Chrome is Google’s Latest Jab at Microsoft

Google Chrome Logo
Ever since Google firmly established itself as The One to Beat on the web, the company has become the subject of almost every conceivable product rumor, a surprising number of which either turn out to be true or contain kernels of truth. For example, people speculated for years about Google building an ad-supported “gPhone” mobile phone, when in reality it created an open source mobile operating system called Android for others to use with their hardware.

There were two Google rumors that always seemed too far-fetched to be believable. The first was that Google was creating a complete Linux-based desktop operating system it would give away for free in an effort to poke Microsoft in the eye. While I’ll never underestimate what one company will do to damage a bitter rival, this one seemed very off-mission for the benefits it would produce – just think of all the resources it would take to support such a product.

The other rumor I didn’t believe was that Google was working on its own web browser. While it was more believable than them creating a new operating system, there didn’t seem to be many benefits. Google had a very good relationship with the Mozilla Foundation, basically subsidizing the development of Firefox with ad revenue from the built-in Google search box. And, it could extend both Firefox and Internet Explorer with a variety of plug-ins and extensions, so again, the benefits didn’t seem to outweigh the costs.

As of yesterday, I’m happy to say that I’m wrong about both of those rumors.

Yesterday, Google announced that they are releasing a new open source web browser they’re calling Chrome. The news arrived unconventionally via a comic book you can view online. Here’s a small excerpt:
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Google Chrome By the Google Chrome team, comics adaptation by Scott McCloud

Why a New Browser?

Almost all of Google’s services are accessed through a web browser, so it has become the key to its continued success. And while the renewed competition between Firefox and Internet Explorer have pushed technology forward, the modern browser is still a limitation to Google.

Based on what they’re saying about Chrome in the comic, Google seems to have reinvented and rearchitected the web browser to be the new operating system. Each tab/window in Chrome effectively runs as a separate application, so when one goes wacky, it won’t bring down the others. It integrates the Gears technology to allow for easy offline access to web apps, and features a new JavaScript engine called V8 that allows more things to happen at the same time in order to improve performance.

So, it seems that Google is pushing browser technology forward in order to increase the value of its own online applications and decrease the gap between them and regular desktop applications. Interestingly, last Friday (Aug 29) Google and Mozilla renewed their advertising agreement for another three years, securing Firefox’s existence for at least the short term. I don’t believe their intent is to kill off that browser – that would be incidental. Their main beef is still with Microsoft and its stranglehold on desktop applications. It wants nothing less than to make Microsoft irrelevant.

A preview release of Google Chrome is expected to be made available later today. This is one to keep an eye on, because things suddenly became very interesting.

3 replies on “Chrome is Google’s Latest Jab at Microsoft”

I find it frustrating almost. Isn’t Firefox good enough? I think Google should go after MS’s core programs like office and the OS. I don’t care how. Just give them some real competition. They’ve got too much market share and they don’t seem to innovate…

I’d expect Google to stay online with its apps, with the exception of the offline mode available through Google Gears. I think they could do some interesting things with an operating system, but it seems too far removed from its core business to be justifiable.

I agree that Firefox is good enough – mostly. Apparently its architecture and lots of legacy code make it really hard to make big changes. After playing with Chrome for about 1/2 a day, the one thing advantage is that it’s fast as &#$!. JavaScript performance with web apps is really impressive. And that’s saying something, because I felt that Firefox 3 was a huge improvement over v2. Firefox is supposed to see some big changes here soon though, thanks to the TraceMonkey engine that’s going to be incorporated soon.

So far, the biggest downside of Chrome is the lack of plug-ins and extensions. I rely on many throughout the day, so I don’t see myself making a switch anytime soon.

BTW, nice to see you back here!

Yeah, I’ve been foolin’ with Chrome for what amounts to a day’s worth. Only thing is, due to the uberflow of students, all comcast’s internet services are more overtaxed than usual. So far, it doesn’t seem much better than FF. I’ll let you know when it does.

Thanks, I’m off my web hiatus.

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