Why South Korea Can’t Quit Internet Explorer

ByFreda D. Cuevas

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SEOUL — In South Korea, one of the world’s most technologically state-of-the-art nations around the world, there are few boundaries to what can be completed conveniently on line — except if you are applying the improper world-wide-web browser.

On Google Chrome, you cannot make organization payments on the web as a corporate buyer of a single of the country’s major overseas-owned banking companies. If you are making use of Apple’s Safari, you are unable to apply for artist funding by way of the Nationwide Society and Arts website. And if you’re a proprietor of a kid treatment facility, registering your firm with the Wellness and Welfare Ministry’s web page is not feasible on Mozilla’s Firefox.

In all these scenarios, Microsoft’s Online Explorer, or a very similar different, is the expected browser.

When Microsoft shut down Web Explorer, or IE, on June 15, the company stated it would start redirecting customers to its newer Edge browser in the coming months. The announcement inspired jokes and memes commemorating the net of yesteryear. But in South Korea, IE is not some on the net artifact. The defunct browser is however wanted for a tiny amount of critical banking and govt-related jobs that a lot of men and women can’t stay with out.

South Korea’s fealty to World wide web Explorer, 27 yrs right after its introduction and now into its retirement, offers a major dose of irony: A state identified for blazing broadband and innovative units is tethered to a buggy and insecure piece of application abandoned by most of the environment long in the past.

Most South Korean web-sites operate on each and every browser, which includes Google Chrome, which normally takes up about 54 p.c of the country’s internet use. Internet Explorer is significantly less than 1 %, according to Statcounter. Nevertheless following the announcement from Microsoft, there was a past-minute scramble between some critical web pages to prepare for everyday living right after IE.

The South Korean arm of the British financial institution Common Chartered warned company customers in Might that they would have to have to start off working with the Edge browser in “IE mode” for accessibility to its “Straight2Bank” internet banking platform. Various Korean governing administration web sites informed end users that some providers ended up probable to encounter disruptions if they did not change to Edge.

In May, Naver, one of Korea’s largest internet corporations, highlighted a characteristic of its Whale browser that lets entry to internet sites that expected Net Explorer. Kim Hyo, who heads Naver’s Whale workforce, reported the firm experienced initially included the solution in 2016. He believed it would no extended be desired when Microsoft shut down IE.

But as the ultimate times approached, Mr. Kim understood that some Korean sites would not make the change in time, so he kept the element and changed its identify to “Internet Explorer manner.” Modernizing websites that experienced catered to IE for many years was “quite a large undertaking,” he claimed, and some web-sites “just missed the deadline.”

South Korea’s reliance on World-wide-web Explorer dates back to the 1990s, when the region grew to become a forerunner in using the internet for banking and buying. In order to protect on the net transactions, the governing administration handed a legislation in 1999 necessitating encrypted digital certificates for any make a difference that had earlier termed for a signature.

Verifying a person’s identification demanded supplemental software that connected to the browser, regarded as a plug-in. The South Korean government approved 5 businesses to situation this sort of digital certificates using a Microsoft plug-in known as ActiveX. But the plug-in labored only on Internet Explorer.

At the time, utilizing a Microsoft plug-in appeared like an noticeable alternative. Microsoft Home windows computer software dominated the personalized personal computer market place in the 1990s, and World wide web Explorer experienced leveraged that place to come to be the dominant browser. Because essential Korean sites essential IE, other web sites started catering to Microsoft’s browser, reinforcing its great importance. By just one estimate, World-wide-web Explorer experienced 99 per cent market place share in South Korea among 2004 and 2009.

“We were being really the only match in city,” claimed James Kim, who led Microsoft in South Korea from 2009 to 2015. Mr. Kim, who now heads the American Chamber of Commerce in Seoul, explained that Microsoft hadn’t experimented with to thwart the competitors, but that a good deal of issues “didn’t work” without having IE.

Kim Keechang, a legislation professor at Korea University in Seoul, said Internet Explorer’s stranglehold on South Korea was so comprehensive in the early 2000s that most South Koreans “couldn’t identify a different browser.”

When Professor Kim returned to South Korea in 2002 just after educating abroad, he discovered that he couldn’t do everything on the net with his personal computer running Linux, a free, open up-resource different to Windows, and Firefox. Each individual year, he went to an net cafe for entry to a laptop or computer with IE in get to file his taxes on a government internet site.

In 2007, Professor Kim submitted a lawsuit versus the Korea Financial Telecommunications & Clearings Institute, a person of the five authorities-authorised personal businesses assigned to concern digital certificates. He argued that the corporation, which issued about 80 p.c of South Korea’s certificates, had unjustly discriminated from him by not letting other browsers.

In excess of a few yrs, Professor Kim shed the case, shed the attraction and missing at the country’s Supreme Courtroom. But his court battle drew broader attention to the pitfalls of South Korea’s system, specifically immediately after a 2009 cyberattack exploited ActiveX to distribute malware on Korean computer systems.

With the arrival of smartphones, an industry designed on application from Apple and Google, South Korea, like a great deal of the globe, started off to minimize its reliance on Microsoft. In 2010, the nation issued rules that government websites need to be appropriate with 3 diverse world wide web browsers. But switching the plumbing of South Korea’s internet was not uncomplicated — in particular as banking companies and credit score card firms stood by the current technique.

As general public viewpoint shifted, customers bristled at the inconvenience of needing to use ActiveX to acquire factors on the web. Critics argued that the engineering experienced unsuccessful to satisfy its reason mainly because the plug-in program manufactured end users significantly less safe and sound.

Microsoft released Edge in 2015 as a substitute for Internet Explorer, and the organization claimed it was not supporting ActiveX in the new browser. Chrome turned the country’s major browser three years before.

In 2020, South Korea amended the 1999 legislation to eliminate the need for digital certificates, a move that appeared to near the guide on ActiveX and Online Explorer. That same year, Microsoft began removing assistance for IE in some of its on the net expert services. A 12 months afterwards, the organization declared that it prepared to retire World wide web Explorer completely.

While a lot of the earth joked about Net Explorer’s demise, 1 South Korean engineer marked the occasion in a far more somber way.

Jung Ki-young, a 39-yr-old application developer, erected a tombstone for IE on the rooftop of his more mature brother’s cafe in Gyeongju, a city on South Korea’s southeastern coast around 170 miles from Seoul. He paid $330 for the monument, which was engraved with the browser’s recognizable “e” logo and an inscription: “He was a very good device to obtain other browsers.”

Mr. Jung stated he had his share of frustrations with World-wide-web Explorer, but he felt the browser that had released so numerous South Koreans to the internet deserved a good goodbye.

“Using Web Explorer was hard and disheartening, but it also served a excellent goal,” Mr. Jung said. “I really do not truly feel fantastic about just retiring it with a ‘we never will need you anymore’ mindset.”


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