With China's regulations for monitoring the World Wide Web, the country has its own Internet browsers that may not be popular with the rest of the world. As of Feb 2022, the latest browser statistics in China includes the following market share percentages:
- Chrome - 47.37%
- UC Browser - 13.66%
- Safari - 10.82%
- QQ BRowser - 8.51%
- 360 Safe - 8.02%
As you can see, Chinese browsers took 3 positions out of the top 5 popular browsers in China.
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Chrome still largely dominates the market share, however, certain differences between its security protocols and China's Internet security policies have given rise to homegrown browsers. To add to this, China's digital market mirrors its traditional roots. Doing business in China is not as upfront and specific as most Western businesses are. Chinese businesses are known for trying to encompass as many products as possible in the name of sales. It may look like organized chaos, but from this strategy rose e-commerce giants such as Alibaba and WeChat. And this type of dynamic extends further to China's homegrown browsers.
So what specifically sets a Chinese browser apart from mainstream ones such as Chrome, Firefox, or Safari? Most Chinese browsers do not just limit themselves to a search box. Its homepage looks more like a Google results page. While a Chinese browser's search box is located at the top, there are several suggestions that come up beneath it. There are also various tabs that are spread out on top of the search box.
Chinese browsers often blur the line between being a search engine and a traditional news aggregator. Aside from text, they also have video suggestions leading users to consume media or content even before they can begin a search. The overall layout is very conducive for ads and business promotions.
Here are some of the Chinese browsers that are popular in the country which you might not be familiar with:
360 Browser has built its name on security. Since it's developed by popular antivirus company Qihoo, it comes with free antivirus software that works to protect users against phishing attacks. It also actively monitors installations and gives you a notification on whether you would like to proceed.
Created by Tencent, a multinational Chinese tech conglomerate, QQ Browser is available on all major platforms including macOS, iOS, Android, Windows, and Linux. It uses a dual-browser mode of Webkit and ordinary IE to design for a more flexible interface interaction and program framework that works across mobile and desktop devices.
This browser is made by UCWeb--a subsidiary of Alibaba. UC Browser is popular not just in China but also in Indonesia and was specifically created for mobile phones. It has become a favorite because of its small app size and data compression features. Another unique feature of UC Browser is that it uses proxy servers, run by UCWeb, which helps in data compression and improves download speeds. Other features include cloud syncing and multi-file format downloads.
As you can see, the Chinese browser landscape is far more complex. Most of these browsers also faced privacy and security issues due to the way they pass information in the background. Whereas Chrome built its browser from a search engine history, these browsers were built with a particular focus on being business-friendly and fit for China's Internet laws. For more details, please check out our article on the specific features of the Chinese browsers that differentiate them from the rest of the ecosystem.
As a foreign business entering the Chinese market, you need to think about how you can both protect your business from potential vulnerabilities coming from these browsers and how you can harness their features to spread your Chinese market reach. Also taking into consideration of compatibility, usability, and accessibility design issues, cross-browser testing should become an important part of your web strategy, which will be covered in subsequent articles discussing how to optimize native browsers in China.
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To learn more about succeeding in China, check out our other articles.