Yes, they come again. This time with solid determination and good amount of resources in Tokyo.
NAVER, number one Web search service in Korea has started open beta service for Japanese market.It is their second entry for Japanese market since their first attempt which was ended 2005 due to focus on domestic market, or simply said failed.
They held press conference in their new Tokyo HQ in Osaki for their new search service, http://www.naver.jp/. Yasuyuki Matsushita of Asiajin interviewed Jun Masuda, Chief Strategist of NAVER Japan for their plans and future.
Compared to current market leaders, Google and Yahoo! which serve tons of search traffics for our daily Internet life, NAVER introduces new concept which combines search functions and popular social bookmarks or recommendation akin to my list on Amazon.com. The idea of NAVER seems like mixture of search, social bookmarks and some SNS in one place.
New NAVER site has cool simple interface with their corporate green color, which is apparently differ from traditional Korean design taste. But under the hood, NAVER integrates key features like search news topics, photos, movies, blogs and consumer generated contents which enables you to gather favorite items on simple collections.
You can of course search web but in same time, you can create your favorite list of items (photos, movies, blog, comments and reviews etc which dubbed “matome search” meaning “your collection on search” which you can share or add comments on your designated ID. This function is much similar to social bookmark services with SNS in mind, but NAVER offers more value because you can find someone which has similar preference within NAVER space.
You can create your favorite collection like car you own or your favorite movie star, by sharing these collections, you can reduce noise or garbage in search result which sometimes happen traditional search engine, Mr. Masuda said.
It seems NAVER values more human created collections or recommendation than width or depth of search. Their key new features like matome-search and smart folder tells that user demands more sophisticated results.
One of the my questions at press conference was how they will make money based on new search services. Mr.Masuda answered that NAVER do not evaluate their business in short term, meaning not a year or two. He also mentioned that these new features were planned, designed and developed in Japan which is huge step forward for company from other countries. This shows their strong will to dive in to somewhat crowded market called Japan, as a comeback boy in the game of Internet services.
Mr. Masuda emphasize that because NAVER Japan will not plan revenue from this start, they will evaluate number of registered users and collections user generated.
He also mentioned that mobile version of VAVER will come out around August so we can see much more traffic thru mobile phones especially from mid to high teen generations soon.
So their challenge might come in two points, first one is how they can gather users within NAVER who will be willing to generate comments or favorite lists. Then next one will be how they can convince content providers (news sites, photo or video sharing sites) to legitimate their use of those contents in NAVER. And of course, biggest question is how to make money.
But for now, we should welcome their comeback to Japanese market as a challenge against giants like Yahoo! and Google in search business, and social bookmarks and SNS in hatena and mixi. it is certainly valuable for other venture companies to monitoring their efforts to re-enter new market.
Yes, they come again, welcome back !!