The Best Browser You Have Never Heard Of Is Looking At India
“We are the best browser you have never heard of,” jokes Karl Mattson, the Vice President & Assistant CEO of Maxthon, a China based browser company. But in the coming days, you will be hearing a lot more about the company’s cloud browser as it turns up its focus on India and other markets. The cloud based browser built by Jeff Chen, has had more than 25 mn installations spread between Android, iOS, Windows & Mac in India.
“Three years ago, the #2 market for Maxthon outside of China was Russia. Then we launched our Android products and our new version of Maxthon for Windows. Within a year, our #2 market was India,” said Mattson in an interview. Edited Excerpts.
What kind of growth are you seeing in India?
The growth is coming almost equally from Android and desktop usage. What’s really astounding is that it is all based on word of mouth. We are growing like crazy in Hyderabad, Chennai and Mumbai. In lot of our Asian markets, a big driver of usage is casual gaming and social networking. When we get to North America & the EU, average users are a bit older and shopping drives usage. In India, content is a huge driver followed by social networking. We are making more and more investments in this market. We believe in customizing experiences in different markets and growth is largely organic so far.
Have you done any customization for India?
We have done a little bit of customization for Android with the start page. But we are excited about new additions we are about to roll out in September. The Android browser will have a Flipboard like customized content experience as part of the browsing experience. Mobile browser usage is heavily tipped towards content consumption and we are going to roll out those features in India sometime in the middle of September.
How many users do you have in India?
We have had upwards of 25 mn installations spread between Android, iOS, Windows & Mac. On any given day, the number of daily unique users, is between 5-10 mn. That may seem like a small number but when you look at the browser market, most companies quote aggregate downloads, which is not a really indication of actual popularity. We are definitely top 4 in India at this point at least on Android. We are behind Chrome, IE, Mozilla and Opera in India. We are a smaller company but what is exciting is the growth we are experiencing through word of mouth. You will be hearing a lot more about us in the next month or so.
Does that involve large marketing spend like WeChat and others in India? Or is there a different approach?
It is very different. From the beginning, our approach has been to run the business and product by international standards. A good product is a good product globally. We are not in a position like Tencent or WeChat, that are created and driven by a particular culture. You can turn that around and say the same thing about Microsoft which makes products in Redmont and uses its marketing muscle to sell in other markets. Our approach has been different. We are focused on what our customers in the market have been telling us either through direct communication or through more proactive approaches. In our Russian market, for example, lot of websites are optimized for Internet Explorer. What that means is that you often need to use Internet explorer for things like the ‘shopping cart’ to work. That’s driven by the browser’s rendering engine (in this case Trident, the rendering engine by Microsoft). We also knew that we can create a much faster experience with Webkit, the open source rendering engine. Our response to those needs was to launch a browser that had both rendering engines and then add some intelligence to identify if the website is Trident optimized or Webkit optimized and make sure it works. We have done similar things in the US & China.
The setup is little file that downloads quickly over broadband internet connection. We tried the browser and found it to be snappy. It imported bookmarks without asking, but that’s a problem only if you are too touchy about permissions. If you ask me, it is just convenient.
It’s got all the regular features like tabbed browsing and private browsing. We love the fact that the browser is highly customizable.
Maxthon’s nifty little dock lets you pin itself onto the desktop so you can access all your web shortcuts with one click without launching the browser. If you are looking for a browser that syncs across your devices and gives you a lot of control, we recommend you try this out.