After the recent Maxthon 3.2 Beta release (which review can be found here), we sat down with Jeff Chen, the CEO and founder of Maxthon Ltd., to talk about the web browsers and the overall future of Maxthon.
- Can you tell us a little bit of history about the Maxthon web browser and its initial development stages? Back in the day, have you made it just for fun?
The earliest version of MyIE was an open source project started by a Chinese gentleman named Changyou. MyIE was also the first browser to support tabbed browsing: Changyou posted most of the code on his BBS, but he unexpectedly left the project for personal reasons in 2000. Jeff Chen, who was (and is) one of Changyou’s admirers, decided to continue the development, which resulted in the release of MyIE2. MyIE2 experienced rapid growth, with contributions from passionate users worldwide. Through BBS communications, instant messages and forum chats, a global community of users worked on developing the plug-ins, sites, skins and debugging necessary for a great product.
In 2002, because of the prevalence of Microsoft Windows, most users accessed the Internet through the IE browser, but its performance and compatibility were far below Jeff’s own standards, as both an engineer and a casual web surfer. He was interested in creating a new web browser, hoping to make a more stable and friendly product for people throughout the world. He began this process in his spare time, and shared his work online with other users. Many users praised his efforts, which encouraged Jeff to continue to this project. In fact, with all this work Jeff remarked that “making web browsers my career is my fate.”
- Why did you call it Maxthon? What’s the meaning behind this name?
MyIE2 was renamed Maxthon in 2003, based on a suggestion from a user in Ireland. Maxthon is a new word: both “Max” and “thon” denote maximum and superlative, high measures we seek to always uphold.
- How Maxthon did become such sensation in China?
The success of Maxthon rests with the users themselves. Also, Jeff Chen is a programmer with deep roots in – and an appreciation for – the Chinese market and the specific needs of Chinese web surfers. He understands the needs of Maxthon’s international community of users who are the center of Maxthon’s popularity. With this reputation, and based on Jeff’s respect for his fellow users, Maxthon continues to gain market share and recognition around the globe.
- With the release of Maxthon 3, you have introduced WebKit rendering engine. What made you to choose it over Gecko?
We evaluated several rendering engines and ultimately went with WebKit for several key reasons. WebKit’s code is elegant and simple to read – which makes it easier to develop. After reviewing Gecko’s we felt there was no comparison between it and WebKit. Also, WebKit has rapidly become the global standard. For Maxthon, we can add more features and innovations under the WebKit environment.
- What are the advantages and disadvantages of Trident and WebKit rendering engines?
In my [Jeff Chen] Open source is the key difference between Trident and WebKit. WebKit is open source and tends to recognize and support new standards (see: HTML5) more efficiently. More is known about Webkit – which has the effect of making it a bit easier for us to more quicky find and fix bugs that arise. By comparison, Trident is not open source and many of its bugs can only be fixed by Microsoft – which means things break and often stay broken for some time.
- Can you share some details about the upcoming Maxthon release and your vision behind the web browser?
As we move forward with Maxthn 3 we remained focused on 3 major areas: First, improving performance. There are always new gains to be had. For example, we have innovate in part of Web Core (in WebKit) to speed up the parsing of HTML by 300%. Second, user experience. We will continue to seek the best balance between simplicity, ease of use and offering the *right* feature set. Finally, new standards. As HTML 5 evolves we plan to be right in step with it.
- What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned during all those years of development?
The biggest lesson I have learned involves how important and vital having a good dialogue with our users is. That and the need to *always* be seeking to improve performance and speed.
- Do you have any plans to release Maxthon Mobile for Windows Phone or iOS platforms in the feature?
We are currently developing Maxthon Mobile for Windows and the iOS platform. Expect to see IOS first.
Community submitted questions
- What do you think about your competitors?
Currently, there are many kinds of browsers on the global market, such as Google Chrome, Firefox, Opera, and Sogou, as well as the Tencent TT browser and 360 chrome browser in China. The space, especially in China is crowded, diverse and highly competitive. While there will inevitably be a consolidation – reduction in the number of available browsers, I think what is going on now is a good thing. This kind of competition drives us to create even better products and to further innovate.
- How secure is Maxthon 3?
Security is a priority for us, and we have coordinated with many well-known companies in this space. We have an extremely secure database, with a thorough list of phishing sites that can quickly detect malicious sites, especially for the China market, where the threat landscape is often brutal. We also have internal security mechanisms, which can prevent malicious code execution in the user’s machine, variations on sandboxing found only in Maxthon 3. In addition, because our software is developed based on the WebKit rendering engine, most of the malicious plug-in websites are invalid on our browser.
- Is the Chinese Government interfering somehow in your activity? Is Maxthon a reason to fear against privacy issues?
We are a global company with users throughout the world, which means we cannot – and will not – violate the privacy of our users. Also, the Maxthon browser is a network tool, not a content provider. Therefore, it is separate from and independent of the issues typically regulated by the Chinese government.
- How do you see the future of Maxthon, and concretely: the final version of the browser?
There is no final version of the browser because of the ever-changing nature of the Internet. There is no final version of the browser as there is no final version of the Internet.As we move forward we view the browser as the OS of today and the next 5 years, at least. Through this, we will add an even greater range of services to users, not just software.
- What are your thoughts on HTML5? With competitors focusing on HTML5, do you think it’s needed and plays a big role in browser’s today?
We are excited about HTML 5 – both from what it might offer but also how I think it will make the creation of a richer web more easy. We believe HTML5 will have a huge impact on the further development of the Internet. We have already started to develop the technical support for HTML5 and will continue to focus on the development of HTML5 and optimize its support. We will continue to develop our products to ensure a supportive environment for HTML5 and to maintain our advanced technical expertise in this field.
- Can you reduce your setup.exe package to less than 10MB?
Although we can’t promise that we can make data package under 10 MB, we still seek to distinguish ourselves from the competition and deliver the best results for our users worldwide. A big chunk of the install size actually comes from our spell check dictionaries. This is something our users have told us many times they like. And we know from testing it is a pretty well used feature. In general though, we do work hard to keep start-up quick and the code elegant and minimal. But, a good browser is not a simple piece of software and so it gets larger.
- What do you think about the global browser market?
The global browser market is in a period of considerable saturation and likely to see some consolidation, particularly in China. But it does not change the fact that the browser market is headed towards faster, safer and smarter development. The competition between these Internet browsers is enriching and will continue to enrich the web for everyone.
We would like to thank Jeff Chen, Karl Mattson and the rest of Maxthon team for the interview. If you have any questions or feedback, feel free to leave your comment below.
About (Author Profile)
Vygantas is a former web designer whose projects are used by companies such as AMD, NVIDIA and departed Westood Studios. Being passionate about software, Vygantas began his journalism carrier back in 2007 when he founded FavBrowser.com. Having said that, he is also an adrenaline junkie who enjoys good books, fitness activities and Forex trading.