Kakao, Korea’s Everything App, Suffers Serious Outage

Bryan Pietsch, reporting for The Washington Post:

In South Korea, Kakao is ubiquitous. Nearly everyone, from schoolchildren to the elderly, uses the Korean tech company’s apps for messaging, taxis, navigation and payments. It’s Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, Uber, Google Maps and Venmo wrapped into one.

So when a fire broke out this weekend at the building where the company’s servers are run, disabling its apps, people joked that the country would shut down. But the outage forced a serious reckoning over security and monopoly concerns in Korea, where a handful of giant conglomerates hold dominance over the country’s economy. (Hyundai, known for its cars in the United States, operates apartment complexes and department stores here; Samsung, the technology giant, also sells insurance and owns a high-end clothing company.)

It makes no sense to me why ride-hailing, payments, and messaging would fit together in a single app, but once these things get entrenched, it’s easy to see how they stay entrenched thanks to network effects.

With Kakao in particular, there’s a concept of “multi-profiles”, where a single user can have different profiles for different groups within the platform. But as part of a data leak that resulted from their clumsy recovery from the outage, many of these heretofore private profiles were revealed, with predictably disastrous results.

Wednesday, 19 October 2022