer to help extend NC's supremacy into the general web business (especially the newly emerging Web 2.0 area), as well as the gaming industry, where it already dominated. 

However, sometimes one's biggest enemy is its own success. As NC Soft's games business continued to take off and rake in big monies, internal pressure to focus on its core games business grew on, it's been often said around the industry. As a public company that has to post continuous quarterly growth, it would have been difficult for NC to justify the presence of a pureplay web business unless that new business was showing some healthy sign of potential revenue stream -- which the business unit apparently failed to show. 

That said, Openmaru has given us the Korean internet users many good web apps. As I'd written before, their eye-pleasing user interface and their overall approach towards developing and launching new web apps are just top notch. 

Overall, NC's decision to downscale its web business to focus more on its core games business seems to be a right decision. However, it will be rather unfortunate to see NC Soft not achieving the same feat achieved by its claimed archrival, Naver. Naver leveraged its games revenue through Hangame division as the fuel for developing game-changing (pun intended :-) web business. Meanwhile, NC Soft will likely remain a games-specialty company, while coming a bit short on also wearing the "great web company" moniker seemingly coveted by the company. Which can be perfectly okay, because NC Soft may be only an online games specialty company, it's arguably world's best online games specialty company. 

Newspaper says "Cyber exiles" are increasing in Korea

Web 2.0 | 2009/04/27 18:25 | Web 2.0 Asia

More and more Korean netizens are "fleeing to foreign internet services", in response to tighter net censorship recently being implemented by the Korean government, Korean newspaper Hankyeoreh reports

Under a new law, Korean internet users have to submit their real name and residence registration number (similar to social security number in the States) for ID verification, in order to use any major web service (more speficically defined as sites that have daily average viewership of over 100,000.) The law was initially proposed by the previous administration to prevent bad side effects of the internet's anonymity. Under the new law, people can still use their virtual IDs to express themselves, but if service providers are asked by the authority to reveal the real-world profile data of a particular virtual ID, they are legally required to submit such data. Hence the perceived deterioration of freedom of speech -- It's not easy to speak your heart out when you know the government might one day ask around who you are. 

Despite increasing number of incidents that show how the anonymity of the internet can sometimes lead to horrible results, such as the recent "Craigslist murder", the US government is yet to mandate real ID verification or similar public policy to the internet service providers. In general, majority of Korean internet users are against tighter censorship around the internet, as exemplified in this recent survey. After a TV show "100 Minute Debate" on MBC, 83% of people said Youtube was right in its move to not follow the real name verification requirement. 

Most of Korean netizens are using Korean local services, mostly big portals such as Naver and Daum, for their daily online activities. But "Cyber Exiles" are so worried about submitting their real-world information to use Korean web services that they are starting anew at foreign web services such as Google's Gmail, Hankyeoreh says. I don't think majority of Koreans will suddenly ditch all the archive of data they have accumulated all these years and flock to foreign services en masse anytime soon. But on the other hand, switching cost in the internet world is notoriously low, the government should carefully note. 

Does the concept of country matter any more in the internet era?

Web 2.0 | 2009/04/14 23:33 | Web 2.0 Asia

Sorry about the recent slow posting - Yes I've been terribly busy, but it is also rather difficult to blog when the sweeping story in the nation's web industry involves your own employer. I'm talking about the news that YouTube is not following Korean government's real name verification requirement and instead . (Also picked up by )

On the heels of the Youtube news comes another news on Korean government's Big Brother moves: Minerva, a blogger who criticized the government's sloppy economic policies and later got indicted in January, has been sentenced 18 months in jail yesterday. The charges on him: Spreading false financial rumors on the internet, thereby undermining the government's leadership. (Many of his "predictions" turned out to be right, including the fall of Lehman Brothers, by the way.)

I'm not saying this in defense of the Korean government, but it's not like Korea is being the only country in the world whose government is trying to exert more control over the netizens' freedom of speech. Iranian government reportedly tortured and killed a political blogger; Indian government wants all Indian nationals to use .in email addresses, not .com ones; Chinese government censored certain search results, a policy to which even Google had complied

Maybe I shouldn't reiterate what would be pretty obvious to the readers of this blog, but the key misunderstanding these government officials have is that the same policies in the real world can be applied to the web world. But as a web service professional, I can attest it's not the case -- country border doesn't mean much on the internet, and the only meaningful diving line for an internet service is language. 

I'm not saying this from a public policy or academic standpoint; I'm saying this from a very practical perspective. For Spanish-speaking audience living in California, language preference (Spanish) carries far more importance than country settings (US). An American expat living in Japan would want to be able to access Hulu and consume content in there, but would be frustrated to find that he's unable to access the site because his IP address shows he's in Japan and the site (falsely) assumes he's a Japanese. 

Obviously there are still some road blocks, such as payment system or other country-specific factors, that require web services to implement country lenses. But the web will eventually evolve into a truly global medium, if it's not one already. When that time comes, country selection may become meaningless and obsolete, and governments won't be able to easily put forth proprietary internet policies that are relevant only to a specific country. Users will still have to specify their language preference, either explicitly or implicitly through browser's default locale -- of course, that's until Google perfects its translation engine and lifts the last-standing barrier of the internet.