Written by Gang Lu and edited by Richard MacManus. Original version posted on Gang Lu's blog The MObilenoDE.
Maxthon (formerly known as MyIE) is a browser that reportedly has 30% of the browser market in its home country of China, second only to IE and ahead of Firefox. It is a powerful tabbed, fully customizable and 100% free Internet browser built on top of Microsoft's Internet Explorer (IE) platform. The milestone Maxthon 2.0 beta was released early last month. We carried out an in-depth interview with SVP & Partner at Maxthon Netanel Jacobsson (former Business Development Director at AOL/ICQ), who told us the full story of this exciting browser and its bid for global success.
The History of Maxthon
The interview starts with a bit of history about Maxthon, a browser generally not well known in the Western world. Netanel said that MyIE was originally created by a Chinese man called Changyou, who wanted to customize his IE browser. MyIE became the first browser to support tabbed browsing. Changyou posted most of the code onto his BBS, but unexpectedly left the project due to personal reasons in 2000. Luckily, one of his admirers Jeff Chen decided to continue the development and released a new version with the name MyIE2. MyIE2 grew very fast, with massive contributions from passionate users all over the world. They communicated via BBS, Forums and IM - and helped on developing the plugins, sites, skins, debugging, etc.
Netanel said that Maxthon users are very passionate about the IE browser, but they want more from IE than Microsoft provided - so they formed a community to build and maintain Maxthon.
MyIE2 was renamed Maxthon in 2003. It was seed funded by the first Skype investor Morten Lund, together with WI Harper Group in 2005. In 2006 Maxthon received a major investment from US-based VC firm Charles River Ventures.
More than IE - The Features of Maxthon2 Beta
released - featuring a completely re-designed UI and core code. Still, Maxthon 2.0 beta is fully compatible with Internet Explorer. It has the same basic browsing functionalities, but also provides many rich features to improve the surfing experience. Some of the highlights are:In early November 2006, the Maxthon 2.0 beta was
- Advanced proxy function - allows the use of different proxies for different web sites, ensuring the best browsing speed and web site accessibility.
- User Interface Multi-Thread technology - greatly reduces the chance of browser lockup, (e.g. caused by some Ajax operations) and browser crashes.
- Modular design - loads only the required components, ensuring the most efficient use of system resources.
- Highly customizable skinning and interface system - supports anything from the simple windows classic to the most crafted skins and advanced layouts.
- Ultra powerful filter - the system can filter not only ads, but also any malicious code; removing web annoyances and improving browser safety.
- Multi-users password - protected profile system protects users privacy without compromising program portability.
People always complain about IE’s security issues (even the newly released IE7) and its non-compliance with many standards. Netanel said that the Maxthon 2.0 beta provides Online Maxthon Security Updates to reduce the risks of certain un-patched Internet Explorer vulnerabilities; and Maxthon Smart Acceleration (MSA) technology significantly improves browsing speed. He said the Maxthon team is working hard to fully support the Gecko engine, which will be added to Maxthon 2.0 final version.
The Browser Market in China
The Chinese browser market is dominated by IE and Maxthon - Firefox usage is very low in China. I asked Netanel about the 30% market share that Maxthon reportedly has in China. Netanel said it’s actually very hard to give an exact figure to show how popular Maxthon is in China, because sometimes Maxthon is still counted as IE in the figures. Netanel said:
"We have 12 million active users monthly and over 73 million downloads [over] the world. There is no doubt Maxthon is the second after IE in China and I also hope the market share will be more than 30% very soon."
Netanel said that Maxthon's revenues are mainly from search, but also from subscription services and donations. He said that other business models would be introduced soon. It is very interesting to note that Maxthon has been revenue positive since 2005, with a stable business model and low burn rate - not many startups can match that today.
Maxthon in 2007
Maxthon is actually the only Chinese Internet Software company with a global presence. With its success in China and the brilliant features in Maxthon 2.0, Maxthon is ready for the worldwide market. Netanel said they are growing very fast globally, especially in the US. Also a lot of new users are young, which is a good trend for Maxthon.
In 2007, Maxthon will be working actively with local communities in the US and Europe. It will start organizing Maxthon meetups and developer conferences, to officially show the power of Maxthon and promote its presence in the global market.
"We will bring fresh air to the [browser] world in the coming new year", Netanel added.
I asked Netanel about the final release of Maxthon 2.0. Netanel said he hoped it would be sometime in the spring 2007.
Netanel concluded by describing Maxthon as a grass roots movement, more than a product - due to the support of its passionate world-wide user community. Netanel said:
"[…] We can see that the role of the browser is changing and is becoming the focal point of customization and personalization. It is the place where users can choose to run their applications and in this sense it is kind of taking over the role of the OS. […] Maxthon is going to become a major platform for the delivery of the new web services and you can expect to see some interesting examples of this during 2007[…]. "
Written by Gang Lu. See also Read/WriteWeb’s Web Browser Faceoff.