Bear with me here as this is more of an Open Web issue and less a Firefox issue.
As many of you know if you had read my 2007 post on the cost of monoculture, (Slashdotted and Digged to the front page) or the update on the cost of monoculture, you know that South Korea is alone in the world as a nation that does not use TLS/SSL for online transaction encryption. What that means in practice is that 99% of South Koreans use IE because they cannot do any secure transaction online (i.e. Internet banking, stock trading, ecommerce, e-government, etc.) without a Microsoft Windows operating system and the Internet Explorer web browser.
So I read with some interest recently when I saw that KT (Korea Telcom) and maybe SK Telecom (?) is probably going to launch the iPhone 3GS in Korea soon: IPhone Has Mobile Operators Punching Calculators. The question that immediately came to mind is this:
if South Korean websites cannot do any secure transaction without ActiveX, which is not supported on the iPhone’s Mobile Safari browser, what use is the iPhone in Korea? What good is a mobile browser on the iPhone in Korea if you cannot do any secure transaction with it?
This detail has not been covered by any of the media that has been covering the potential for the iPhone in Korea. I would very much appreciate any comments from South Koreans on how the iPhone can be successful in Korea if it cannot be used for any secure transactions. Or does this mean that Korean web services will start implementing support for SSL? Will the iPhone break open the IE-dominated web of Korea?
My friend Changwon Kim thinks that it may have to do with the fact that the Korean carriers will get little-to-no benefit from users who buy iPhones because all of the purchases on the iPhone will be at iTunes or the Apple App Store.
Out of fear to become “dumb bit pipes”, Korean wireless carriers have been working so hard to transform themselves into digital content empires by acquiring content companies and building a tight control over the content value chain. But iPhone is all about getting out of carrier value chain: web browsing on WiFi networks or App Store downloads have nothing to do with carriers. So the fact that the carriers haven’t yet fully recouped their massive content investment might be the true reason, or at least part of the reason, why Korea still doesn’t have an iPhone yet.
I’m very curious to see what the reaction will be to the iPhone in Korea when it launches. Especially the part where Korean users won’t be able to do any of the things they normally do with their laptops or desktop PCs such as buy stocks, online banking, – anything that requires a secure transaction.