KakaoTalk crash reveals super app's weakness

The fact that millions of Koreans could not contact or pay bills for several days because KakaoTalk "down" exposed the limitations of the super app.

Super applications are considered as one of the application development branches that have been noticed in recent times and pursued by many technology companies. The term super app refers to an all-in-one platform that integrates many different features and utilities, from electronic payments, messaging, search, delivery, car booking, shopping for customers. to make friends, look up administrative information...

Currently, most super apps are mainly concentrated in Asian countries. As of the end of 2021, WeChat is the most popular super app with 1.25 billion monthly active users, mainly in China. Singapore's Grab reaches more than 187 million users in 350 cities, concentrated in Southeast Asia. GoTo in Indonesia, Paytm in India or KakaoTalk in Korea are also super apps that attract tens of millions to hundreds of millions of users.

However, with "packing" all the features in one application, users also face trouble if they unfortunately have problems. KakaoTalk is the latest name to show that.

Korean users cannot send messages when KakaoTalk has problems. Photo: AllKpop

On October 15, a fire broke out at the SK C&C building, where two of Korea's largest technology firms, Kakao and Naver Corp, have data centers. The incident caused the entire platforms and ecosystems of both located here to be down for a few days.

For Koreans, the KakaoTalk application is not much different from Tencent's WeChat in China. This super software can be used for messaging, calling to book a car, viewing maps, playing games, monitoring the weather as well as integrating online payment systems, financial services, mobile banking.

Therefore, the incident turned the lives of KakaoTalk users immediately upside down. They can't pay for everyday items at the convenience store, order food and groceries, find it difficult to order taxis out of habit, map viewing is disabled... According to AllKpop , some riders taxi said it lost more than 90% of its income every day during the days when KakaoTalk had problems.

The number of influencers is estimated at tens of millions. According to Kakao statistics in the second quarter of 2022, the number of monthly users in Korea reached 47.5 million, accounting for 90% of the country's population.

"It feels like going back to the 2G era," one Korean wrote on Twitter. "I find it annoying, but sadder when we depend on apps like KakaoTalk so much," another user said.

KakaoTalk representatives bowed their heads in apology after the incident. Photo: AP

On October 17, the company said it had restored 12,000 of its 32,000 servers at its data center in SK C&C. Services and features are gradually recovering. After the incident, Kakao CEO Namkoong Whon had to resign to appease public opinion. Meanwhile, South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeal described the impact of the incident on "a very large scale that cannot be ignored", and called on relevant parties to investigate the cause and scope of the disruption. plan to prevent similar incidents. Lawyers argued that the accident was the result of "negligence" and inadequate preparation. According to KBS , many customer groups are preparing a class-action lawsuit against Kakao.

CNBC assessed, the collapse of KakaoTalk exposed the disadvantage of the convenience of "everything in one". Depending on a single application causes users a lot of trouble, passiveness, even panic if that platform has an inaccessibility problem.

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