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Thursday, 27 February 2014

Search Engines in Korea, Part II: Naver (네이버)


Naver Corporation (Korea Exchange Stock Code: 035420) is an Internet content service operator headquartered in 6 Buljeong Avenue/Buljeongno, Jeongja 1-dong 178-1 beonji, Seongnam Bundang-gu, Gyeonggi Province, South Korea. 

Established in 1999 as NHN Corporation (Next Human Network), it operates the Naver search portal and Hangame gaming services. Its subsidiaries in Japan operate the Line messaging application as well as the Japanese versions of Naver and Hangame. On September 4, 2013, NHN Corporation split into Naver Corporation and a subsidiary named NHN Entertainment.

NHN Corporation was formed in September 2001 through the merger of Hangame Communications, Inc., maker of online games, and Naver Corporation, operator of a comprehensive search portal. Both companies had been launched a few years earlier: Hangame in November 1998 and Naver in June 1999. Upon the merger the name of the company became "Next Human Network", or NHN, although both divisions continue to operate under their original brand names.

Naver and Hangame each had established affiliates in Japan in 2000. These likewise merged in October 2003 to become NHN Japan with Naver Japan and Hangame Japan as subsidiaries. In June 2004 NHN formed Ourgame, a joint venture company in China with Sea Rainbow Holdings, though NHN eventually sold its stake in October 2011. In July 2005, NHN USA was incorporated and launched the ijji game portal in May 2007. NHN sold its stake in this enterprise in December 2011.

In 2008 NHN appeared on the Forbes Global 2000 list for the first time. That same year NHN had the largest market capitalization among KOSDAQ-listed companies before being transferred to the Kospi market in November. In 2009 Kim Sang-Hun of NHN and Kim Jing-Wan of Samsung were the only South Korean CEOs to appear on Asia's Fab 50.

In 2010 NHN bought Livedoor, a Japanese ISP and blog platform that claimed considerable resources but was undone by a trading scandal. In June 2011, NHN Japan launched Line, a messaging application that quickly soared in usage. In 2012 NHN Corp announced that it planned to invest 1.5 billion South Korean won (approx. 1.35 million USD) in developing ten social media games.

In 2013 NHN reorganized its Japan operations. Today, Line Corporation handles Internet products while Hangame Japan continues to develop gaming applications.


About Naver
Naver (Hangul: 네이버) is a popular search portal in South Korea, which holds a market share of over 70% at least since 2011, continuing to 2013. Naver was launched in June 1999 by ex-Samsung employees, and it debuted as the first Web portal in South Korea that used its own proprietary search engine. Among Naver's features is "Comprehensive Search", launched in 2000, which provides results from multiple categories on a single page. It has since added new services such as "Knowledge Search", launched in 2002. It also provides Internet services including a news service, an e-mail service, an academic thesis search service, and a children's portal. In 2005, Naver launched Happybean, the world's first online donation portal, which allows users to find information and make donations to over 20,000 civil society and social welfare organizations.

According to comScore, Naver received 2 billion queries in August 2007, accounting for over 70% of all search queries in Korea, and making it the fifth most used search engine in the world, following Google search, Yahoo!, Baidu and Bing. More than 25 million Koreans have Naver as the default browser start page. Naver launched its service in Japan in 2009, marking their first expansion out of Korea. In 2013, Lee Hae-jin, the chairman and chief strategy of Naver, saw his stake value hover above 1 trillion won (US$939.4 million) on the back of its messenger service LINE.

The word "Naver" was derived from the word "navigate" and the suffix "-er" to mean "a sailor of the Web". The Korean pronunciation, however, would be closer to the English "neighbor".

Naver was incorporated in June 1999, launching the first South Korean search portal that used an internally developed search engine. In August 2000, it launched the "Comprehensive Search" service. which allows users to get a variety of results from a search query on a single page, organized by type, including blogs, websites, images, cafes, etc. This was five years before Google launched a similar offering with its "Universal Search."

In July 2000, Naver was merged with Hangame, South Korea's first online game portal, and in 2001 changed its name to NHN, or Next Human Network. The combination of the country's top search engine and the top game portal has allowed NHN to remain South Korea's largest Internet company, with the top market capitalization among companies listed on KOSDAQ, in November 2008, NHN was transferred to the KOSPI market.

In the early days of Naver operation, there was a relative dearth of webpages in the Korean language. To fill this void, Naver became an early pioneer in user-generated content through the creation of the "Knowledge Search (hangul: 지식인 검색)" service in 2002. In Knowledge Search, users pose questions on any subject, and select among answers provided by other users, awarding points to the users who provide the best answers. Knowledge Search was launched three years before Yahoo! launched its similar "Yahoo! Answers" service, and now possesses a database of over 80 million answer pages.

Over the years, Naver has continued to expand its offerings, adding a blog service in 2005, local information search and book search services in 2004, desktop search in 2005, and the webtoon(webcomic) service in 2006. From 2005-2007 it expanded its multimedia search services, including music and video search, Internet phone service and mobile search. On January 1, 2009, Naver released its new interface.

1 April 2013, Naver launched Newsstand to pursue fairness. Because Naver launched Newsstand, every News organization is able to edit News articles that appear on Naver.


Naver in Japan? SWEET.
NHN Japan is the Japanese arm of NHN Corp. NHN Japan was established to oversee Hangame Japan, the Naver Japan portal, and the Japanese ISP and blog platform Livedoor. Then in 2011 it launched a new service that acquired a life of its own.

Line, a media messaging and VoIP application, was developed in response to the devastating 2011 Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami. Widespread damage to Japan's telecommunications infrastructure obliged NHN Japan employees to rely on Internet tools to communicate. Engineers responded with Line, and in June the company released its new resource to the public. Eighteen months later Line had 100 million users and was still growing.

The explosive success of Line led to the creation of Line Corporation in February 2013. Line Corporation, based in Japan, now houses Internet operations such as Line, Naver Japan, and Livedoor. Hangame Japan continues to develop electronic games, including those for the Line Game brand.

A joint venture of NHN Corp and Line Corporation is Line Plus Corporation, also based in Japan. Line Plus is tasked with developing overseas markets. Line Corporation holds 60% of Line Plus shares with Korean parent NHN Corp holding the remaining 40%.