Google’s Chrome: A New Front In The Browser War
There’s a book on my bookshelf called How The Web Was Won which documents how Microsoft dispatched Netscape back in the Web 1.0 days. It’s definitely worth a read to see how Microsoft pivoted 180 degrees and why Internet Explorer – for better or worse – is still considered the “standard” web browser.
But I’ll add that since 2002 or so – when it was still called Phoenix – I’ve been a Firefox user. We’ve all watched Firefox steadily gain features and market share until today, when it seems that give and take a few more years, Firefox will usurp IE.
Well, I guess this waiting-years-thing to dispatch IE wasn’t fast enough for Google.
In one fell swoop, they’ve changed the web playing field dramatically. I’m reminded of how Google originally came to everyone’s attention by redefining search – Microsoft, Yahoo!, and others thought they had it wrapped up and were busy creating overloaded portals. Google came in with a stark, minimalist page with nothing but a search box, delivered accurate and fast results, and showed everyone there was a better way.
Now they’re doing the same thing with the stark, clean Chrome web browser.
The second big deal is their intent to build an OS for web apps, just as Windows is the OS for desktop apps. Notable is how one can drag a tab out of the browser and onto the desktop, creating an icon that behaves like a desktop app. Gmail, Google Reader, and the other Google docs are the obvious beneficiaries of this approach. When one considers how Google has several apps that they want everyone to use, it becomes clear that they would like to control the “OS” as well. Before, they were developing for the Firefox, IE, and Safari “OSes.”
The last point I’d like to make is – at least as far as I’m concerned – web apps aren’t part of my daily work flow – and certainly mainstream users are even “worse.” While I use the browser a lot of web surfing, I’m still very desktop-app centric.
- Although I use GMail, I only use it to read web mail while at work or at another computer. I still download everything using Apple’s Mail every day without fail.
- Although I use WordPress and occasionally Google Docs to craft blog posts, I still do the vast majority of my writing in SimpleText and copy and paste into the web interface.
- Although I’m a web designer I still do all my development locally using TextWrangler, Flash, Photoshop, Fireworks, or Dreamweaver.
And then there are the programs where there just isn’t any web equivalent. I won’t be syncing my iPhone or using Chrome to stream media to the Apple TV any time soon.
I’m also concerned with security, data redundancy, and it just seems so darned wasteful to have bits shuttling from the desktop to the web. Perhaps I’m behind the curve here, but the larger point is – if my mind has to be changed, you can bet Joe Average is miles behind me. So I don’t think the web app capability or the tabs are going to matter to most users today. Most important is the clean interface and speed. Hopefully Google will stay ahead on this front.
Lastly, this battle is just getting started. Google has not won this game, set, and match by any means. More likely we’ll see a blossoming of a new “browser war” that will last several years, between IE, Safari, and Firefox, shifting features to take each other on. Those companies aren’t going to take this sitting down since there is so much at stake.
And let’s not kid ourselves: Google’s master plan is to control and increase the bottom line. Faster browsing means more ad dollars. Heck, they may even subtly tweak things to promote their own web apps and their ads over others. Yes, I am currently enamored with Google and their products, but I cannot name a single corporation that wasn’t corrupted by power over time. I’m a little wary of the amount of power we’re handing Google just by switching from Firefox to Chrome. Just consider: what are the implications for the rest of Web 2.0 if Google decides to integrate social networking into Chrome (how could they resist)?
So this is the first salvo in the web browser war many of us thought was over. Choose your side wisely. And the prize may finally, at last, be the OS for this cloud computing thing people have been predicting since 1999.