Google to Release Web Browser Tuesday; Should Microsoft Worry, or Mozilla?

Posted by: Rob Hof on September 1, 2008

In its latest bid to remain ascendant on the Internet, Google is about to release its own Web browser, long a key online battleground. It just announced its plans for the browser, dubbed Chrome, briefly on its official blog, so its ultimate intentions are not yet clear. But the Web browser more than ever has become the one indispensable product—even if it’s free—for anyone using the Internet. So it’s clear that Google is looking to firm up its ever-growing online presence—especially vs. Microsoft, maker of the dominant browser Internet Explorer. (Chrome was first reported by the blog Google Blogoscoped, which in an odd publicity tactic on Google’s part received a comic book in the mail outlining the product.)

This is a very interesting if long-rumored move, since it pits Google all the more directly against Microsoft in a battle for preeminence on the Web. Some folks such as Kara Swisher think it turns what she calls a Cold War between the two behemoths red-hot.

However, I think the war got pretty hot many months if not years ago, as Google released its own, Web-based office-productivity software and Microsoft tried to buy Yahoo, among many other moves aimed at thwarting Google’s seemingly unstoppable march. So while there will be much sturm und drang about Google making yet another bid for a crucial piece of people’s online lives, I actually think this represents more of the same of Google’s standard operating procedure: Throw stuff out there, see what sticks, and then run with what ends up catching on.

chrome.jpg
Indeed, the missive just posted on Google’s main blog pretty much confirms that Google is throwing this out early (along with the comic book, which went out early by accident) to the open-source community, which will be able to use the code to create yet more new and different browsers, to see what they can do with it. According to Sundar Pichai, Google’s VP of product management, and Linus Upson, the engineering director:

So why are we launching Google Chrome? Because we believe we can add value for users and, at the same time, help drive innovation on the web.

All of us at Google spend much of our time working inside a browser. We search, chat, email and collaborate in a browser. And in our spare time, we shop, bank, read news and keep in touch with friends — all using a browser. Because we spend so much time online, we began seriously thinking about what kind of browser could exist if we started from scratch and built on the best elements out there. We realized that the web had evolved from mainly simple text pages to rich, interactive applications and that we needed to completely rethink the browser. What we really needed was not just a browser, but also a modern platform for web pages and applications, and that’s what we set out to build.

On the surface, we designed a browser window that is streamlined and simple. To most people, it isn’t the browser that matters. It’s only a tool to run the important stuff — the pages, sites and applications that make up the web. Like the classic Google homepage, Google Chrome is clean and fast. It gets out of your way and gets you where you want to go.

Under the hood, we were able to build the foundation of a browser that runs today’s complex web applications much better. By keeping each tab in an isolated “sandbox”, we were able to prevent one tab from crashing another and provide improved protection from rogue sites. We improved speed and responsiveness across the board. We also built a more powerful JavaScript engine, V8, to power the next generation of web applications that aren’t even possible in today’s browsers.

This is just the beginning — Google Chrome is far from done. We’re releasing this beta for Windows to start the broader discussion and hear from you as quickly as possible. We’re hard at work building versions for Mac and Linux too, and will continue to make it even faster and more robust.

We owe a great debt to many open source projects, and we’re committed to continuing on their path. We’ve used components from Apple’s WebKit and Mozilla’s Firefox, among others — and in that spirit, we are making all of our code open source as well. We hope to collaborate with the entire community to help drive the web forward.

The web gets better with more options and innovation. Google Chrome is another option, and we hope it contributes to making the web even better.

So check in again tomorrow to try Google Chrome for yourself. We’ll post an update here as soon as it’s ready.


All that said, Google clearly must feel pressure from Microsoft, particularly with the recent release of its Internet Explorer 8, which includes features intended to blunt Google’s inexorable growth in search market share. The new IE allows people to block information collection that helps Google place more relevant ads, has links to Microsoft services, and offers a better, Microsoft-oriented search toolbar.

Ultimately, if Google’s browser does indeed work better on all the stuff people do online besides browse, that’s going to be a good thing for all of us—if only because it will goad Microsoft, Firefox creator Mozilla, and others to innovate faster.

And judging from Google’s stated intention here to create a “modern platform for Web pages and applications,” its ambitions seem to come close to the “Google operating system” that many people have speculated Google ultimately wants to build. That’s what entrepreneur John Furrier thinks is at work here. It’s not just Google vs. Microsoft here. It’s the entire Web way against desktop computing, maybe for the final showdown.

At the very least, I wouldn’t be surprised if Chrome finds its way onto mobile devices. If it’s as simple, stripped-down, and fast as that post implies—and as a nice summary of the features from ReadWriteWeb illustrates—it’s readymade for mobile devices, the next great online battleground.

Already, Google CEO Eric Schmidt has noted that the iPhone produces way more searches than any other mobile device simply because it uses a real browser. That just shows much demand there would be for a browser that works even faster on the mobile devices that are increasingly the way most people will get their daily information.

However, in the short term, the bigger impact could be on Firefox, more than on Microsoft’s IE—despite the fact that Google recently committed to supporting Firefox for years to come. Many of the people inclined to use something other than the often-default IE on their PCs probably have switched already, though Firefox is continuing to gain share. So I wonder if the switchers are more inclined to abandon Firefox than the IE they already abandoned. Mainstream users who haven’t bothered to switch from IE, and many who never will, probably won’t go for either Firefox or Chrome in whatever versions eventually come out.

Of course, Google doesn’t succeed on every product by any means, even if the press and early adopters always assume they do when they’re released. Google Apps are not yet a runaway hit, at least not with large companies. The Google shopping site Froogle, Google Checkout, the social network Orkut, and others have not set the world on fire either. We’ll see which one Chrome turns out to be. (Don’t be surprised to see a spate of blog posts after Chrome is available for download saying how much it sucks.)

But that may not matter in the end. If Google can offer up an example of a better browser, if it can disrupt the current way of doing things so that incumbents must scramble, it will give itself a better chance to thwart Microsoft’s classic grind-‘em-down-slowly strategy. And the way of the Web will be one step closer to the prevailing mode of computing.

Reader Comments

Rolf Bork

September 2, 2008 2:34 AM

"Google all the more directly against Microsoft in a battle for preeminence on the Web"...I think it is much more and it is a matter of time for Google to launch a consumer&business DATABASE management revolution. Why not have same USER INTERFACE for local database (or personal cloud) and the open internet. It would be the extension of SEARCH....intelligent management of WHAT YOU FOUND WORTH KEEPING.
Would love Google to create a tool that allows consumers to create personalized and PRIVATE internet-like database where I could combine public info extracts with private data (health and all personal multimedia and business records).
Google might be addressing the next step after SEARCH : optimize USE of what you FOUND....and make DIGITAL HOME/OFFICE get the same look and feel as Googles INTERNET.
Think a little further on this path and Google might target OPERATING SYSTEMS for the NETWORKED WORLD....replacing established systems (desktop/handy legacy) on a wider scope.
Rolf Bork, BOD mediaf.com & sensitivetech.com

Fahad Khan

September 2, 2008 3:04 AM

Impressive analysis Rob! Last two paragraphs are the key takeaways. It may seem insurmountable to disrupt the browser market at this stage but it is possible. On the other hand, it is highly unlikely.

It will be the relative advantage of Chrome that will make it or break it as a disruptive innovation. It must have features that can help evolve browser as a platform and into a different technological trajectory - Just as iPhone did, a new platform, a new experience, and most importantly a new technological trajectory.

If Chrome is not able to do to browser market what iPhone did to the cell phone market, it will be yet another deferred (Google) dream. Yet another Orkut. Yet another Froogle.

Lastly, I'd like to note that if Chrome is not an instant hit, it will make the mighty Google OS highly unlikely.

Free Manchu

September 2, 2008 3:58 AM

I will be very careful not to be monitored by Google!

Devin Serpa

September 2, 2008 4:34 AM

Yay :D

m.r.

September 2, 2008 4:36 AM

if the S/E is good and better than the
others,CHROME will become the default choice! simple as that!

GD38

September 2, 2008 6:47 AM

(Tech Level: Somewhat High) I use Firefox. It's not perfect (no product is) but it is really good and markedly better than IE. But instead of focusing on better browsers, I'd like to see a better marriage between watching online video and my TV. Watching old TV episodes for free is starting to increase in popularity with me. It got more so when I switched from a DSL connection to a broadband one but it is still klunky. Can a browser fix that? I know it is one piece of the puzzle but I know it is also partly a bandwidth issue and server communication protocols. I think I'll hold off on Chrome until it runs the sort of life cycle Firefox has. Firefox benefited greatly from the open source community. I'll wait until the hardcore tech users blog that Chrome is a must have. Just like they did with Mozilla.

Nitin Gupta

September 2, 2008 7:01 AM

Google has truly been on the top when it comes to the Internet. Google has invented stuff that put others to think what all is possible on internet for a normal human being.

Google has created the integrated suites of products online - thats quite speedy and usable for normal person.

The announcement of web browser is one leap forward to give all to users in one window on what all users will ask for. Also, am very sure, google will integrate it with its open source Mobile OS initiative - giving intergrated internet app on your mobile desktop.

Though good for Google and for internet users will be to take up Mozilla engine or Opera engine and create the browser interface around it. Or atleast come up with a finished product in partnership with them.

It will maintain stabilize the trust in web browsers for me atleast.

Like always, wish google all the best. Looking forward to the browser. I will volunteer to test it, if required :)

jorge

September 2, 2008 7:35 AM

wow, this news is shocking.

But, i don't think google is trying to kill iexplorer but the rest of the browser, mainly firefox.

K Hanson

September 2, 2008 8:08 AM

Google has no choice because Microsoft will continue to tweak IE in ways that block or thwart Google use. Microsoft's aggressive use of it OS and browser to favor its other products forces Google and everyone else to find ways (Linux) to avoid Microsoft. Microsoft has never played fair or well with others, so they have to do what they have to do in order to survive.

ed

September 2, 2008 8:22 AM

lookin foreward to it!!!

Stanley Miller

September 2, 2008 9:35 AM

What could Google possibly bring to the browser market that doesn't already exist? Safari, Mozilla & IE seem to cover all bases. I don't understand what the big G's planing but it will be interesting.

--
Making The Game
friendfighter.blogspot.com

Harsha Raghavan

September 2, 2008 10:20 AM

How powerful do you think Google can become over my browsing habits, if it starts controlling the program that delivers the net to me?

I'm scared.

Mike Reardon

September 2, 2008 11:05 AM

It looks like it will be the perfect business center device running 9 operation at one time.

LunarRyder

September 2, 2008 11:37 AM

just buy one!

Jair Mendes

September 2, 2008 11:49 AM

This is great news... it will only force microsoft to keep releasing newer versions of internet explorer. IE 8 Beta is just amazing so I can't wait to see what else microsoft can add when it piggy backs off Firefox, Safari and now Chrome.

Chuck G.

September 2, 2008 1:40 PM

Cool deal. It'll be good to see a real third/fourth contender in the browser market. It could open up more innovation and be good for the entire browsing experience no matter who's browser you use. As for Free Manchu's comment...I hope you are not part of the group of people who are scared of website analysis and that was a joke...being scare that a website or browser knows your isp is like being scared to give your zip code to a cashier. Sadly, there are people I see when shopping that honestly freak out when asked their zip code, as if the store will drop a load of clothes on their town or something o_0.

Wade

September 2, 2008 3:01 PM

It's out as of around 2:45pm EST

achal

September 2, 2008 3:55 PM

Already released. Download it today.

Tom

September 2, 2008 5:31 PM

who cares if there launching a web browser. IE will always dominant has microsoft IE browser is defaulted to millions of PC users computers. :)

Also Iphone 3G is having so many complaints ha ha I love it. Windows Mobile Smartphone are the best and more reliable. Thanks Bill Gates for making my business needs efficient.

Kevin

September 2, 2008 6:02 PM

Just downloaded Chrome and what so good about the web browser? it looks plain and simple for me. I do not see anything of a threat to the IE. I can't wait until IE 8 comes out. It should still be the best browser for PC market.
I also found out on Chrome history you can delete certain history and it only gives you option to erase all history only which is not good. IE you can select which history to delete. Also I laugh at there Icon of Chrome. It looks like that toy Simon Says. Ha ha ha ha...

haha

September 3, 2008 3:03 AM

@kevin
seems you dont know about any other browser, there is this firefox, you should try. come out of microsoft office and see the world.
IE 8 is 10 times slower than chrome. and firefox is 2 times slower than chrome.

So actually somehow IE has the market share (due to of course monopolistic practices) , though i am sure google will come with an OS too then see microsoft struggling.

I dont think google did anything great here, but the very fact that so many open source projects have been integerated and an excellent product created is worth an applaud.

Rolf Bork

September 3, 2008 5:08 AM

Re "How powerful do you think Google can become over my browsing habits, if it starts controlling the program that delivers the net to me?

I'm scared."

Would assume that a consumer centric player like Google will enable CUSTOMER CONTROL over privacy....how else would ehealth work. Software technology architecture that can combine "adaptive internet" with security&privacy is described in David Taylor' s "Object Technology (A Manager's Guide)" 1998.
Somehow I have the impression that Google has developed all technology pieces to be able to implement all the concepts David Taylor was describing ( also new generation of databases).
Rolf Bork, BOD mediaf.com & sensitivetech.com

Vishu Rastogi

September 3, 2008 6:06 AM

Well Point taken Rob! Even as i am thinking of downloading Chrome, i just had a thought in mind of doing away with "Mozilla".
You see most of us for Offical reasons still use IE.It's not the question of what we like.. that always matters.

So you can always see who's the clear winner, untill MS is all pervasive and prevailing with it's "WINDOWS"!

David Gerard

September 7, 2008 6:00 PM

"We are so, so happy with Google Chrome," mumbled Mozilla CEO John Lilly through gritted teeth. "That most of our income is from Google has no bearing on me making this statement." http://tinyurl.com/6eq2sz

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Bloomberg Businessweek writers Peter Burrows, Cliff Edwards, Olga Kharif, Aaron Ricadela, and Douglas MacMillan, dig behind the headlines to analyze what’s really happening throughout the world of technology. Tech Beat covers everything from tech bellwethers like Apple, Google, and Intel and emerging new leaders such as Facebook to new technologies, trends, and controversies.

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