In South Korea, one of the world's most technologically advanced countries, there are no limits to what can be done online if you use the right browser.
Corporate customers of one of the country's largest foreign-owned banks can't make business payments on the internet. You can't apply for artist funding through the National Culture and Arts website if you use Apple'sSafari. If you are a proprietor of a child care facility, it is not possible to register your organization on the health and welfare ministry website.
Microsoft's internet explorer is the required browser in all of these cases.
After shutting down Internet Explorer on June 15, Microsoft said it would start redirecting users to its Edge browser. The internet was the subject of jokes and meme. IE is not something online in South Korea. Many people can't live without banking and government-related tasks that require a browser.
South Korea has been enamored with Internet Explorer since it was first introduced 27 years ago, but it is tethered to a flawed piece of software that has been abandoned by most of the world.
About 54 percent of the country's internet usage is taken up by the websites that work on every browser. According to Statcounter, internet explorer is less than 1%. There was a last-minute scramble among some important sites to prepare for life after IE.
The Edge browser needs to be used in "IE mode" to access the "Straight2Bank" internet banking platform. If users don't switch to Edge, some services will likely be disrupted.
In May, Naver, one of Korea's biggest internet companies, highlighted a feature of its Whale browser that allowed access to sites that required internet explorer. The option was added in 2016 according to Kim. He didn't think it was necessary when Microsoft stopped using IE.
Mr. Kim decided to change the name of the feature to "Internet Explorer mode" because some Korean websites wouldn't switch to it in time. Modernizing websites that had been around for a long time was a large task and some missed the deadline.
In the 1990s, South Korea became a leader in using the internet for banking and shopping. In order to protect online transactions, the government passed a law in 1999.
Plug-in software was needed to verify a person's identity. The South Korean government allowed five companies to use a Microsoft plug-in. The plug-in couldn't be used on other browsers.
The Microsoft plug-in seemed to be an obvious choice. The personal computer market in the 1990s was dominated by Microsoft Windows software and Internet Explorer became the leading browser. Other websites began to use Microsoft's browser in order to reinforce its importance. In Korea, Internet Explorer had a market share of 99 percent.
James Kim was the head of Microsoft in South Korea from 2009 to 2015. Mr. Kim said a lot of things didn't work without IE.
Most South Koreans couldn't name another browser because of Internet Explorer's dominance in the early 2000s.
When Mr. Kim returned to South Korea in 2002 after teaching abroad, he discovered that he couldn't do anything online with his computer running Linux. He used to go to an internet cafe every year to access a computer with IE in order to file his taxes.
The Korea Financial Telecommunications & Clearings Institute was sued by Mr. Kim in 2007. He claimed that the company had discriminated against him by not allowing other browsers.
Mr. Kim lost the case, lost the appeal and lost at the Supreme Court over the course of three years. The pitfalls of South Korea's system were brought into sharper focus by his court battle.
South Korea, like most of the world, began to reduce its reliance on Microsoft with the advent of the phone. Government websites should be compatible with three different browsers. It was not easy to change the plumbing of South Korea's internet.
Users didn't like the idea of having to use ActiveX to buy things online. The technology failed to meet its purpose because plug-in software made users less safe, according to critics.
Microsoft Edge was a replacement for Internet Explorer and the company said it wasn't compatible with ActiveX. The country's top browser was Chrome.
The 1999 law in South Korea was amended in 2020 to remove the need for digital certificates. Microsoft removed support for IE in some of its online services. The company said it would retire Internet Explorer.
One South Korean engineer marked the demise of Internet Explorer in a more somber way.
A tombstone for IE was put on the roof of a cafe in Gyeongju, a city on the southeastern coast of Korea. He paid $330 for a monument engraved with the browser's logo and inscription: "He was a good tool to download other browsers."
Mr. Jung felt that the browser that introduced so many South Koreans to the internet deserved a proper goodbye, even though he had his share of gripes with it. It was difficult to use Internet Explorer, but it served a good purpose. I don't want to retire it with the attitude that we don't need you anymore.