When mobile browser Dolphin launched in 2011, its creators at MoboTap had a simple goal: Beat Google and Apple at their own game by creating a mobile-first browser designed for smartphones and tablets instead of desktops. And MoboTap's strategy worked. Dolphin is faster than Google Chrome or Apple's Safari mobile products, and over 600,000 users gave the Dolphin app a five star review in the Google Play store.
The mobile-first strategy is intentional. Because so much of the non-North American Web accesses the Internet through mobile devices, MoboTap has an edge. This is why the company has teamed up with a killer's row of global search engines to create the "anti-Google alliance".
Dolphin's overlapping global partnerships with Yandex (Russia), Baidu (China), DuckDuckGo (United States), and Yahoo Japan are all designed to deliver localized content and to outflank Google on the mobile search front. It's also a rethink of the North American definition of a web browser; in press releases, the company stresses that their browsers in “mobile first” countries will also double as a portal for news, music, and games.
Certain partnerships also encompass entire regions--Yandex is used in much of the former Soviet Union and Russian diaspora, while Baidu is also used in Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Southeast Asia.
Details of MoboTap's specific partnerships with each company have not been released as of yet. Edith Yeung, Dolphin's vice president of business development, told Fast Company that they vary from country to country. Russian users, for instance, would be supplied with Yandex as their default search engine. American users, however, would still see Google as a default search, rather than DuckDuckGo. It's important to note that Dolphin's “anti-Google alliance” doesn't seem designed to defeat Chrome on the mobile front; rather, it's an attempt to gain healthy market share in international markets where Google has robust rivals.
Yeung emphasized something she feels benefits Dolphin: Different countries view the Internet in different ways. While North American web design skews towards minimalistic sites with little clutter, the same thing isn't true for all cultures. “In much of Asia, user behavior is different. Some home pages look like site maps that are cluttered with a lot of things, which is different from what you would see in the United States,” Yeung told me. Chinese Dolphin users have a considerably different browsing experience from North American users; where a Dolphin user in New York has a clean interface designed to get them to a pre-planned destination, Chinese mobile users are presented with a crowded web portal (slideshow above).
In conjunction with the new partnership announcements, Dolphin also kicked some new localization capabilities into the app. The option to add wallpaper to Dolphin was added for international markets, and support for 21 new languages was integrated into the browser. Importantly, Dolphin has also developed a proprietary Dolphin Web App Store for extensions that bypasses the Google Play Store--giving them a helping hand with monetization in the Russian and Chinese markets. Due to a host of institutional and economic considerations, both Google and Apple tailor their mobile browser products towards traditionally tech-friendly regions such as North America, Western Europe, South Korea, and Japan; for Dolphin, building a browser that users in other regions will turn to first is the challenge.
[Image: Flickr user Lowjumpingfrog]