Hannah Bae (South Korea) - Finally, Squeezing the Life out of Internet Explorer 6

In South Korea, the archaic IE 6 is the current browser of choice. Hannah Bae, a Journalist based in Seoul, discusses the changes that need to take place.

"Cutting-edge" and "forward-thinking" are terms that often come to mind when describing South Korea's vibrant tech culture, but when it comes to the realm of Web browsers, "antiquated" is the word of choice.

Microsoft's Internet Explorer, unpopular with techies around the world, is king in South Korea. But that browser's stronghold is likely to weaken in years to come due to new initiatives from both the public and private sectors.

The main target is 10-year-old IE6, which just one year ago was the second-most used browser in South Korea, according to gs.statcounter.com. The goal is to phase out use of the outdated browser, which would improve computer security, user convenience and cut Web development costs.

As for how South Korea got so mired with the old IE in the first place, the root of the problem is SEED - the national standard encryption algorithm. This standard relies on ActiveX, the Microsoft framework for running plug-ins and applications in IE.

Until last year, the government mandated the use of ActiveX in order to confirm users' identification on a host of websites. That meant South Korean Internet users were forced to use IE - version 6.0, in many cases - for everything from online banking to e-commerce, and even the country's immigration service website.

Adherence to these online standards meant South Korea was tied to the out-dated IE in turn. According to August 2011 figures from gs.statcounter.com, while only 41.89% of Internet users around the world use Internet Explorer (graph 1), the vulnerable, low-security browser enjoys a whopping 91.55% rate of use in South Korea (graph 2).

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Since July, the state-run Korea Communications Commission and Korea Internet Security Agency and private companies have worked to encourage individuals and businesses to ditch IE6 for later upgrades or another browser altogether. Significant players in the effort are the nation's top portal sites, Naver.com and Daum.net , which hope to drop support for IE6 by January 2012.

Microsoft is also playing a role in the campaign, although indirectly. Earlier this year, it launched The Internet Explorer 6 Countdown, with the cheeky tagline of "Death to IE6."

And, as one local tech blogger says, when even the maker of a product says it's decrepit, it really is time to say goodbye. Hopefully, Koreans will take note.

By Hannah Bae, an American journalist based in Seoul. A former intern at the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, she is a tech enthusiast. You can follow her on Twitter at @hanbae.