Naver, South Korea’s most popular Internet search engine, revamped its search algorithm and interface on September 1, 2014. Rather than merely providing information based on search keywords, the changes allow the search engine to “interact” with its users. By incorporating search algorithms that take into account the users’ search patterns, the website hopes to provide more tailored and conclusive search results.
Naver has traditionally dominated the Internet search market in Korea since 2004. This July, the search engine handled 77 percent of all web searches in the country. Naver has maintained a strong foothold among Koreans by tailoring its search services to local tastes. The company has developed and cached Korean language contents by accumulating and incorporating user-generated data, such as its Q&A services blogs, and online communities also known as “cafes”.
Daum, another search portal native to South Korea, comes in a not-so-close second place at 20 percent. In recent years, Google has also edged its way into the market, ranking third after Daum in 2013. In contrast to Google, whose homepage is a text-based search bar, Naver and Daum are portals that display other information such as news, shopping, trending keywords, and social media content.
The algorithm change comes after the news that Daum and Kakao shareholders approved the merger between the two companies. Analysts have predicted that the merged entity will challenge Naver’s current dominance in the search market.
Using Naver Contextual Knowledge Plus (NCKP) technology and Localized-Temporal Personalization System (LTPS) technology, the updated Naver search aims to predict and provide accurate search results.
For example, searching “Roaring Currents ratings” (a top-grossing South Korean film) provides rating scores at the top of the page, and attaches in a separate column additional information about the movie, such as the cast and synopsis.
Naver’s previous search algorithm has been criticized for the lack of complexity in ordering its search results, favoring contents within its own portal over others. Prior to the update, Naver’s search interface was quite distinct from that of Google, as search results were grouped into different categories: advertised links, shopping, blogs, news, outside links, images, Q&A, social media, and so on. Google on the other hand orders results based on the relevancy scores of each site.
Naver has also adopted a new search results page to accompany its new search algorithm. Previously, Naver displayed its search results in three columns—the first column contained a navigation bar for navigating among different categories, the second column the search results, and the third column a list of currently trending keywords.
Now, the new interface is cleaner and user-friendlier. The result page is in a two-column layout, with a horizontal toolbar similar to Google to select different categories. The first column displays keyword search engine results while the second column displays supplementary information that the user may find also relevant.
However, the updated search interface continues to use existing categories to organize search results that still seem to favor Naver’s user-generated content, albeit in a less obvious way.
–Inspire by Platum