Stats on Google vs Naver look different depending on data

Real quick, here are two data sets I found just now about the market-share between Google and Naver in South Korea. Unsurprisingly, sources from outside Korea pin Google/Chrome at much higher use percentages than domestic sources do.

Why I'm suspicious

In the last post I mentioned how my own unscientific observations suggest that while some people (usually men in their 20s-30s, but my sample is biased) are savvy about using Chrome (and switching to IE when necessary), most people I interact with still use IE. Partly IE is still just associated in people's mind with the internet in a way Google isn't, but also all the old issues of personal need (banking, shopping, government appointments) and professional need (corporate websites and webapps).

I had noted data from a Korea Times article that cited the firm StatCounter to suggest that Chrome was already the dominant browser here at 50% market share, with IE dying off at 35%:
According to data by web traffic analysis firm StatCounter, Chrome topped the list of the local web browser market share with 55 percent, with IE coming in second with a 35 percent share as of last month.
NTS under fire for not offering services for Chrome users
Sure enough, if you check it, you can see that according to StatsCounter, preference for Chrome surpassed IE sometime around January 2016 (one year ago).

Market share of browsers in Korea, 2016. Image: StatCounter

That stat seemed off to me, so out of curiosity I clicked over to their search engine rankings.

Search Engines: Google beats Naver?

StatCounter's data for Search Engine use in Korea seemed to only work for 2016 (at least, I couldn't get the thing to respond when I told it to stretch the data back to 2015 or 2014. Maybe you could have better luck). Here's what they show:

Search engine share in Korea for 2016. Image: StatCounter

So according to them, Google has been beating out Naver for searches in Korea since well before 2016, and at a pretty incredible rate difference. Like 70% to 20%. That just doesn't seem right.

And of course, if you ask local sources, you get almost totally flip flopped results.

Search Engines: Naver beats Google?

Here are some quick recent stats from domestic sources.

17일 닐슨코리안클릭에 따르면, 지난달 네이버의 PC 검색 쿼리는 총 26억5100만개로 다음(5억4000만건)을 크게 앞질렀다. 네이버와 다음의 PC 검색 쿼리 점유율은 각각 75.3%, 15.4%였다.
[네이버 독주와 질주]① 검색시장 장악한 네이버의 광고 오염...윤리 의식 실종에 '가짜 전문병원'도 버젓이 노출 - Chosunbiz - 프리미엄 경제 파워

So according to this, as of December 2016, Naver was still pulling in a good 75% of local searches, with Daum at 15%. These are for desktop, but so are the StatCounter results.

In fact, information from a parliamentary audit suggested that Naver actually handles nearly 90% of searches (a fact the article cites as detremental to news biases):
[국감2016] 네이버 국내 검색점유율 87.2%, 독과점 심각

That Chosun Biz article cited their data from Nielsen Korea, which also lets you check their data in tables. According to them, here were the top frequented sites on both desktop and mobile for December 2016:

Top 5 visited sites in Korea, Desktop, Dec 2016. Image: Nielsen Korea
If you can't read the chart:

Top Visited Sites in Korea, Desktop, Dec 2016


And for mobile:

Top 5 visited sites in Korea, Desktop, Dec 2016. Image: Nielsen Korea

If you can't read the chart:

Top Visited Sites in Korea, Mobile, Dec 2016


So who wins?

I don't know. I'm just a guy with a blog. But I would definitely be skeptical of any Korean data that comes out of foreign sites. Two of my favorite examples are the times Vice said that Baidu is the top search engine in Korea, and when triple-X sites release stats on Korea when the vast majority of major sites of those persuasion are blocked, leading every Korean teen boy to know how to use VPNs and torrents to satisfy their needs. I'd guess a good swath of porn traffic from Hong Kong or The Netherlands is in fact Koreans. I've talked about both those shady stat measurings before:

Bear in mind too that Naver is a portal, and plenty of people visit it for reasons other than actual searching. I'd guess actual typed searches pale in comparison to news clicks.

Anyway the lesson is to take certain stats with a grain of salt. That's a phrase GIKorea over at ROKDrop is fond of using for political news out of North Korea, and I'd say the same applies to stats about internet use in South Korea, especially if they come from abroad.


  1. Thanks Sam. Very informative and useful post about search engine market share in Korea.


Post a Comment