/// What’s Next in the Mobile Browser War? Actual Revenue.
Phone image copyright Vepar5 The 20-year war for control of the browser has spurred huge advances in desktop, and now mobile, technologies. Yet Web giants like Google, Microsoft and Apple still haven’t figured out how to make the browser a profit center. Sure, Chrome plays a key role in Google’s overall multibillion-dollar search ad business, and Microsoft and Yahoo have monetized their browsers through ad-supported portals, to varying degrees of success, for over a decade. But the browser itself has mostly been treated as a free software tool. Now, the meteoric rise in mobile Internet usage presents a new opportunity for technology companies to re-envision the browser not just as a free tool, but as a revenue generator. Apple, Google, Opera and other players are trying to figure out new browser monetization models uniquely suited to mobile devices. So far, in the U.S. at least, there is little consensus, and most mobile browsers are still just rudimentary Internet access tools. But if U.S. players want to figure out how to monetize the browser, they only have to look to China — the world’s largest and most advanced mobile market. There were about 354 million smartphones in use in China in 2012, compared to 219 million in the U.S., according to research from Informa . And most Chinese consumers prefer smartphones over desktops to access the Web. At the end of 2012, 75 percent of Chinese Internet users accessed the Web from their mobile devices, up from just 28 percent five years earlier. In China, my company, UCWeb, and other technology companies have come up with innovative ways to monetize the mobile browser. In particular, the mobile browser has become an entryway for e-commerce, gaming and video, with browser makers generating profits through revenue-sharing with e-commerce sites, games developers and publishers instead of through interruptive advertising. For Chinese consumers, the mobile browser isn’t just an entry point to the Internet, but is instead an “integrated service platform.” U.S. companies could learn a lot from China when it comes to mobile monetization in general. Huge Internet players like Tencent and Baidu, as well as emerging mobile-first companies like YY and Meilishuo , are generating profits not primarily from advertising — which most consumers find disruptive and invasive on their mobile devices — but from revenue-sharing, freemium and tiered subscriber pricing. (These monetization models are common in the games industry in the U.S., but are rare when it comes to the mobile Internet.) One of the reasons a browser-centric mobile experience works in China is that Chinese consumers have gravitated toward the mobile Internet, whereas U.S.