UC Browser, which is a popular browser in India with over 500 million downloads globally, has disappeared from the Google Play Store. The reason appears to be misleading campaigns UC Browser was running. China-based UC Browser is the leading mobile browser in India with over 100 million base in the country and has a bigger base than Google Chrome.
If one types UC Browser in the Google Play Store, only the UC Browser mini is listed. Neither Google nor UC Web have issued a statement on why the app was taken. However, Android Police’s founder Artem Russakovskii posted about an email from UC Union (which is the company’s network affiliate) which talks about UC Browser using ‘Malicious Promotion’ methods.
A UC Browser spokesperson, in a statement said, “We were informed by Google Play about temporary removal of UC Browser from the Play Store for 7 days, beginning 13 Nov 2017, under the reason that a certain setting of UC Browser is not in line with Google’s policy. We have conducted an urgent internal investigation and fixed the problem. The new version has been uploaded on Google Play’s Developer Console and is awaiting evaluation. We will actively cooperate with Google Play for any concern caused by this unintentional error. In the meantime, users can still download UC Browser Mini from the Play Store, an alternative version of UC Browser. We thank Google Play for their understanding and support extended to us. UC Browser new product package will be back on Google Play next week and, in the interim, users and partners can download the product from our website http://www.ucweb.com.”
According to a report on Android Central, which has shared contents of the mail, the reason for the take down could be “malicious redirect ads served up by UC Web’s affiliates to inflate installs.” The entire email has been shared on Reddit. Also a Twitter user named Mike Ross, who works with UC Browser posted a tweet explaining the app was taken down for a similar reason.
He wrote, “I work for UC Browser, I got mail today morning it said that UC Browser was temporarily removed from play store for 30 days because it used “Misleading” and “Unhealthy” methods of promotion to increase installs.”
The app take down appears to be temporary and UC Browser should be back in the store after 30 days. Google is taking a strict stance on apps using dubious tricks to increase install base or spread ad malware to steal user information. Google has also introduced a ‘Verified by Play Protect’ feature, which aims to keep out harmful apps from a user’s phone.