Even in death, Internet Explorer lives in South Korea

Seoul, South Korea – In South Korea, one of many world’s most technologically superior nations, there are few limits to what might be carried out simply on-line – except you are utilizing the incorrect internet browser.

On Google Chrome, you can’t make on-line enterprise funds as a company consumer of one of many largest foreign-owned banks within the nation. When you use Apple’s Safari, you won’t be able to use for artwork funding via the Nationwide Tradition and Arts web site. In case you are a toddler care facility proprietor, registering your group with the Division of Well being and Welfare web site shouldn’t be attainable on Firefox from Mozilla.

In all of those circumstances, Microsoft Web Explorer, or the same various, is the browser in want.

When Microsoft shut down Web Explorer, or IE, on June 15, the corporate mentioned it could start redirecting customers to the newer Edge browser within the coming months. The advert impressed jokes and memes to commemorate the web of yesteryear. However in South Korea, IE shouldn’t be a web-based artifact. The defunct browser continues to be wanted for a small variety of essential banking and authorities duties that not many individuals can stay with out.

South Korea’s loyalty to Web Explorer, 27 years after its introduction and now in retirement, represents a heavy dose of irony: a rustic recognized for its broadband and revolutionary {hardware} tied to the buggy and insecure program that many of the world deserted lengthy earlier than.

Most web sites in South Korea run on each browser, together with Google Chrome, which takes up about 54% of the nation’s web use. Web Explorer is lower than 1%, in keeping with Statcounter. Nonetheless, after Microsoft’s announcement, there was a last-minute scramble amongst among the key websites to prepare for all times after IE.

The South Korean arm of Britain’s Normal Chartered Financial institution warned company prospects in Might that they would want to begin utilizing the Edge browser in “IE mode” to entry its on-line banking platform Straight2Bank. A number of Korean authorities web sites have instructed customers that some providers will probably expertise disruptions if they do not swap to Edge.

In Might, Naver, one of many largest Web corporations in Korea, highlighted the Whale Browser function that enables entry to websites that require Web Explorer. Kim Hyo, who heads Naver’s Whale staff, mentioned the corporate initially added the choice in 2016. He thought it would not be wanted when Microsoft shuts down IE.

However because the final days approached, Kim realized that some Korean websites wouldn’t make the swap in time, so he stored the function and altered its title to “Web Explorer Mode”. He mentioned that updating web sites which have been catering to IE for many years is a “too huge job”, and a few websites “simply missed the deadline”.

South Korea’s reliance on Web Explorer dates again to the Nineties when the nation turned a pioneer in utilizing the Web for banking and purchasing. With a purpose to shield on-line transactions, the federal government handed a regulation in 1999 requiring the issuance of encrypted digital certificates for any matter that beforehand required an individual’s signature.

Verifying an individual’s id requires an extra program related to the browser, often called a plug-in. The South Korean authorities has allowed 5 corporations to subject such digital certificates utilizing a Microsoft plug-in referred to as ActiveX. However the plugin solely works on Web Explorer.

On the time, utilizing a Microsoft plug-in appeared like an apparent possibility. Microsoft Home windows software program dominated the PC market within the Nineties, and Web Explorer took benefit of this place to grow to be the dominant browser. Because the primary Korean web sites require IE, different web sites have begun to cater to Microsoft’s browser, thus enhancing its significance. By one estimate, Web Explorer held 99% of the market share in Korea between 2004 and 2009.

“We had been actually the one sport on the town,” mentioned James Kim, who led Microsoft in South Korea from 2009 to 2015. Kim, who now heads the American Chamber of Commerce in Seoul, South Korea, mentioned Microsoft wasn’t making an attempt to thwart competitors, however numerous issues “did not work” with out IE.

Kim Kichang, a regulation professor at Korea College in Seoul, mentioned Web Explorer’s management of South Korea was so full within the early 2000s that almost all South Koreans “could not title one other browser.”

When Kim returned to South Korea in 2002 after instructing overseas, he found he could not do something on-line along with his laptop operating Linux, a free and open supply various to Home windows and Firefox. Yearly he would go to an web café to entry a pc with IE to be able to file his taxes on a authorities web site.

In 2007, Kim sued the Korea Institute of Monetary Communications and Clearance, one in every of 5 government-approved personal corporations designated to subject digital certificates. He mentioned the corporate, which issued about 80% of South Korean certificates, unfairly discriminated in opposition to him by not permitting different browsers.

Over the course of three years, Kim misplaced the case, misplaced the enchantment, and misplaced within the nation’s Supreme Courtroom. However his courtroom battle drew wider consideration to the failings of the South Korean system, particularly after a 2009 cyber assault that exploited ActiveX to unfold malware on Korean computer systems.

With the arrival of smartphones, an trade constructed on software program from Apple and Google, South Korea, like a lot of the world, has begun to scale back its dependence on Microsoft. In 2010, the state issued tips that authorities web sites should be appropriate with three totally different internet browsers. However altering the web in South Korea hasn’t been straightforward — particularly since banks and bank card corporations have been sticking with the present system.

As public opinion shifted, customers apprehensive in regards to the inconvenience of getting to make use of ActiveX to purchase issues on-line. Critics argued that the expertise failed to attain its function as a result of the extra software program made customers much less safe.

Microsoft launched Edge in 2015 as a substitute for Web Explorer, and the corporate mentioned it doesn’t assist ActiveX within the new browser. Chrome turned the most effective browser within the nation three years in the past.

In 2020, South Korea amended the 1999 regulation to take away the necessity for digital certificates, a transfer that appeared to close the e-book on ActiveX and Web Explorer. That very same 12 months, Microsoft started eradicating assist for IE in a few of its on-line providers. A 12 months later, the corporate introduced that it plans to retire Web Explorer totally.

Whereas a lot of the world was joking in regards to the demise of Web Explorer, a South Korean engineer marked the event in a extra somber means.

Jung Ki-young, a 39-year-old software program developer, positioned IE’s tombstone on the roof of his older brother’s cafe in Gyeongju, a metropolis on the southeast coast of Korea about 170 miles from Seoul. He paid $330 for the memorial, which was engraved with the browser’s distinctive “e” emblem and the inscription: “It was instrument for downloading different browsers.”

Jung mentioned he was annoyed with Web Explorer, however felt that the browser that introduced so many South Koreans onto the online deserved a correct farewell. “It was troublesome and irritating to make use of Web Explorer, however it additionally served function,” Jung mentioned. “I do not be ok with retiring with the ‘we do not want you anymore’ angle.”

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