Why South Korea Can’t Quit Internet Explorer

SEOUL — In South Korea, 1 of the world’s most technologically highly developed international locations, there are couple of restrictions to what can be done conveniently online — other than if you are employing the erroneous internet browser.

On Google Chrome, you simply cannot make business payments online as a corporate customer of just one of the country’s premier foreign-owned financial institutions. If you are using Apple’s Safari, you are unable to utilize for artist funding as a result of the National Culture and Arts website. And if you are a proprietor of a boy or girl care facility, registering your business with the Overall health and Welfare Ministry’s website is not attainable on Mozilla’s Firefox.

In all these circumstances, Microsoft’s Internet Explorer, or a identical substitute, is the demanded browser.

When Microsoft shut down Online Explorer, or IE, on June 15, the enterprise stated it would get started redirecting customers to its newer Edge browser in the coming months. The announcement motivated jokes and memes commemorating the web of yesteryear. But in South Korea, IE is not some on line artifact. The defunct browser is still needed for a modest number of essential banking and authorities-connected duties that quite a few persons cannot stay without.

South Korea’s fealty to World-wide-web Explorer, 27 many years after its introduction and now into its retirement, offers a weighty dose of irony: A country identified for blazing broadband and impressive units is tethered to a buggy and insecure piece of computer software deserted by most of the earth very long back.

Most South Korean web-sites perform on each individual browser, which includes Google Chrome, which takes up about 54 percent of the country’s world-wide-web use. World wide web Explorer is much less than 1 percent, in accordance to Statcounter. Nonetheless after the announcement from Microsoft, there was a last-minute scramble between some important web pages to put together for lifestyle right after IE.

The South Korean arm of the British financial institution Regular Chartered warned company shoppers in May possibly that they would want to start out utilizing the Edge browser in “IE mode” for access to its “Straight2Bank” net banking platform. Different Korean governing administration internet websites instructed consumers that some solutions ended up most likely to deal with disruptions if they did not swap to Edge.

In Could, Naver, a single of Korea’s most important net companies, highlighted a attribute of its Whale browser that will allow access to internet sites that required World wide web Explorer. Kim Hyo, who heads Naver’s Whale crew, said the organization had at first extra the choice in 2016. He believed it would no for a longer period be desired when Microsoft shut down IE.

But as the last days approached, Mr. Kim recognized that some Korean web-sites would not make the switch in time, so he stored the attribute and adjusted its identify to “Internet Explorer method.” Modernizing internet websites that had catered to IE for a long time was “quite a massive undertaking,” he explained, and some web sites “just skipped the deadline.”

South Korea’s reliance on Internet Explorer dates back to the 1990s, when the region turned a forerunner in using the world wide web for banking and browsing. In purchase to secure on-line transactions, the federal government passed a legislation in 1999 demanding encrypted electronic certificates for any matter that experienced previously called for a signature.

Verifying a person’s identification essential added software that connected to the browser, regarded as a plug-in. The South Korean authorities licensed five firms to concern these electronic certificates working with a Microsoft plug-in called ActiveX. But the plug-in worked only on Internet Explorer.

At the time, making use of a Microsoft plug-in appeared like an clear selection. Microsoft Windows application dominated the own computer system market in the 1990s, and Net Explorer had leveraged that placement to turn into the dominant browser. Because important Korean web sites essential IE, other sites began catering to Microsoft’s browser, reinforcing its value. By 1 estimate, Online Explorer had 99 p.c sector share in South Korea involving 2004 and 2009.

“We had been genuinely the only match in city,” stated James Kim, who led Microsoft in South Korea from 2009 to 2015. Mr. Kim, who now heads the American Chamber of Commerce in Seoul, reported that Microsoft hadn’t tried out to thwart the levels of competition, but that a good deal of items “didn’t work” without the need of IE.

Kim Keechang, a law professor at Korea College in Seoul, claimed Internet Explorer’s stranglehold on South Korea was so entire in the early 2000s that most South Koreans “couldn’t title a different browser.”

When Professor Kim returned to South Korea in 2002 immediately after teaching overseas, he learned that he couldn’t do just about anything online with his computer system managing Linux, a free of charge, open up-supply choice to Windows, and Firefox. Just about every year, he went to an internet cafe for access to a laptop with IE in purchase to file his taxes on a authorities website.

In 2007, Professor Kim submitted a lawsuit in opposition to the Korea Financial Telecommunications & Clearings Institute, one particular of the 5 authorities-approved non-public companies assigned to problem digital certificates. He argued that the business, which issued about 80 percent of South Korea’s certificates, had unjustly discriminated towards him by not allowing for other browsers.

More than three a long time, Professor Kim lost the situation, lost the enchantment and lost at the country’s Supreme Court docket. But his court battle drew broader interest to the pitfalls of South Korea’s technique, particularly soon after a 2009 cyberattack exploited ActiveX to spread malware on Korean desktops.

With the introduction of smartphones, an marketplace constructed on computer software from Apple and Google, South Korea, like a lot of the entire world, began to cut down its reliance on Microsoft. In 2010, the country issued recommendations that authorities internet websites must be compatible with 3 unique internet browsers. But altering the plumbing of South Korea’s online was not straightforward — specifically as financial institutions and credit rating card businesses stood by the present process.

As general public viewpoint shifted, customers bristled at the inconvenience of needing to use ActiveX to obtain factors on the net. Critics argued that the technological innovation experienced failed to meet up with its purpose since the plug-in software manufactured customers less protected.

Microsoft launched Edge in 2015 as a replacement for Web Explorer, and the corporation mentioned it was not supporting ActiveX in the new browser. Chrome grew to become the country’s top browser a few years earlier.

In 2020, South Korea amended the 1999 regulation to get rid of the need for digital certificates, a move that seemed to shut the e book on ActiveX and World wide web Explorer. That same year, Microsoft started off removing assistance for IE in some of its on the internet solutions. A yr later, the company introduced that it planned to retire Online Explorer altogether.

While a great deal of the environment joked about Online Explorer’s demise, a person South Korean engineer marked the celebration in a far more somber way.

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

Mr. Jung stated he had his share of frustrations with Online Explorer, but he felt the browser that experienced launched so lots of South Koreans to the world-wide-web deserved a good goodbye.

“Using Internet Explorer was hard and aggravating, but it also served a good purpose,” Mr. Jung reported. “I really do not really feel excellent about just retiring it with a ‘we really do not will need you anymore’ frame of mind.”

Stacee R. Grigg

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