Don’t go spoiling the party: Google Chrome to support ActiveX in Korea

According to CNET Asia, Google announced ActiveX support for Google Chrome in Korea yesterday. I was particularly disappointed to read this as it reinforces crappy standards support and locking people into using certain browsers and denying choice.

Of course I would say this being an Opera employee however with my Opera hat off I can honestly say that unless we start supporting countries and regions where web standards do not get the same attention as they may in Europe and the States then the web is going to be in trouble. I’ve also spoken to many web developers in China and elsewhere who are fed up with having to design for IE at the cost of other browsers and their users.

ActiveX is a proprietary standard supported by IE and used by most banking, Government and e-commence sites in many countries in Asia. I recently returned from China where I was quite disheartened by the lack of standards support in Chinese websites. Like Korea, roughly 90% of the population in China rely on IE6 and while some people may have a second or preferred other browser it can’t be their default browser for day to day usage because of this.

It seems that Google feel that if Chrome is to gain any market share in Korea they have to go down the same route and support ActiveX as well. They have already pitched themselves firmly against Microsoft by releasing Chrome for PC first over Mac and this looks like another strand to the marketing plan. The question is could Google make the same decision to support ActiveX for localised versions in other countries where IE has market share? This is an incredibly regressive step and sets off all sorts of alarm bells.

Proprietary standards hinder one web, cross browser compatibility and cross device support of web pages. This in turn restricts choice with regards to how you browse and may mean you’re denied the option to choose a browser which is faster, has better security, the features you want and better accessibility support. And that sucks.

IE6 seems to have got a further reprieve as Microsoft announced IE6 for Windows Mobile recently. While is does contain some improvements, such as the same JavaScript support as IE8, using an old code base seems a bizarre move and another kick in the teeth for everyone who wants a smooth browsing experience whether on a mobile or their desktop. Not only that there could be a danger of this helping IE  secure market share.

It feels as if the battle for web standards, perhaps even the browser wars, are becoming more regional as the fight for market-share moves from country to country. This is really concerning as we could end up with an “Eastern” and “Western” web adding yet another division beyond language and culture.

My feeling is that we, and by that I mean anyone with an interest in the state of the web, need to start focusing more on web standards education and support in Asia and other regions from both a top-down and bottom-up perspective including:

  • Government and legislation – until Governments start legislating and defining standards based Government guidelines for websites there will be little incentive, backing or resources to improve.
  • Multinational responsibility – large international organisations who actively promote and support web standards internationally should do what they can to help support web standards in Asia. It’s clear that while some may actively promote web standards in the west there is a different set of tactics used elsewhere. While there needs to be overall support in general there also needs to be support on a basic level by providing training in-house to employees, sponsoring free or affordable courses or helping translate resources.
  • Grass root advocacy – developers understand the challenges and problems developers face better than anyone else. Advocacy through blogs, forums, BarCamps and Web Standards Cafés are always a useful way to go. This may take a different shape in China to suit cultural norms but communication and sharing have to be at the root.

If you want to know more about web standards support around the world or contribute then check out the WaSP Internationalisation Group pages.

7 thoughts on “Don’t go spoiling the party: Google Chrome to support ActiveX in Korea

  1. A heartening scenario in Asia is Indonesia, where there are more than 50% non IE users. The recent trip there showed us that there are hope that people are finally waking up to smell the benefit of designing to standards.

  2. That’s really good to know isn’t it. I wonder what it is about Indonesia that makes it so different from places like China and Korea…

  3. It seems Google and IE might be the next leaders in this ongoing browser War. IE only because most business users are forced to use it by network policies and it comes installed with Windows, so it gets used by people who know nothing about internet security.

    One thing that annoys me is that Microsoft have Active-X embedded in their important information sites, like MSDN
    subscription sites, so you’re forced to use IE to navigate these sites, Microsoft also refuse to make their downloads cross browser compatible because they say that all their users are IE users. Well no *** Microsoft.

    Even MS tech forums that use Ajax, seem to be developed for IE only, do if you’re a Microsoft developer, it gets really annoying having to switch back from using better Browsers to using IE to access certain sites.

  4. Michael, thanks for your comments, very interesting…I didn’t know that Active-X was so embedded in MS sites although this doesn’t come as a surprise.

    I understand where you are coming from about about Google going head on with IE. The fact that Chrome was released in Windows first rather than for Mac, Google’s traditional ally, and now is talking about using Active X in Korea is pretty indisputable in that regard.

    Going on what you’ve written it all seems a bit like MS is doing what it can to secure it’s position in the rise of competition from Firefox, Opera, Safari and now Chrome. Personally I think more browsers out there for the user and more choice will hopefully mean that IE will be diluted somewhat however the grip IE has on business and also in Asia is a pretty big one.

  5. I’ve been living in Seoul for over three years now, and it’s amazing how strong the grip of IE is Koreans. People here are one of the most wired and high-speed subscribers, but they too often pride themselves without really knowing the standards of the rest of the world. The fact that Korea’s economy and market shares in technological goods are rapidly increasing (Samsung, LG, Hynix, etc.) doesn’t help Koreans to see the full picture. Netizens here have to have IE for everything including online banking, checking university bulletins/forums, getting tech support, making online reservations, posting comments on government websites, and lots more. Experts outside of Korea have attributed much of this scenario (in an unofficial capacity) to a combination of nationalism, opting for the status quo, and even Korea’s tradition of somewhat blindly developing technologies developed by others. Much of this trend can be witnessed in other software and IT issues as well.

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