SAN FRANCISCO, CA, USA. August 25, 2010.
The story of Maxthon and its founder and CEO Jeff Chen is the story of modern China. Jeff was born in the waning years of China’s Cultural Revolution. The nation then was still a closed, agrarian economy. Then and now, the vast majority of China’s population 80 percent of its population lived on farms and in provincial towns, as did Jeff with his sister and his parents, one of whom worked in a shoe factory and the other repairing cars.
Jeff watched as China compressed centuries into decades to become the second largest economy in the world. The same rapid flow of change influenced Jeff Chen, today the CEO of Maxthon, makers of the second most popular Internet browser in China. He started tinkering with software and computers at a very young age.
Maxthon browser is about to create the best in people, products and industrial philosophy
China’s rapid changes presented opportunity: to make money and successful products, but more importantly the changes instilled a responsibility for Chen to create the best in people, products, and industrial philosophy.
“Our philosophy is very simple,” he said in a recent interview. “We want to make the best products to provide the best experience to users. That was how things started seven to eight years ago, when I was not satisfied with the browsing experience and found ways to improve it. Over the years this philosophy has been adopted in every development process and throughout the company. It will continue so we can provide the best user experience.”
Chen’s dissatisfaction with browsers led him to tinkering with MyIE, a browser another programmer was building using the same code found in Microsoft Internet Explorer.” Then, Chen had recently graduated from Beijing Institute of Technology with a degree in engineering.
For $150 a month, he wrote program code for optical character recognition systems by day and tried to find ways to improve MyIE by night.
When the original creator of MyIE abandoned the project, Chen took over the main job of coding the browser, along with the help of others who, like Chen, simply wanted a better way to browse the web than Internet Explorer could provide.
As the project and the percentage of his personal contributions grew, Chen finally decided to quit his day job and devote all his energies to the browser, which he eventually renamed Maxthon. For some time, he lived completely off the donations of Maxthon users grateful to Chen for developing a browser that made surfing faster, easier, and more productive.
Rapidly growing market share in China, Maxthon caught the attention of venture capitalists, who provided backing to grow Maxthon. Today the browser is making inroads into all parts of the world from its headquarters in Haidian, Beijing’s Silicon Valley. In China the browser is second only to Internet Explorer, and quickly gaining fans in the rest of the globe.
For the most part, Chen considers his job great fun. But there are aspects about it that he does not find amusing—such as when people accuse Maxthon of being only a “shell” riding on top of Internet Explorer.
“Maxthon has always been so much more than a “shell” on IE. Innovation has always been one of the core values of our company,” he said. “In fact, as a developer of a browser with ties to IE, we could not have survived so many years if we had not innovated. For instance, many of Maxthon’s features, such as IE plugin support, and a custom plugin system and skinning system, were innovations, not just for IE-based browsers, but for the entire browser industry when we added them to Maxthon.”
Using dual rendering engines – Webkit and Trident — in the newly released Maxthon3 is another example of Chen innovation. Maxthon3 is the first browser architected to use both engines, which switch automatically from one to the other depending on the requirements of the pages they are displaying. This eliminates the, ‘this site is best viewed on IE” pain point known to anyone who surfs the web.
Innovations beyond the browser are in Maxthon’s near future although Chen doesn’t talk about them publicly except to say, “They will be big. I mean, big”
Even after 6 years, Maxthon is still very much a start-up in culture, attitude and speed. All of the hallmarks are visible in the Beijing office. In a way, Chen’s life has changed little from when he had a day job and spent his nights programming Maxthon. His days and night are still packed with coding, working with the Maxthon community and dreaming up new ways to make the changing web better. Only now it’s for the same job.
Maxthon Company highlights:
• 2004 – MyIE2 was reborn as Maxthon.
• 2005 – Maxthon users evolve into a growing, global community.
• 2006 – Microsoft partnered with Maxthon for 2006 Consumer Electronics.
• 2007 – Maxthon 2.0 released in 20+ languages.
• 2008 – Maxthon won its first Webware 100 award, receiving more votes than any of the other Internet products. Downloads of Maxthon from its main site reached 170 million.
• 2009 – Maxthon won its second Webware 100, beating all other browsers. New partnerships included the largest search engine in Russia, Yandex. New browser features included adding the saving of Favorites online and additional crash protection.
• 2010 – Maxthon was chosen to be on the European “browser ballot,” a screen from which European Windows users will chose the browsers they want to use.
• 2010 – Maxthon passes 500 million download milestone.
• 2010 – Maxthon releases Maxthon 3, the first browser with integrated WebKit and Trident architecture.
• 2010 – Maxthon reaches 250 million unique sessions per month milestone
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