Browser War Gains New Front With Google Chrome

September 2, 2008 at 10:23 am | Posted in Browsers | Leave a comment

The browser wars have flared up again as the Wall St. Journal reports Google has entered the field with an open source, beta (of course) browser called Chrome. I last looked at browser market share in February (see my posting IE is Still Beating Mozilla and Generalissimo Francisco Franco is Still Dead). I found that little had changed since my browser study three years ago. With Google entering the race, the question is whether this might finally be the disrupter.

For the end user, Google makes its case (in a surprisingly informative comic book, one page off which I’ve attached below) by stating its browser is more stable, faster, and secure than other browsers because they’ve architected theirs better (better transparency for identifying slow processes, multi-threaded means smarter freeing up of garbage collected memory and a sandbox to isolate JavaScript rendering bugs, better automated testing on sites ranked highly by Google, better JavaScript interpreters with native execution instead of p-code and improved garbage collection).

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According to the comic, Google also rethought the UI, placing tabs at the top of pages, altering behavior of the URL bar, and adding a portal-like concept on the home page that shows recent pages browsed.

That is well and good for the external audience, but what does this do for Google beyond poking Microsoft in the eye? One benefit to the Googleplex and its investors is that their browser supports Google Gears, their plug-ins/downloadable API extensions. But then again, Gears can run in other browsers too. The WSJ hinted this was the case and added another possible benefit in creating saleable real estate: “They can use the precious screen real estate to promote their own Web services. Moreover, they can tailor their browsers to ensure compatibility with their other products.” Browsers are really vehicles for controlling standards (often around rich internet applications) and creating demand for new property (like the search bar that helps support Firefox).

So, how does it really work? Beats me – maybe by “released today” they mean “released at midnight today”. Strangely, gears.google.com/chrome redirects to www.google.com. Their “trends” site shows “download google chrome” is a top search, but again redirects to the Google homepage. No press articles point to the browser, and searches on Google come up with nothing. I’ll let you know what I think when I get to play around with it.

Will Google succeed? I’m generally not afraid to go out on a limb, but I’ve got way too little information to assess that right now. I would like to see a more efficient and stable browsing platform and maybe Google will be it or spur others to respond in kind. But in an article last week in the Economist about how Google’s Lively virtual world isn’t seeming very lively these days, they summarized Google’s record: “for all its might, Google’s efforts to diversify beyond its sole money-making business, web search, have yet to set the world—real or virtual—on fire.”

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