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An Internet Search Company Hotter than Google? A Profile of Korea's NHN and Naver.com

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NHN: The Little Search Engine That Could, from BusinessWeek offers a profile of NHN Corp/Naver.com a company that the article says is beating Google by one metric.

While the Silicon Valley sensation doubtless had a great year in 2005, shares of a Korean rival -- NHN Corp. -- have done far better. Google Inc.'s stock climbed an impressive 103% in 2005, to nearly $415, but that paled beside NHN's 218% gain to $267

+ "Google's 4-year-old Korean-language search service accounts for less than 2% of search page views and search-related ad revenues in Korea."

We know that Google is working to build share in Korea. For example, last year they ran a Google Bus Tour heading to several universities. Google Korea also debuted its own blog in '05.

+ The article says that NHN can offer more relevant answers than Google because their results pages place various types of content on results pages. I'm not so sure this is something that, at least on some Google sites, they aren't also doing with the OneBox. The same is also true at Yahoo, MSN, and Ask Jeeves where you might find news headlines, inline images (from their image databases), and factual answers listed on web results pages.

+ "Google has a superb search engine," says Choi Jae Hyeon, NHN's search chief. "We have, however, built up know how and a database by extracting knowledge from users' brains."

+ Extracting knowledge from users' brains is part of a three year initiative called "Knowledge-In" which in essence is a knowledgebase of asked, answered and rated (by users) questions.

This database now has some 37 million questions and answers that can get returned with search results. The article mentions that Yahoo Korea now offers a similar service. Don't forget that Yahoo just launched Yahoo Answers a few weeks ago and Google has Google Answers. Community oriented Q&A services like Wondir also have been around for some time.

Before any of these services existed Ask Jeeves offered (the now defunct) Answer Point. More Q&A and "virtual" answer services are listed here.

+ Some or several large web engine (take your pick) should leverage the content from expert driven databases that offer answers from an expert in a specific subject. Makes sense. Some of these services are listed here. One could also argue that Wikipedia is a place where a subject expert can share their knowledge.

+ The article mentions that NHN is also operating in Japan, China, and the US with online games site.

From the article:

Already in Japan, NHN is the largest game portal, with 13 million subscribers, while in China it bought half of Ourgame.com, a portal with 170 million subscribers, in 2004. And in October it set up a subsidiary in the U.S. to launch online games. Later, NHN hopes to introduce community sites and search services in those markets. Google may still be far ahead, but it would do well to keep an eye out for this little Korean search engine.


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