web browser marketshare in China

This news is a week old but I saw some fascinating news on browser marketshare in China via Global Times: Chinese browsers are putting the heat on Internet Explorer.


Microsoft’s Internet Explorer (IE) browser, which once dominated the Chinese Internet world with 96 percent of the market, has seen its share shrink to 57.8 percent due to the growing popularity of domestic brands.

It’s the lowest level in Microsoft’s history in China as domestic brands such as Maxthon, Tencent TT and Qihoo360’s 360 Secured Browser now account for 31.1 percent of the country’s browser market, according to data by iResearch.

The 360 Secured Browser‘s share has increased 50 percent from each previous quarter for three consecutive quarters, with its market share currently at 8.4 percent, iResearch said.

I have more questions than when I started reading this article such as:

– What is “domestic” Chinese about browsers (Maxthon, TT Browser, Green Browser, 360 Secured, etc.) that are powered by the Trident layout engine used in Internet Explorer, which is designed, developed and distributed by Microsoft Corporation from Redmond, Washington, USA?

Japanese browser wrapper providers like Lunascape and Sleipnir also claim to be “Japanese” when similarly the core layout technology of those browsers is made by Microsoft or Mozilla or Webkit (Apple/Google). There is nothing “Japanese” about those browsers except the “chrome.”

– If you add up the 57.8% that IE has, and the 31.1% that the Trident-based Chinese browsers have, you end up with 88.9% or basically 89% of the Chinese market uses the Trident layout engine.  So clearly it is still a struggle for a Webkit or Gecko based browser to gain market share in China if the majority of the web pages are probably coded for IE.  Once Trident-based browsers lose more than 15-20% share, web compatibility usually stops becoming an issue.

-What makes 360 Secured Browser more secure than other browsers? Are there real security features that 360 Secured has that other browsers do not?  Or is it merely marketing?

– What makes the Chinese users so different that Firefox is “culturally different” and therefore harder to use for Chinese users when Firefox is often very popular in just about every other country across the globe?

There is so much about the China market that is unique for many reasons, be it at the network level where the main networks in the country (China Netcom, China Unicom, Chinese university network) do not peer, or the Green Dam Youth Escort, or the Golden Shield Project. But even at the browser level, China’s Internet market is quite different than any other.

I’d welcome your thoughts on what makes the Chinese market interesting and unique and what Mozilla should do to better address the China market.

11 Responses to web browser marketshare in China

  1. There is certainly one thing that is different in China – see https://bugzilla.mozilla.org/show_bug.cgi?id=413171. TomTom had to fix this bug because it was a big issue for the Chinese users of TomTom HOME. The patch is attached to the bug, it has been part of four TomTom HOME releases so far. However, it is still not fixed in Firefox…

  2. Hi, I’m chinese and live in beijing. For my personal opinion, the most important reason that firefox is not popular in china market is about e-bank and e-pay.
    In china, most banks use MS activeX technology to provide online service. Without Windows and IE, you can’t even logon. As far as I know, only the Shanghai Pudong Devleopment Bank(not popluar) fully support firefox and other browsers. Some people complained (http://www.zeuux.org/campaign/cmb-campaign.cn.html, http://bbs.chinaunix.net/viewthread.php?tid=900129) about this issue to thire bank, but the customer supports were all refused or ignored.
    Another one is about e-pay, Taobao is the most popluar C2C platform in china. And they provide Alipay as their e-pay system. It also not fully support firefox. Thougg there is an offical addons about Alipay(https://addons.mozilla.org/zh-CN/firefox/addon/6707), but it seemd this addon is buggy and useless.

  3. It’s not so easy to say why. At first, they choose IE for smaller software size and it’s really easy to use. And then many websites are IE only and user can’t benefit much from using Firefox or the like. Finally, they don’t care about Firefox.

  4. BTW, TomTom’s product is not popluar in china, most people even don’t know what is TomTom.

  5. IE is the dominating web browser in China and that’s not gonna change in a near future. Mozilla China is doing their best at marketing, introducing Firefox to college students but comparing with Microsoft/Google they are just too weak.

  6. After getting to know some (mainland) Chinese students, I got the impression that they have a very strongly ingrained belief that they’re very different from non-Asians by birth, sometimes up to the point of absurdity (e.g. claiming that certain Chinese food has no health benefit for Europeans because “we’re different”). This disposition I found truly shocking, after all the basic message that comes through here in Europe is that we’re all people, and thus should be given equal chance and respect, regardless of cultural background (yes, I believe that this is basically true, despite all the emerging far-right groups and everything).

    I don’t think that Firefox will ever be popular there, because it can’t acquire the “made-in-China” image that Maxthon and co. have. This is not about what Mozilla objectively offers, it’s about how the people there perceive it. A Chinese-made Gecko based browser may be successful, but not Firefox.

    I had to speak my mind. I hope I did not offend anyone.

  7. Solar, this is not very surprising given that TomTom is relatively new in the Chinese market. But that’s really not the point.

    Kegjoc, then maybe a Chinese-branded Firefox is the solution – it is really not hard to create a custom Firefox build “made in China.” There is no need for huge differences to the official Firefox, after all Maxthon & Co. aren’t that different from vanilla IE either. I think I read somewhere that such a branded build was one of the directions pursued by Mozilla China…

  8. Aside from the notion that certain browsers are “made in China” (even though the real core rendering engine is clearly “foreign”), I think the reason why IE shells are still more preferred is two-fold:
    1. The false notion that IE shells are “lighter”. This is because Trident is part of Windows.
    2. The relatively less evangelism effort means most popular sites still work the best in IE.

    Wladimir, a Chinese-branded Firefox is definitely something that’s being pushed by Mozilla Online / China; to a Chinese user, the official Firefox build is bland and underpowered. Out-of-the-box functionality holds an even greater role in creating a good first impression in Asia than it does in Western cultures.

  9. When you look at how Google has struggled with beating Baidu, it’s easy to infer why Firefox is having a hard time catching on in China. It’s an entirely different culture.

  10. So perhaps you need an image campaign with Chinese Mozilla developers, preferably those living there and not in the USA.

  11. Hi, I’m Chinese and now live in the US. No offense, but I think the students Kegjoc met are minority. I don’t think Chinese discriminate foreign products/software that much, if at all. AFAIK, MSN, Kaspersky, WinRAR, RealPlayer, etc. are all pretty widely used in China. You can see them on the popular software list on many websites. Made-in-China software are relatively popular because of their unique features that fits Chinese users need.

    In the case of Firefox, here are some reasons I can come up with:
    1. Some Chinese websites are not standard-compliance, as also mentioned by Solar. The situation is getting much better than several years ago but still exist.
    http://www.webstandards.org/2008/11/24/web-standards-in-china/
    http://rejon.org/wiki/IDEA_20090402_Webstandards_China
    http://www.cnetnews.com.cn/2007/0531/405587.shtml
    The last one is a CNET news in Chinese (May 2007, a bit old), saying that Mike Schroepfer (the Director Of Engineering @ Mozilla) said that some Chinese websites is not compatible with Firefox most likely because they are not compliant with web standards.
    2. Maxthon was in the market earlier than Firefox and got widely adopted.
    3. Maxthon is an IE-mod indeed, but it has significant usability enhancements and offers more features out-of-box than many alternatives including Firefox, Opera, and certainly IE.
    Hope this helps and sorry about the long post :)