29 Articles for 'Naver'

  1. 2010/02/03 NHN Posts All-time High Profits, Yet "Future Isn't All That Rosy," Analysts Say (3)
  2. 2009/08/11 Naver Japan Mobile Beta (1)
  3. 2009/06/17 Naver Japan search finally unveiled (3)
  4. 2009/03/04 Naver AdCast lets portal viewers control display ads (3)
  5. 2009/02/27 "Naver California"? (2)
  6. 2009/02/25 Duel of Korean maps shows how difficult it is to dethrone the ruling king
  7. 2008/12/22 Korea's Twitter gets acquired by Naver (6)
  8. 2008/12/17 Naver Opencast lets anyone become an "information curator" (1)
  9. 2008/09/01 Naver puts small "Ad" mark next to its search ads
  10. 2008/09/01 Naver Japan announces what it's up to, finally after 3 years

NHN, the company behind Naver.com, recently announced 2009 financial results. The company posted annual profit of KRW 540 billion (roughly US$ 540mm) on the revenue of KRW 1.3 trillion (about US$ 1.3 billion). Both figures are all-time high, according to NHN.

NHN's profit rates, about 40% of the revenue, again proves that NHN is one giant cash generating machine. NHN is actually one of the most profitable companies in the whole Korean stock market, across all industries. The biggest contributor of this financial success is of course Naver's dominating market share in the web ads. Fueled by Naver's 60-70% search market share, Naver also sees a healthy market share of 65-70% in the nation's internet ads market.

However, apparently there are some concerns over the company's long term growth potential too. About 1/3 of NHN's profit comes from Hangame's gaming business (Hangame is the online gaming arm of NHN corporation). This is a pretty unique revenue mix; Imagine 1/3 of Google's profits are being generated by games, though clearly Google and NHN are different companies as apples and oranges are. In and of itself, generating huge profits from a gaming business would be perfectly fine; However, the problem is that much of Hangame's profit gets generated from what's called "web board games", or things like Korean poker ("Go-stop"). There are increased social concerns towards these games: As people can exchange virtual currency into real money, these games can become too addictive and potentially become borderline gamling.

Also generating investors' concerns is the under-performance of Naver's overseas operations. Naver has always been criticized as a service that achieved its greatness by monopolizing the Korean market, not by building technological unfair advantage that can also work in other countries. To overcome these concerns, Naver has been trying hard to venture into new markets and move the needles there; However, Naver's current progress in other markets can best be described as "still trying".

Naver is a great company: after all, it's the world's 7th largest internet search provider, a remarkable position given that the majority of its users are only Koreans. But without meaningful signals coming from overseas market, and less dependency of its gaming business on the poker-like games, at least Naver's stock price could stall for a while.

TAG Hangame, Naver, NHN

Naver Japan Mobile Beta

Mobile | 2009/08/11 17:03 | Web 2.0 Asia

Naver launched mobile version of its recently-unveiled Japanese web search service. Called Naver Mobile Beta, the service claims to have features that are especially tailored for mobile users. 

Naver Japan blog offers a couple of screen shots of Naver Mobile Beta. The screen shot on the left side shows Naver's top search keywords ("Trend Ranking"). Users can do normal searches through Naver search box, and at the same time they can also browse through popular search keywords ("passive search", if you will). The latter might be popular among mobile users who just want to "kill time" and see if there is anything interesting happening right now. 

The screen shot on the right side shows the mobile version of Naver Matome, Naver Japan's unique service that tries to combine the best of search and user content generation. (More information on Naver Matome can be found here.) This particular Matome page shows Shibuya's best gourmet restaurants; Users can add their own content to this page via their mobile phones. 

One interesting remark from Naver's blog post: Naver expects people will use mobile services while they consume content via other channels, such as TV or magazines. That sounds just about right, and the use of mobile for information search and content consumption will only grow, it looks. 

Naver Japan search finally unveiled

Web 2.0 | 2009/06/17 14:12 | Web 2.0 Asia

Naver Japan search, the culmination of years of hard work by the Korean search giant, has finally been unveiled and is now available to some 5,000 beta testers. Reviews are already coming in, and based on the initial impressions and feedbacks, it looks like the service is quite well received among the closed beta testers. 

What's noticeable even at the first sight is the clean UI. The Naver hallmark green hues are used quite extensively but in an eye-pleasing way. On the front page, hot search queries are placed prominently (using flash graphics), showing current memes and attracting impluse clicks. 

Image from Hatena Blog

Naver uses flash graphics to create a graphically rich UI, much in contrast to the bare-bones UI of Google and Baidu. For example, images on the universal search results page are displayed with a coverflow interface (see below). And the use of flash graphics doesn't seem to particularly slow down the sites. Besides, what might also help is that Japan is already one of the top countries in the world in terms of broadband use. 

Image from Hatena Blog

Naver is arguably the pioneer of universal search, where different types of search results are displayed together on one big screen so that user can find all related stuff in one place. Naver Japan gives universal search results as the default view, but in addition to universal search, Naver also offers other interesting search types (navigatable by choosing different tabs.)

In addition to image and video search, "Kuchikomi (クチコミ)" search allows searching for "what people say about this topic" and displays BBS or Q&A content. "Theme (テーマ)" search shows related topics or categories associated with a certain search keyword so that user can do search focusing on a specific category. For example, for a search term "BMW", Naver Theme search gives "Car", "Film", "Person/group", "Game", "Sports", etc. Choose "Car" and you naturally get BMW cars as search results; Choose "Person/group" and you get people related to BMW, such as team BMW race drivers. 

Also "Matome (まとめ)" tries to employ user participation for search results. User can create a topic page and populate that page with content, which will be given out as search results when other people search for that topic on Matome search. User can create a links collection page, image/video collection page, quotes collection page, or custom content page for a given keyword. For instance, you can create a tell-it-all page for Macbook Pro. It's sort of a combination of Wikipedia and search, it seems. 

It remains to be seen if Naver will see a similar level of success in Japan as it had in Korea, but at least this much is clear: Naver seems to have achieved a difficult feat of creating a service that's well localized for the target market, while not losing its home-brewed forte and identity. For Naver, success in the Japanese market is ever important. Japan service will be the "canary in a coalmine" for Naver, as it will tell Naver if their success formula is just a Korean thing or something that can work anywhere else in the world. 

The other day, Naver announced AdCast, a new display banner ad system that allows viewers to exert control over the banner ads they see on Naver's front page. 

User can stop/replay flash ads, find advertiser info, or navigate through multiple banner ads when more than one ads are rolling on the same ad spot. Further, user can also copy a banner ad (for whatever reasons, such as great background music, etc) onto one's blog. Says Naver: Good display ads can be deemed as good content - sometimes ads are so good that you'd probably want to keep them. 

A natural question that follows is, why is Naver doing this? One possibility is Naver may be trying to bring up the display ads price. It didn't happen yet, but we know ads business (especially the banner/display ads) has been hit pretty hard by the economy meltdown, and Naver wouldn't be entirely immune to it. So it may be possible that Naver's plan is to make the display ads system slightly better and leverage that to increase the display ads fees. 

Even if this is Naver's effort to squeeze out the last drop of their display ads revenue, I won't blame them - After all, a company should strive to maximize its profit. In fact, it could even be a good gesture if Naver wants to make its ads better before increasing the price (if it does so, anyway). But I am worried about the aftermath of Naver's ad fees increase, if such thing ever happens, as by now so many small medium companies and shop owners in Korea turn to Naver for advertising and the ad price increase will affect many of them, who are already struggling under the slow economy. These days, putting up an ad on Naver is a must, not an option, for many small medium companies and shop owners - such is the dominance of Naver in Korea.

TAG adcast, Naver

"Naver California"?

Web 2.0 | 2009/02/27 13:27 | Web 2.0 Asia

A recent article by the Economist notices yet again Naver's success in the Korean market. Naver's total domination in Korea hardly surprises anyone, but what was quite interesting was Naver's ambition to launch in other countries including the US. 

... Mr. Chae [Naver CEO] says he plans to launch several more culturally specific search engines, such as “Naver California”, “Naver Korean-American” or “Naver Chinese-American”. That would be attacking Google on its home turf. Is this too ambitious? Naver say never.

Attacking Google on its home turf? Wow, when was the last time someone even dared to think about it?

So is Google now supposed to be shaken to its knees? Perhaps not yet. But don't label this as an absurdly far-fetched idea just yet. Remember Naver's tactic wouldn't be a head-on collision with Google. 

Though both are called search, Naver and Google are quite different species. Naver's forte is in aggregating useful information for popular topics, often created by the users themselves (blogs and Q&A searches), and presenting such information in a very human-friendly way (heard "universal search"?). Unlike Google, Naver doesn't rely almost entirely on the brute force performance of its search algorithm. 

Some users may prefer Naver's approach to search - which is what Naver hopes would be the case for the Japanese, the first foreign market the company is targeting at and putting lots of efforts in. If Naver can make a visible dent in the Japanese search market, it will then go to China, and then... who knows where else. Which is what makes Naver's Japan search, reported to be imminent to launch, all the more important. 

Duel of Korean maps shows how difficult it is to dethrone the ruling king

Web 2.0 | 2009/02/25 09:51 | Web 2.0 Asia

Blogger Channy Yun, on his Korean blog, recently posted that Daum Map's traffic has slided back to its original level after a shark-jump peak in late January, when Daum launched Street View service. 

Source: Channy's blog

All in all, Daum has a great map service, better than Naver's in ways (take the Street View, currently not provided by Naver, for one). However, Naver seems to be such a strongly entrenched top-of-the-mind choice for most Koreans, and the "escape velocity" for any second player to take off and surpass Naver can be just too high. Got a great feature? People may give it a try or two, but chances are they will just go back to Naver. The Economist has a recent article on Naver's success, which I'll cover on the next post. 

Meanwhile, on a separate note, Korean map service players may be suffering from too many government regulations. No Cut News reported (article in Korean) that Daum had to remove the Blue House, Korea's Oval Office, from its map service due to government request. (Left in the picture is what shows on Google Maps, while on the right you can see the whole area has been greened out). Google itself had enormous difficulty launching the map service in Korea due to many regulations. That's probably what you get when your country, while having bleeding-edge technologies, is still bordering with a military enemy who is very open about its missile launching programs. 

TAG Daum, maps, Naver

Korea's Twitter gets acquired by Naver

Web 2.0 | 2008/12/22 13:48 | Web 2.0 Asia

Me2day, Korea's leading microblog service, has been acquired by Naver. Here's the ZDNet news article on the acquisition (in Korean) and here's CEO Suman Park's personal posting (also in Korean). 

Me2day is a good service with many cool features (including mobile posting feature that's arguably better than that of Twitter), but the greatest hurdle for them was Korea's market situation where users hardly venture out of the portals to try new web services. The Naver partnership makes sense in that regards - if the service is great but is not getting explored by the many, why not bring the service closer to them? There is no doubt Me2day will see a huge spike in traffic once it's made available to Naver users. 

To fend off the age-old criticism that the company is too closed, Naver is making various efforts to cast an "open company" image, and the addition of Me2day, a company that's been a big proponent of open web technologies, will help such efforts. 

The deal is valued at KRW 2.2 billion (around US$2 million), which, in my opinion, could have been much higher given Me2day's market reach. But the current economy makes the whole a buyer's market, and Me2day was not venture backed (They've been bootstrapping with only sporadic angel fundings.) It was a rare case of publicly announcing the acquisition amount, which will potentially work to Naver's advantage for future acquisitions. Anyhow, big congratulations to Suman and the rest of the Me2day team. 
TAG me2day, Naver

Naver Opencast lets anyone become an "information curator"

Web 2.0 | 2008/12/17 21:17 | Web 2.0 Asia

Naver, Korea's #1 portal, has always been under criticism that the service is too closed. Now Naver has brought an answer to the age-long criticism: It's called Open Cast

Naver Opencast, in a nutshell, is the feature that allows user to customize a certain section of Naver's main homepage by populating it with content feeds ("casts"), which themselves are generated and shared by other users. It's really a two way system. On the "casting" or "publishing" side, you can generate your own feeds or "casts" by hand-picking good content off the open web; On the "consuming" side, you can subscribe to the "casts" that have been published by other users and have it shown on the generic Naver homepage. 

In the sense that it allows user to customize the homepage, it's similar to My Yahoo or iGoogle, but Naver Opencast is more permanently placed as random content still appears even if the user is not logged in (if he's logged in, then his choice of Casts appear). It's like Yahoo permanently allocating certain section of its homepage for the user's customized space.

In the content value chain, there can be several players: Obvious ones include generators and consumers. But then there are also other important players, namely the "facilitators" or "mediators" - those who find good content, archive them, forward them, or comment on them. So the "Casters" are Naver's terms for these facilitators - those who are interested (or have expertise) in certain topical fields who surf the open web and find/share good content and share it for other users. They're like "digital curators", so to speak. By subscribing to their "Casts", user can find good content without surfing the whole web himself. That's the basic idea behind Opencast. 

Naver Opencast is in a closed beta, so you can only subscribe to feeds, not create them. So far the reactions from the blogosphere is generally good, especially the ease of use and clean UI. (There are some users who complain that they want to consume all content within Naver instead of constantly jumping to other sites, by the way. Maybe they've been too accustomed to portal's all-you-can-eat experience.)

Naver tries to fend off walled-garden criticism. It's been opening up more open APIs for developers, and now comes Opencast. Hope Naver's effort continues and Korean internet users are exposed to more open web, instead of having siloed experience among only a handful of portals. 
TAG Naver, Opencast

Naver puts small "Ad" mark next to its search ads

Other | 2008/09/01 17:32 | Web 2.0 Asia
Naver, Korea's top portal site that rakes in huge revenues from search ads, announced the company will start putting a small "Ad" mark next to its search advertisements, in an effort to help users distinguish ads from normal web search results.

Unlike Google, which displays ads on the side, Naver has been placing ads on the top of search results, often leading to criticism that those ads look too close to normal search results, not ads.

Upon querying "Chinese language", I could see the site indeed had "Ad" mark - albeit not so prominent. Also, ads still appear on the top and it still takes couple of scroll downs before I can reach the first non-commercial content.

As people increasingly rely on search for finding information on the web, more and more small businesses find it inevitable to put ads on search portals - especially on the market-dominating Naver. But the potential issue here is that people tend to think of top results as the most relevant search result, while in Naver's case, the top results could often be the highest bidders for the spot. And that potential issue wouldn't suddenly go away with the introduction of small "Ad" marks. 
TAG Naver
"Naver Japan is building a new web search service", its changed homepage now says - duh, no surprise whatsoever there, but some take it as a sign that Naver may have finally become ready to roll out its new search service in Japan. Naver has kept its website closed for some years. 

사용자 삽입 이미지

Naver search had actually launched in the Japanese market earlier (circa 2005), but the service didn't make any splashes - it even saw some backlashes, as Naver search engine's crawler ("Naverbot") was found to make too frequent attempts to index websites and the Japanese web admins didn't like that, leading to their blocking of Naverbot.

Since, Naver has been investing wholeheartedly in the new search service for the Japanese market. Along with Baidu, Naver is trying hard to crack into the lucrative Japanese market, but it remains to be seen if Naver (or Baidu) will win enough users away from the dominating Yahoo Japan or the growing Google Japan. And there are also other local players like Goo, who understand the local market much better. Unless the service delivers a significantly better performance, it will be very difficult for Naver, a service that clearly carries a Korean image, to lure users away from Yahoo Japan.
TAG , Naver,
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