SEOUL -- YouTube, the video content-based social media platform operated by Google, became South Korea's favorite smartphone app, surpassing messenger app KakaoTalk, the former king of South Korea's smartphone app ecosystem, for the first time in December 2023, according to data released by mobile big data company IGA Works.
KakaoTalk, with more than 45.5 million monthly active users (MAUs), has maintained its status as South Korea's favorite smartphone app since the early 2010s. The messenger app gained such popularity that its operator, Kakao, acquired Daum, one of the top two South Korean internet portal service giants, in 2014. Users of all ages rely on the app for communication in workplaces, homes, and schools.
The smartphone messenger app also served as a gateway for various services in the private and administrative sectors. Companies and government organizations utilize the app for communication and information distribution. In 2016, the web service giant ventured into South Korea's financial tech (fintech) sector by launching Kakao Bank, an online banking service. The company expanded its customer base by introducing Kakao Pay, a digital payment service, in 2018.
Meanwhile, YouTube gained momentum in acquiring more South Korean MAUs in the late 2010s after domestic video content streaming platforms operated by Daum and Naver failed to capture users' interest due to low-quality content. Google's video streaming service became popular among users of all ages. YouTube also offers children's content, making it ideal for learning kids' songs and second languages from a very young age.
IGA Works said that YouTube's number of MAUs stood at 45.47 million in December 2023, with about 220,000 more MAUs than Kakao Talk's 45.47 million. The app market research firm analyzed that the overtake by Google's video platform was induced by the change in usage patterns of mobile device users in their 30s. Short-form content, such as YouTube's Shorts attracted more users in their 30s.
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