After gaining attention for raising an RMB 250 million Series C from “large public traded companies and government agencies,” Chinese netizens have discovered that “100% China developed” Redcore (红芯) browser actually borrows extensively from Google’s open-source Chromium project.
Update: The company behind the browser has apologized for “some degree of exaggeration” in their claims.
The browser targets enterprise clients and, according to release on Redcore’s official WeChat account, the company has formed partnerships with quite a few big names. Its clients include state agencies such as the State Council of China and National Bureau of Statistics as well as large Chinese corporates like automobile company BYD and oil and gas company PetroChina. Chengxing capital (晨兴资本), Fortune Capital (达晨创投), and IDG Capital invested in Redcore in the series C funding.
Redcore is marketing the browser as having high levels of security baked in for domestic clients since most major browser engine on the market are all developed in the U.S.
A browser engine is the core of a web browser that renders web documents, usually HTML, and other resources and displays them on screen. The major browser engines are Internet Explorer’s Trident developed by Microsoft, Chrome’s Blink by Google, Safari’s WebKit by Apple, and Firefox’s Gecko by Mozilla. No Chinese browsers have developed their own browser engine, and therefore, it quickly drew attention from Chinese geek community when Redcore said it has developed its own.
A verified web developer on Weibo dissected Redcore’s installing package and application, and found quite a bit of evidence that shows “Redcore is just another Chromium browser with a different user interface design.”
Chen Benfeng, founder and CEO of Redcore, responded to local media and admitted that the Redcore browser is based on the browser engine of Google’s Chromium, but insisted they have adapted it to meet the demands of Chinese clients. Links to download the browser were taken down at the time of publishing the story.
The scandal reminds netizens of a similar incident in 2003 when the dean of School of Microelectronics at Shanghai Jiaotong University claimed to have developed China’s first digital signal processing microchip, which later was found out to be a chip developed by Motorola with the trademark sanded away.