NAVER, Korean based new communication search services landed on Japan, again

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.

Their clean top page designed in green
Their clean top page designed in green

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 !!

Yasuyuki Matsushita

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Worked at Microsoft, Adobe, Cumputer Associates, Intuit and Six Apart as marketing and sales position. Now wandering around Web and markeitng area.

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Yasuyuki Matsushita

Worked at Microsoft, Adobe, Cumputer Associates, Intuit and Six Apart as marketing and sales position. Now wandering around Web and markeitng area.

4 thoughts on “NAVER, Korean based new communication search services landed on Japan, again”

  1. Good review. I’ve played with Naver Japan and it’s certainly well designed and feature packed. It’s hard to say how they could have done better from this perspective for a v1 launch.

    Having said that I’m still wondering whether there is a killer feature that is going to get users to use the service on a regular basis. I think users are generally lazy and will stick to what they know unless there is really a killer application or the service is placed conveniently in front of them (i.e. browser default).

    One way I think they could be successful is by integrating with existing services (e.g. Hatena for bookmarks, other photo and blog services, do what they can with the Mixi API etc.) That way they will be able to kick start the content and social features of the site without users having to change their habits – at least initially. As far as I know their is no large scale Japanese site that successfully acts as a social aggregator in this way. This could help them get to the critical mass they need to take off.

    I heard that they are aiming for 10% of the Japanese search market within 3 years, so it will certainly be an interesting case study to see whether they achieve this. I was interested to spend more time on the site and went to install the toolbar, but unfortunately it’s only available for IE and not Firefox yet.

    Definitely interested to see how things develop. We’ve arranged for a presentation by Naver for http://www.tokyo2point0.net on August 24th so look forward to a status update and some insight from them then.

    1. Yes, this is an interesting news. Naver.jp seems to have good enough quality as a search service and letting users change their default search engine is the most difficult part, like Ask.jp faild and Microsoft and Baidu.jp are struggling.

      I am looking forward to seeing Naver.jp and Baidu.jp presentation at the August Tokyo2point0.

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