Fourteen years ago, we had so much hope at the start of a new century. We thought the global economy was going to improve a lot because of the emerging Internet technologies. But where are we today? What has happened in the last 14 years?
We know that even advanced countries are suffering from economic difficulties today. What happened to these advanced countries with high speed Internet?
The answer, though pretty simple, might shock you.
Let me ask you this: Whose customers are those who type your brand and company names in the Internet Address Bar — without .kr or .com? Please take note: not in the "search" bar.
Now, if you type in the URL bar mrpizza.co.kr or mrpizza.com (assuming these are domain names owned by Mr Pizza), whose customer are you?
Consider this, too: If you dial the telephone number of Mr Pizza, are you a customer of the telephone service provider, or the operator, like 411? No. You are definitely a customer of Mr Pizza. It's obvious.
By not typing ".co.kr" or ".com" in the URL bar, customers were not directly connected to Mr. Pizza.
Telephone numbers and domain names are protected by law. The people recognize those who dial the telephone number as customers of the owner of the telephone number. It is the same with domains. Domains are protected by laws. But customers who typed in brand and company names in the Internet address bar are not protected at all. Why? Is this fair? I do not think so.
Internet users who type brand and company names in the URL bar are directed to the portals. They have become customers of the portals. What is going on? What is happening?
The internet (the entrance in cyberspace) has become the best tool to hijack other companies' customers.
So, despite the best efforts of companies to keep their customers, many are still lost at the entrance of cyberspace — the Internet Address Bar. This is how the business falls. The company owners are aware there are some problems, but they do not know what exactly is going on.
One portal's CEO said, "Hijacking is a fascinating business." Nowadays, he has become a hero in the Internet business. And he has accumulated great wealth.
But the government is ignoring this. Why?
Every government puts much effort and spends a large amount of the national budget to improve their country's economy. But still several countries are suffering from national financial issues. How many countries are free from this issue?
Brand names, as well as company names, are registered with the government. But governments ignore customer hijacking in the entrance of the internet, and it makes companies lose revenue.
Remember, telephone numbers and domain names are not registered with the government, but they are protected by law. The same protection should be given to brand names without .co or .kr (or other domain name extensions, whether ccTLD or gTLD) in the internet address bar. It makes sense.
Brand names typed in the browser address bar without .com or .kr are still properties of the brand name owners. They should be properly protected.
A lot of small and medium enterprises (SMEs) rely on the internet and spend much money to recover their customers by keyword advertising. They think they are getting "new" customers. But in reality, they are merely recovering the customers they lost. The point is, the SMEs did lose their customers in the internet address bar. The business owners do not know why. (I will discuss keyword advertising elaborately in my succeeding columns.)
Why do the customers go to the portals, and why are they not directly connected to the company they typed?
Why can't the customers of Mr Pizza enjoy a direct connection?
Some portals said direct connection is 'feeling lucky,' but why did they make most customers feel unlucky?
We need a no-fuss, straightforward and legal system for customers to reach the companies directly online.
About a hundred years ago, an undertaker named Almon Strowger noticed he had been receiving fewer calls for his funeral services. He realized one of the local operators, the wife of his competitor, had been connecting calls for undertaker services to her husband.
Strowger thought it was not fair at all. He knew he had to do something to fix this unjust system.
So Strowger developed the "Automatic Switch" that connected calls directly to the telephone numbers dialed.
Now history is repeating itself. This telephone evolved into a more advanced technology — the Internet. In the Internet Age, the new operators are the portals!
The metaphorical wife (in the early stage of the telephone) of the undertaker is now working again in the Internet address bar, redirecting and hijacking customers.
The SMEs are losing their customers because the portals are making them their own customers. This is customer hijacking!
It was unfair one hundred years ago. And it is still unfair today in the 21st century.
It is time to wake up from this Internet injustice.
Here's another question for you: Who creates jobs for the people — is it the enterprises, or the customers?
We have to keep our customers because fundamentally, customers create jobs for the people. SMEs should not lose their customers online because SMEs hire about 90% of the employment ratio in each country.
I call for everyone's attention because customer-to-brand connection in cyberspace is one of the issues that affect the status of the economy today.
Sadly, most of us are not well aware of this.
For workplaces, in the agricultural age, people cultivated farmlands. In the ICT age, we must also cultivate the cyber farmlands.
To do this, we must first know: Where is cyberspace?
Everybody thinks "web" is only about the "world wide web." However, we have to recognize it has another meaning — trap. By understanding the cyberspace, we can avoid being trapped.
I intend to write more about the cyberspace and the SMEs in my next column. Please feel free to share with me your ideas on these topics. Until then!
By Pan Jeong Lee
. More blog posts from Pan Jeong Lee can also be read here