March 11, 2003

Consequences of Korean Broadband

Consequences of the Korean broadband buildout. Lance Knobel notes:

Kevin Werbach spots the extraordinary: "On Alexa's list of the Top 500 Sites on the Web, Yahoo!, Microsoft, and Google are in the top 5. That's not surprising. But sites #3 and #4 are, at least to me. They are two South Korean portals. In all, 11 of the top 20 sites on the Alexa list are Asian, dominated by Korea. I knew Korea had the world's highest penetration rates for broadband and mobile phones, but hadn't realized how much usage patterns have shifted as a result. After all, this is a country with less than one-fifth the population of the US. Something major is happening when the usage disparity is that great."

For quite a while we in greater San Francisco have been used to thinking that we are blazing a trail for the world--that the future of the information age is here, albeit not evenly distributed, and concentrated around Silicon Valley. But here is a sign that--because of how extraordinarily wired South Korea has become--those who want to study what the future information age will look like might be well-advised to learn Korean.

Posted by DeLong at March 11, 2003 08:17 PM | TrackBack


'11 of the top 20 sites on the Alexa list are Asian'

Obviously it would be interesting to have a usage and content breakdown on this, but impressive nonetheless. The other very striking detail is the ABSENCE of Europe. The Beeb is in at 35, and there's and Italian site in at number 80, and that's all I could see in the top 100. Now for a continent that's going to be light on people, and is hoping to pay the pensions by extracting a lot of 'high value end' activity from the few young people it has, I'd say this was pretty preoccupying.

Posted by: Edward Hugh on March 11, 2003 10:36 PM

Alexa generates its traffic rankings based on the usage patterns of people who have downloaded the Alexa toolbar. I suspect these results simply mean that the Alexa toolbar is very popular in S. Korea.

Posted by: Jay Harrington on March 11, 2003 10:40 PM

As somebody else mentioned, you do have to be a bit careful with the alexa 500 results. Perhaps a more reasonable thing to look at is on the Google Zeitgeist page:

Under the "Languages used to access google" title, we can see that English language queries are now about half of their traffic, while German, Japanese, Spanish, French, Chinese, and Italian follow in that order. Korean users must be in the (rapidly growing, yes) "other" pile unless they query in another language for some other reason. I suppose I could worry that the "queries to Google" measure could have some bias in them, too, but I'm pretty sure that within the next year or so, these data will be free of "start-up" effects for most major languages, and that changes in the Google "language market" share will be fairly directly due to changes in the size of the net-connected population.

Posted by: Jonathan King on March 11, 2003 10:56 PM

The Bandwidth Capital of the World: "In Seoul, the broadband age is in full swing - online games have become a national sport, and cybercafes are the new singles bars."

Posted by: kenny on March 12, 2003 07:34 AM

There are three general requirements for internet proliferation:

- income
- education
- infrastructure

About 85% of the S. Korean population lives in or near Seoul. It is easier to set up the infrastructure with such a dense population.

I think the comments about Europe are misguided. The broadband subscription rates are lower not because they are Luddites, but in part because they are not as densely grouped.


Posted by: William Hogan on March 12, 2003 08:21 AM
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