Why it matters: China has been trying to move away from its reliance on foreign companies and produce more of its own technology—more so since the trade war with the US—but a local start-up that claims to have created the country’s first homegrown browser has been found to be using source files copied from Google Chrome.
Redcore, which was previously known as AllMobilize Inc., claimed its web browser was the only one to be fully made in China, and that it would break the United States’ “monopoly” on software. It even mentioned the browser’s “independent intellectual property rights.”
However, Chinese users discovered some surprising files in the Redcore browser’s installation directory, including ‘Chrome.exe’ and several image files of the Chrome logo. The Financial Times and China’s Caixin have verified the findings, with the former discovering parts of Chrome 49 being used in Redcore.
Company founder Gao Jing has admitted that Redcore is based on Chrome but defended the browser following a public outcry. “Redcore has Chrome [elements] in it”, she said. “But this is not plagiarism; rather, we are standing on the shoulders of a giant for our own innovation.” The option to download the Redcore browser has since been removed from the company’s website.
Redcore claims that its browser is used by parts of the Chinese government and state-owned companies, but the firm could face trouble after it raised $36.2 million in funding from investors, including "large listed companies and government customers,” a day before the discoveries were made. The latest round brings the total fundraising figure up to $60 million since 2013.
Using Chrome’s open-source elements isn’t the issues—other Chinese browsers use Chrome’s Blink engine. The problem is that Redcore failed to disclose this fact and promoted its browser as being fully homegrown, something that has angered many Chinese social media users.