Is the enemy of my enemy my friend?

Ancient proverb: The enemy of my enemy is my friend.

Surprising news from South Korea – Google and Yahoo working together.

The Korea Times: Google, Yahoo United in Map Services.

This would be unheard of anywhere else in the world where Google and Yahoo are the fiercest of competitors. However in Korea, where Naver is the market leader (75% market share), and Daum second, Google and Yahoo are not relevant for most Korean web users (with perhaps the exception of Flickr, which is available in Hangul, and YouTube. UPDATE: not even YouTube is popular in Korea.)

The two global giants have been stressing the need for creating an “open environment” in Web services, obviously to compete with Naver’s massive walled garden, and Google Korea managing director Lee Won-jin said his company’s partnership with Yahoo is an extension of those movements.

“Korean Web portals have a reputation for their closed services, and this has been hurting innovation in the Korean Internet industry,” Lee said.

“The sharing of content between us and Yahoo could mark an important first step toward an open Web environment in the Korean Internet sector and inspire innovation,” he said.

Personally, I think the fact that there is only 1 web browser used in Korea is a larger issue than anything related to specific content.  How do you launch next-generation web-based applications if the only browser you can code for is IE6/7?  For example, maybe you have a new mapping application that has embedded videos (where have I heard this before?) but tests show that the service is significantly slower in Internet Explorer, even the shiny newest version. As a web/web apps developer you know there are browsers that are significantly faster or more standards-compliant or have add-ons functionality but your users in Korea can’t use anything but IE, because nothing in Korea works besides IE for any website that requires a secure connection.

So Korea, which was the earliest nation to launch real broadband, is now stuck in a sea of Microsoft-only operating systems and software.  What kind of Internet is it when you can have 1 Gbps broadband in Korea with no choice of operating system or web browser?

If Korean Internet businesses were truly interested in an “open environment” in Korea, they would work together to change the monoculture of the web browser in KoreaMicrosoft Windows and Internet Explorer That Koreans are forced to use a particular computer operating system and web browser for the Internet is the true “walled garden” of Korea.

2 Responses to Is the enemy of my enemy my friend?

  1. Hardly as surprising as you seem to find it – haven’t Yahoo been buddying up to Google for quite a while now, to fend off the threat of being bought by Microsoft?

  2. This shouldn’t really come as too much of a surprise and I think will actually become a continuing trend. Microsoft just recently shared its ActiveSynch technology for syncing mobile devices to and from Exchange with Google.

    I think all these major players are becoming more comfortable in their market positions and are becoming more willing to share technology and form partnerships with their competitors where it makes sound business sense.