Alibaba’s UCWeb mobile browser arm looks to ramp up international expansion

UC browser now world’s second-most popular mobile browser

PUBLISHED : Friday, 29 April, 2016, 11:59am
UPDATED : Saturday, 30 April, 2016, 1:15pm

UCWeb, the mobile web browser arm of e-commerce giant Alibaba Group, is looking to ramp up its international expansion by forming new partnerships with media organisations around the world.

That initiative follows the company’s UC browser reaching a milestone of recording more than 400 million monthly active users globally, which has extended its lead over Apple’s Safari as the world’s second-most popular mobile browser, according to UCWeb’s presentation at the annual Global Mobile Internet Conference in Beijing on Thursday.

Yu Yongfu, the president of Alibaba’s mobile business unit and a co-founder of UCWeb, said the proposed media alliances would transform the UC mobile browser into a new media platform that benefits users with customised news feeds, while helping media outlets increase readership.

What UCWeb wants to do is to help users access more accurate and precise information that is tailored to their preferences
Yu Yongfu, Alibaba

“The challenge of the internet now is that there is an information overload,” Yu said. “Before the internet, people had difficulty accessing information … what UCWeb wants to do is to help users access more accurate and precise information that is tailored to their preferences.”

Yu said media outlets would have “content stores” on the UC browser the same way online merchants have stores on Tmall .com, Alibaba’s business-to-consumer e-commerce platform.

UCWeb’s media partners will also be able to include advertisements in the content displayed within UC Headline’s customised news feed, which employs “big data” obtained across UCWeb’s products to personalise content.

The feature is currently live for mainland Chinese users and will be available to international users next month.

The company has already formed content partnerships with online portal Sina, China Business News and mainland internet company Netease

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The media partnership strategy is expected to grow market share for UCWeb, which is already the leading mobile browser in mainland China.

UCWeb currently controls more than 50 per cent of the Indian and Indonesian mobile browser markets.

It works on both Apple iOS and Android devices and is available in 12 languages, including Chinese, English, Hindi, Indonesian, Portuguese, Spanish and Russian.

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More than 570 million news views are generated daily by Chinese users of the UC Headline news feed, the company says.

“In China, the most successful use of big data so far is in Taobao’s mobile app,” said Yu, referring to Alibaba’s consumer-to-consumer e-commerce marketplace.

The Taobao Marketplace site displays a personalised front page for each user that includes tailored product recommendations based on their purchase and search history.

“Our vision is to have UCWeb [installed] on every smartphone,” Yu said.

IDC analyst Chua Chwee Kan said the added functionality in the UC browser capitalised on mobile app fatigue – a term coined by pundits to describe the overcrowded app scene, in which new apps continue to emerge but do not provide enough value for consumers to keep using them.

“There is a startling trend of [users] going back to browser-based apps and functionality,” Chua said. “The localisation of the news feed [in UC Headline] will help UCWeb to maintain a lead in their respective markets.”

Chua said the information collected by UCWeb would also be useful for Alibaba’s cloud computing and data-as-a-service operations, since it was able to track user preference and interests based on browsing habits and interactions with the news feed.

“The more users adopt UCWeb, the more data [the company] can curate,” he said.

Alibaba owns the South China Morning Post.