You probably haven’t heard of Chinese web browser Maxthon, but it rose up in China around the same time as Mozilla Firefox with a similar mission — to take down Internet Explorer. A year ago, Maxthon opened an office in San Francisco and set its sights on growing its 130 million worldwide users in the US market, this week launching its first browser for Mac. If you believe there could be another browser war, a term that originated when Internet Explorer overtook Netscape, Maxthon is preparing to battle with soon-to-be dominant Chrome.
One reviewer at the Mac Observer says “Chrome is on its way out of the Mac market,” and Maxthon is positioning itself to move in. The company hopes an indie browser will appeal to users who want a Web-neutral alternative that syncs across all platforms and devices. In addition to Mac, Maxthon maintains browsing settings like bookmarks across Windows, Android, Blackberry, Kindle Fire, Nook and iPad. An iPhone version is in the works.
“All of the industry is moving in this direction,” says Karl Mattson, chief of product development at Maxthon’s San Francisco office. “Most users are not in one ecosystem. It doesn’t have to be all Google.”
An early developer in the cloud, Maxthon syncs user preferences via a passport account, similar to how Google anchors itself to a Gmail account. Mattson says, for now, it isn’t going after the email market and a passport can be linked to any address. File storage similar to Google Drive is currently in private beta.
“We don’t have to support a giant ad network like Google and Microsoft. They use browsers to keep users within their worlds. When you agree to use Google Drive, they scan your text to serve you ads,” says Mattson.
Mattson wouldn’t give a launch date for Maxthon’s file storage service, saying only it’s taking its time to ensure privacy and security within its cross-platform approach. Maxthon earned a reputation among browser enthusiasts by staying on top of HTML5 and being the first to support both Trident and WebKit, respectively the old and new engines that display a Web page.
Pre-Chrome’s launch, Google purchased a minority stake of Maxthon in 2007.