Google Chrome’s position as the most popular web browser in mainland China could be under threat, which may result in VPN usage dropping at the same time. Currently, Chrome has somewhere between 30 and 39 per cent of the Chinese market – less than in other parts of the world, but still pretty impressive considering most Google apps are blocked in China.
China’s Great Firewall prevents citizens from accessing tools like Search and Gmail – even the Chrome store is blocked. This means that if users want to download an extension, they’ll first need to set up a VPN; a common approach for anyone wishing to get around Chinese censorship.
However, the launch of a new version of Microsoft’s Edge browser earlier this year could threaten Chrome’s dominance. Users have reportedly been impressed with the browser’s user interface and, most importantly, the Microsoft website is accessible in mainland China, so no VPN is required to download extensions.
On the Edge
Another major plus point for Edge is that it is built using Google’s open-source code Chromium, meaning it works just like Chrome itself. It’s likely that more and more Chinese citizens may start migrating across, particularly those that don’t want the hassle of using VPNs, which are also routinely taken down by the Chinese government.
The decision by many Chinese internet users to plump for Chrome or Edge over domestic browsers initially appears unusual, particularly given the country’s attitude to Western technology firms. However, one look at how Chinese web browsers operate may help to explain their choice.
In China, web browsers generally also act as news aggregators or opportunities for advertisement. This means that they are often a lot more cluttered than browsers we see in the West. For Chrome to be the market leader, even in a country where other Google products are generally banned, suggests that many Chinese citizens prefer a simpler, less invasive browser.