cross-legged-internet-legs-5279.jpg
(Credit: Stokpic)

From UCWeb -- a subsidiary of Alibaba Group -- the creation of UC Browser goes back to the relatively distant past of 2004. The current version of UC Browser positions itself as a fast, resource-light web browser. And while UC Browser is one of the most popular browsers in the world by usage and tries to be all things to all people, it ultimately failing to excel in any one area.

The web browser does have pluses. The download speeds of UC Browser are on the faster side, and it handles concurrent downloads, making it one to consider for a certain type of user.

However, one of the concerns raised about UC Browser over the years is that it's not as secure as other browsers, and we share those concerns.

Web browser speed

UC Browser is a reasonably fast browser on Windows and the Mac, although it certainly doesn't take the crown from the web's faster browsers, including Mozilla's Firefox Quantum. UC Browser achieves its speed gains through data compression on the server side to squeeze the data before it's sent to the user. UC Browser also loads frequently used web pages ahead of time, in full or in part, and combined with the data compression this reduces the amount of data flowing to the web browser, the company claims.

One area where users sing UC Browser's praises is in the area of downloads. The web browser's download manager handles simultaneous downloads and allows the user to pause and then resume downloads. In our informal tests we couldn't see much of a speed or feature benefit, but fans of the browser are outspoken about UC Browser's download capabilities.

Privacy and security concerns

Several security firms and universities suggest that UC Browser is, at its heart, an unsecure browser. You can find multiple sources that show UC Browser has a host of security susceptibilities and that the browser uses outdated cryptography and SSL protocols. Further, there is evidence that UC Browser leaks important data or makes it vulnerable to hackers. This includes issues raised by the University of Toronto (you can read its concerns here). And a few years ago, Google pulled the browser from its Play Store for a week because of a policy violation.

SEE: Stay private and protected with the best Firefox security extensions

Little ad filtering

UC Browser doesn't block ads like Brave or Firefox, so if ad-blocking is a priority then UC Browser is a web browser to avoid.

Interface

UC Browser's interface is not as intuitive as its main competitors, although it's certainly not complicated. History, bookmarks, settings and extensions are all available from a menu at the upper right of the browser. It lacks the security settings that many other trusted browsers offer. Ad blocking is available, although we found the system to be cumbersome, often requiring custom ad-blocking rules to be put into place to achieve a consistent level of blocking.

Pros

  • Speed. UC Browser is a reasonably fast browser.
  • Customizable interface. UC Browser's interface can be customized easily.

Cons

  • Lax privacy and security. With a large number of concerns raised about the safety and privacy of this web browser, it should be used with caution if privacy and encryption are any concern.
  • Lacks anti-tracking. UC Browser features no anti-tracking or anti-phishing options.

Bottom line

While UC Browser has a large international following, we have concerns about its approach to user privacy and security, with universities and security researchers reporting that UC Browser may be negligent in protecting its users. For anyone concerned about privacy, this is likely not the browser for you.

Competitive products

  • Google Chrome. Google's browser (download on Windows and Mac) is the most used in the world.
  • Firefox Quantum. Mozilla's flagship product (download on Windows and Mac) is arguably the fastest and most secure of the major browsers.
  • Safari. Apple's signature browser (download on Mac), just for the Mac.
  • Opera. A browser with fewer features (download on Windows and Mac) but good for slower internet connections.
  • Brave. A new browser (download for Windows and Mac) with a focus on privacy and an interesting way of compensating websites.

FOLLOW Download.com on Twitter for all the latest app news.Read more

Read more

Bart G. Farkas is an author and writer and has more than 100 print gaming strategy guides to his name. He has been writing about gaming and technology for over 20 years in numerous magazines. He has also written more than a dozen non-gaming technology books and writes the odd romance novel when so moved. Bart lives in Alberta, Canada.