Monday, December 14, 2009

Korea is very rude to Mozilla.

And I like me some Firefox. It's come along way from the red-headed stepchild of Netscape Navigator (R.I.P.) but Korea still hasn't caught the wave.

A reported 98.66% of the internet is viewed through the eyes of Internet Explorer in Korea. In fact to even view and print government or utility files online one must use I.E. due to the proprietary extension ActiveX.
Oh, and by the way, me and ActiveX got some history. We're not cool. He stays away from me and I stay away from him.

But ActiveX is an integral part of typical South Korean web design. In fact, it's mandatory by law for purchasing practically anything online.

For the longest time, individual Cyworld pages couldn't even be viewed on Firefox (or any other browser for that matter - even those written off the IE shell like Maxthon). But now I can view most pages but can't do some basic actions. Essentially, when I want to edit my Cyworld page, I switch over to IE. Gee thanks Korea. Where did you go astray?

In the dark ages of online computing (late 90s) online security was becoming an issue for American consumers, vendors, banks, and government officials. Essentially, Americans were still using very basic, low-complexity script to send and receive sensitive information over the internet. A new, and still in use (through countless modifications) high-bit form of encyption was born. The United States of America led the way in terms of internet security and there was much rejoicing.

Except in the Land of the Morning Calm.

Oh no, 빨리빨리 mode was set in full force and South Korea decided to take matters in their own hands. The Korean government developed a sort of plugin for Netscape and Internet Explorer users that gave temporary authenticity for select transactions. This plugin was clumsy, bulky, but most of all - exactly what was needed to safeguard online banking at the time. 1999 rolled around and Koreans were banking happily and relatively safely for the first time. Yea!

What say you? No longer are we in the late 90s? Surely the South Korean government has caught the Apple wave (a reported 10% of the market share in the U.S. and climbing - thanks Vista)  by now? Linux has the capabilities of being faster, slimmer, and more efficient than any operating system Microsoft has released thus far. So surely Korea has led the way, like they did in 1998, right?

Well, no other country followed Korea's lead and instead opted to wait until a more unified system (SSL) was created. A year after Korea's security system was in place, worldwide online banking was using the model first developed in America leaving South Korea with their own little proprietary version of SSL. With the fallout of Netscape Navigator, Internet Explorer came shipped with every new Microsoft-branded PC and guess who came along for the ride: ActiveX.

Yeah, as it turns out, that little leech of a software program really likes America and Korea's way of doing business online - it can do both SSL and Korea's system. With each new Microsoft operating system (like XP or Vista) comes that annoying box at the top of my browser. Well, not my browser, mind you. I live life an the safe side. It's also the faster side. But let's take a look at what's going on with IE's side.

ActiveX works like this essentially. With a click of your button (permission) it installs itself in your computer and performs a simple, isolated function with relative free reign over your computer. Sounds scary, right? Letting something take control? Well, the majority of applications that run ActiveX are harmless. Actually, many can be quite helpful. Some scan your system looking for viruses while others install a new program without stressing out a technology-challenged user. Unfortunately, a whole lotta garbage is also written using ActiveX and most parade around looking like something good for your computer when in actuality, it is tearing up your hard drive. Koreans are especially at risk due to the acute attackability of ActiveX.

Hence why I like alternative browsers like Opera, Firefox, and Chrome. Partly due to the fact that there are several security enhancements written specifically for applications such as Firefox, but also partly due to the majority of spyware, trojans, and viruses are written for a computer running Windows XP Home SP2 and using Internet Explorer 7.

In America, we can use just about any browser to do online banking (or any other function for that matter) with relative freedom. Unfortunately, Korea still demands a captive, IE monoculture. Curses! What is an aspiring computer geek to do?

Pout. and lots of it. Other than that, I'm stuck switching over when I want to do something meaningful on a Korean website. For that matter, there's a whole nother issue of foreigners using their foreign IDs while online banking. In a nutshell? It ain't happening.