Dolphin, the Sequoia Capital-backed mobile browser maker, has inked strategic partnerships with four search engines to drive its global expansion. They are Yandex in Russia, Baidu in China, Yahoo! Japan, each the top search engine in their respective countries, and Duck Duck Go, an anonymous search engine based in the U.S. Dolphin also released an update to its Android version that adds new content discovery functions and customization options tailored to different countries.
Most of Dolphin’s 80 million users are in the U.S., China and Japan, but the browser also counts Indonesia and India among its fastest growing markets. Edith Yeung, Dolphin’s Vice President of Business Development, tells me the startup wants to grab users in emerging markets by making it easy for them to access games, news, music and social networking services through the mobile browser. People who don’t have a credit card or limited data plans can bypass Google Play and native apps in favor of the Dolphin Web apps store, which includes offerings made by developers participating in the Dolphin Garage program.
“It doesn’t matter if they see Dolphin as a browser or an entertainment center. We want them to open it up and see everything they need to browse, play music or check sports,” says Yeung.
Dolphin is among several mobile browser makers focused on markets where many Internet users are skipping PCs and accessing the Web solely through their mobile devices, but strategies differ widely between companies. Several of Dolphin’s main competitors are focusing on hardware. For example, Mozilla partnered with Chinese manfacturer ZTE to make a Firefox OS smartphone, while Maxthon recently signed a deal with mobile chip maker MediaTek to preload its browser onto 100 million mobile devices.
Dolphin’s decision to partner with content providers instead of OEMs is part of a strategy to reach the younger users who are early-adopters of online services, says Yeung, as well as people in markets where smartphones are frequently sold without preloaded apps. In Indonesia, for example, many shoppers ask retailers to help them select and install apps onto newly purchased devices.
The latest update to Dolphin’s Android browser, which now supports 21 languages, lets users select custom themes, backgrounds and colors in the same way they would for their smartphone’s OS. The browser’s new vertical search options are tailored for different markets. For example, Korean pop music is popular in Southeast Asia, so Dolphin’s version for that region makes it easy for users to stream tracks. India’s built-in content, on the other hand, includes information about cricket scores and Bollywood movies.