In an attempt to check Google's prolonged dominance, South Korea's largest search portal Naver kicked off an open beta service Tuesday for its own web browser "Whale", a variant of Chrome, to offer fast internet surfing and emulated mobile web browsing.
Naver was upbeat because its browser received positive and meaningful feedbacks in beta tests throughout last year. Whale is the first web browser developed by a South Korean company in the last ten years. Previous home-made browsers have been unsuccessful due to poor quality.
"Why have we used the same browser for the last ten years?" Naver asked through its blog, adding Whale would keep its connectivity and display mobile web contents with no distorted images or texts. Connectivity is considered a key feature in the latest browsers.
Whale supports plug-ins provided at Google Chrome's store, though some of them are still working improperly. Naver promised to expand support for Chrome plug-ins.
Before the smartphone era, South Korea's web browser market was dominated by Microsoft's Internet Explorer (IE). Many South Korean internet banking and public services still require ActiveX, an exclusive plug-in for IE, making the PC web browsing environment unfriendly for other browsers.
IE used to be popular because it was a basic application pre-installed on Windows OS. Its market share in the early 2000s soared up to 90 percent but it has gradually lost its ground to other browsers such as Chrome, Firefox and Safari due to the quick distribution of smartphones.
As Chrome was the default web browser for many Android OS smartphones, its share has gone up. Also because of connectivity with the PC version, many South Koreans have switched to Chrome. A 2016 study by the international market researcher, "Stat Counter", showed Chrome's combined share reached 53.8 percent while IE took up 22.06 percent.
Naver said earlier this year that it would expand Whale's services to the overseas market. Papago, an artificial intelligence supported translating feature, was added into the browser, and Naver plans to develop an English version for foreign clients.
Park Sae-jin = email@example.com