China’s e-commerce king, Taobao, now has a PC web browser of its own that’s aimed at – surprise, surprise – web shoppers and providing security when making online payments. In addition, it boasts mouse gestures, certain forms of ad-blocking, and a “dual-core” rendering engine that uses either WebKit or Trident – as used by Internet Explorer (IE) – depending on the task at hand.
Taobao Browser came out a few weeks ago, and today got bumped up to v1.0.14. Its focus on enabling shopping means that the parent company’s product search engine, eTao, is one of the search engine options along with Google and Baidu. Plus, the default homepage, tao.123.com, features a prominent Taobao search bar. Here’s the new tabs page (click to enlarge):
Additional features include support for ‘skins’ for theming, bookmarks syncing via AliCloud – which will hook up with the mobile browser in your AliYun phone, an emphasis on safety certificates to help avoid being duped by scam shopping sites, and a whole section devoted to your Alipay online payments. Of course, there’s not much there that couldn’t be done in most other Chinese-made browsers, or with Firefox with a few awesome extensions. In the past, the e-commerce company had been partnering with Microsoft on special Alipay-badged versions of IE8 and IE9 – it’s not clear if that will continue as well.
The main standout feature, I reckon, is the mouse gestures built in to the Taobao Browser, so that, for example, a swipe in the shape of an ‘L’ will close the current tab. Such gestures are usually only seen on mobile browsers, though the Japanese Sleipnir browser was one of the first to bring it to the desktop.
Alibaba is coming very late to this game. Baidu’s (NASDAQ:BIDU) own very similar web browser – especially in its also being dual-core Webkit and IE – has been out for over a year and recently got refreshed as v2.0. Meanwhile, going even further back, Qihoo’s (NYSE:QIHU) 360 Safe Browser has surpassed usage of IE in China by some metrics. Lots of other web companies in China have their own windows on the web as well, each tailored to a certain area – such as Tencent’s QQ Browser being a useful way of funneling traffic to its struggling Soso.com search engine.
Download Taobao Browser, for PC only and no support for English, from its mini-site.
[Source: Liulanmi – articles in Chinese]