Posted by Abe Sauer on February 21, 2013 11:01 AM
Following the countdown, the launch plans of a Kim Jung-Un lookalike are thwarted by a crashed browser. The dictator grabs a rifle, intent on immediately executing the cadre responsible for the embarrassment. But the fast-fingered lackey whips open a Liebao browser and saves the day. "Use Liebao. Launch Victoriously" reads the tagline. Then everyone starts Gangnam Styling because… of course.
Poking fun at ally North Korea is just the latest little stunt by China's Kingsoft to promote its new Lieboa (猎豹; Cheetah) browser. But is the world ready for a Chinese face on its Internet?
Kingsoft claims Liebao is three times faster than Google's Chrome browser. Since its beta launch in June 2012, Kingsoft has been rolling out tweaks and other plug-ins. Liebao recently hit the news in China after it came under fire for one of its browser plug-ins that helped Chinese users buy Spring Festival ("Chinese New Year") train tickets faster and easier than other travelers. The hot water with the Railway Ministry may have been unpleasant, but the publicity was excellent.
Founded in 1988, Kingsoft (金山软件) went public in 2007. It is well known in China for its anti-virus software and for its free alternative to Microsoft Office called, yes, Kingsoft Office. China tech giant Tencent has a major stake in the company.
Since the Liebao launch, there has been little written about the browser outside of China. Without an English interface, it will likely remain that way. But even if the brand follows the lead of other Chinese tech companies and expands to English (e.g. WeChat aka Weixin) Liebao's global future is unclear. And with recent China hacking scandals and accusations that Chinese telecom company Huawei was untrustworthy—even though the White House cleared it—the browser will face an uphill climb for global acceptance.
One thing is for sure, Kingsoft can expect its market in North Korea is dead.