As an extension of its “Aatmanirbharta” (self-sufficiency) pitch, the Indian government has launched a programme to support indigenously built web browsers that will compete with the likes of Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox, Microsoft Edge, Opera, and others.
The web browser development challenge has lined up financial grants totalling more than Rs 3 crore and will be monitored by the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology and its constituent departments.
“As the country sets on a path to become the third-largest economy in the world, it is important that we have control over our digital destiny. We don’t want to be dependent on foreign web browsers in areas where the security and safety of citizens is paramount… Atmanirbharta should be there in web browsers as well,” said an official.
According to sources, the government sees this programme as giving it bargaining power to convince major US browser companies like Google and Mozilla Firefox to include the country’s web security certification authority in their ‘trust stores’.
A browser’s trust store or root store contains a list of certification authorities whose certificates can be trusted. Currently, top browsers like Google Chrome and Mozilla Firefox do not include India’s official certifying agency in their root stores.
In India’s massive internet market of around 850 million users, Google Chrome is the clear leader with an 88.47 percent market share, according to Similarweb data for July. Safari is the runner-up with 5.22 percent, followed by Microsoft Edge at 2 percent, Samsung Internet at 1.5 percent, Mozilla Firefox at 1.28 percent, and others at 1.53 percent.
The government expects the development and launch of indigenous web browsers to be completed by the end of 2024. It has invited domestic startups, academic institutions, and corporations to participate in the programme, and will provide support to the selected pitches throughout the development process.
“The government will also help in the adoption of the domestic web browsers. They will not only be required to be Web3 compliant and enable digital signatures through crypto tokens, but also have indigenous features like support of Indian languages,” said another government official.