Korea Paying Price for Microsoft Monoculture

Last week the Korea Times had a long piece on the unique issues around browser security and encryption technologies in Korea, Korea Paying Price for Microsoft Monoculture, which did not reference my original article, the cost of monoculture, but is updating the issues I raised in early 2007.

A few choice quotes:

But the land of ubiquitous broadband, feature-happy “smart” phones and ultra-cool computing devices doubles as a crusty regime where Linux, Firefox, Chrome and Opera users can’t bank or purchase products online, and where Mac users buy Windows CDs to prevent their devices being reduced to fashion items.

The bizarre coexistence of advanced hardware and an outdated user environment is a result of the country’s overreliance on the technology of Microsoft, the U.S. software giant that owns the Korean computing experience like a fat kid does a cookie jar.

Critics say the country would end up paying dearly for allowing a Microsoft monoculture to take hold, with consumers deprived of the freedom to choose newer and better products and the Web industry seeing its innovation compromised.

(Anyone want to send me a Steve Ballmer with cookie jar photoshop masterpiece? :) )

The article goes on to cover a lot of the issues affecting web users in Korea and how many valiant efforts have gone into trying to affect change, most significantly the 3 lawsuits that Dr. Keechang Kim has brought against various Korean policy-making bodies, without success.

The newest effort of the open web community in Korea is openbank.or.kr, an effort to push/educate banking institutions in Korea to change their practices as many believe it is these consumer-facing services which are key to making real change happen for an open web in Korea.

Mozilla is committed to supporting the Koreans who are pushing for a competitive truly open web in Korea. If there is something that we should be doing in Korea to further support open web efforts, please do not hesitate to contact me or leave a comment with your thoughts.

I, for one, look forward to a day when anyone in Korea can use any modern browser on any major consumer computer operating system to bank, purchase goods/services online, trade stocks, etc. without the need for a browser plugin.

6 Responses to Korea Paying Price for Microsoft Monoculture

  1. I don’t get it, how hard can it be to reimplement the damn crappy protocol? Or to use the Active X à la NDIS wrapper, through a proxy doing the dirty work?

  2. And???! whole world is gonna rely on Korean cars very soon, same situation.

  3. NM, sadly, if it was easy, it would have been changed a long time ago.

    There are a number of both technical and policy-based reasons why things are the way they are. First, the Koreans have conflated encryption and identification- their current system also provides identity information delivered with the requirement of their Korean National ID. (The equivalent would be if an Amazon.com user in the US was required to have and provide a US Social Security Number or US Passport number in order to make a simple purchase online.) Then there is the fact that every website is coded for IE and requires the use of IE and ActiveX, so it’s no trivial matter to change every website for a new process.

    The Korean government needs to re-think their entire online policy and move away from plugins completely and support a cross-platform, cross-browser solution as we have everywhere in the rest of the world.

  4. Good heavens I ain’t living in Korea. Well, I feel sorry for Korean mac owners who would have to double their OSs just so they could take advantage of internet marketing, banking etc. Well I guess this isn’t all bad, especially on the government’s end because certainly this is a major way to stop online theft. And also definitely ALL-GOOD to Microsoft. A technology advanced and reliant country monopolized by one of the behemoths in the industry.