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UC Browser removed from the Google Play Store

Update: A statement from UC Browser:

“We were informed by Google Play about temporary removal of UC Browser from the Play Store for 7 days, beginning 13 Nov 2017, under the reason that a certain setting of UC Browser is not in line with Google’s policy. We have conducted an urgent internal investigation and fixed the problem. The new version has been uploaded on Google Play’s Developer Console and is awaiting evaluation. We will actively cooperate with Google Play for any concern caused by this unintentional error. In the meantime, users can still download UC Browser Mini from the Play Store, an alternative version of UC Browser.  We thank Google Play for their understanding and support extended to us. UC Browser new product package will be back on Google Play next week and, in the interim, users and partners can download the product from our website http://www.ucweb.com.”

Earlier today: Alibaba owned UC Browser, the largest browser in India by usage, appears to have disappeared from the Google Play Store. The browser is still functional. UC Web claims over 100 million users.

While UC Mini, which is a lightweight version of the browser still remains on the Play Store, the primary browser is missing. A link on UC Web still allows for a direct download of the app, but this is what you get when you click on the Google Play Store link:

This development was first reported by Redditors, and subsequently by Android Authority. Note that it has been 20 hours since the Reddit post, and the browser still hasn’t gone up, so this serious. MediaNama has written to Google India and UC Web for comments. UC Web said that they’d get back to us with a statement. Note that UC Browser Mini and UC News, two other apps which the company has deployed in India, are still on the play store.

Google’s Chrome browser competes for dominance in India with UC Browser, and the gap between the two is narrowing. At the end of October 2017, Chrome was at around 35% of browser market share, while UC Browser had around 45%:

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Source: StatCounter Global Stats – Browser Market Share

One possible bone of contention between the two could be that UC Browser incorporates ad-blocking features, in built. Last year, Pagefair had reported that around 122 million people in India use browsers with ad-blockers. This, of course, has a direct impact on Google’s core business. However, Google is itself planning to launch a version of Chrome with ad “filtering”.

There were concerns in India that UC Browser was sending data to China, and it might not be allowed to function in India. It’s not clear on what grounds, if at all, the government could have banned it, and if it had been, it would have been removed from the Play Store in India alone. However, we checked on the Play Store using a VPN, and the browser seems to have disappeared from the store at a global level: this isn’t just India alone.

We’ll have more when we hear from Google and UC Web.

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Written By

Founder @ MediaNama. TED Fellow. Asia21 Fellow @ Asia Society. Co-founder SaveTheInternet.in and Internet Freedom Foundation. Advisory board @ CyberBRICS

MediaNama’s mission is to help build a digital ecosystem which is open, fair, global and competitive.

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