So the cat is out of the bag early. Google will be launching it’s own open source web browser called Google Chrome (as of Sep 2 in Singapore, this link doesn’t work yet). It has since been confirmed on Google’s official blog.
Give credit where credit is due: The news originally broke from Germany-based Philip Lenssen, who received a 39-page comic book in the mail talking about this new web browser. His website has been up and down all day due to overwhelming traffic.
Why was Philip the only guy who received the comic book? Well apparently, Google sent out all these copies of the comic book to various tech bloggers and expected all of them to arrive after Labor day in the US (Sep 1), since the US postal service doesn’t operate on public holidays. However, the post office does open in Germany, and thus Philip was serendipitously given an early scoop.
As powerful as Google is, they do not control worldwide postal service… yet.
And using a comic book to market a new technology product? Brilliant. Whatever you say, Google sure knows what buttons to push to excite and motivate geeks.
Believe it or not, in the span of a little more than 10 hours, the Google Chrome web browser has already been covered ad nauseam over the Internet.
I won’t talk about what Google Chrome means or how it works or what it will include. You can read all about it from many other wonderful folks like Dare Obasanjo, John Furrier, Mathew Ingram, ReadWriteWeb and BoomTown. And don’t forget to read the comic.
However, here are my observations on Google Chrome which I haven’t really seen addressed anywhere yet:
I’ve found some initial screen shots of the Google Chrome web browser from ElectricPig, which seem legitimate to me. However, is it just me, or does the UI look quite a bit too simple and underwhelming?
This is not necessarily a bad thing, since Google absolutely has to get most of the back-end stuff right the first time. But it just means that for now, from a user’s point of view, Google Chrome is perhaps only a marginal improvement in user experience (if any at all), compared to what I can currently do with Firefox/Internet Explorer + plugins.
Things like pr0n mode, the OmniBox, and even screen thumbnails to some extent are things that can already be done in Firefox with the right extensions.
Let’s just hope that the speed and stability improvements in Chrome can be the game changer as far as user experience is concerned (not that Firefox 3 has really crashed on me very often).
Update: More screen shots available from Google Blogoscoped.
Buy vs. Build
Jeremiah Owyang openly wonders on Twitter why Google, wanting to do an open source web browser, decided to build their own from scratch instead of building/buying/enhancing what Mozilla/Firefox already provided.
To me the answer is pretty simple:
- Hardcore developers love to build things from scratch, and Google is basically a company run by hardcore developers.
- Technically, it was not practical or feasible to retrofit Mozilla/Firefox into a multi-process architecture. Since the multi-process architecture seemed to be priority numero uno and mandatory for all the rest of the security and sandboxing to work, the only choice is to start from scratch
I may be wrong, but I didn’t get the impression from reading the comic that Google Chrome supports any kind of plug-in architecture whatsoever. The plug-ins I’m referring to are not runtimes like Flash and Silverlight (which I believe Chrome should support), but the numerous small extensions which one can use to incrementally improve and extend the functionality of the web browser, like what you can do in all Mozilla-based browsers like Firefox.
I sure hope that is not an oversight, because the last thing I want to see is dozens of different forks of the Chrome source code just because everyone wants to extend their web browser functionality in one way or another.
Although Mozilla and Firefox are open source projects, I believe the reason why their codebase has more or less avoided major fragmentation was at least partially due to the rich plug-in architecture provided to developers who wish to extend the browser functionality. It’s always more reassuring for the developer to be able to develop a plug-in to add a new menu item instead of mucking around with the core browser source code.
Let’s hope this is not an oversight and Google does eventually implement a strong plug-in architecture for Chrome, if not in the initial release.
The Hooking War
A lot has been said about how Google Chrome is basically a defensive move against Microsoft’s upcoming IE8 by protecting Google Search’s various “hooks” on the desktop (default search engine, Google Toolbar, etc.).
The thinking goes – IE8 will make it more difficult for Google to hook onto the desktop, since IE8 will not work with Google Toolbar and the search engine will default to Live.com, and thus Google will lose market share and lose all this money from search advertising and blah blah blah.
So Google must counter with it’s own browser so it can dictate its terms on how the browser war is going to be fought and won and so it can maintain an indefinite presence on the desktop to funnel users to their search advertising and blah blah, take over the world, blah.
Har? Am I the only one who doesn’t get this? Is the Armchair Theorist dumb? (apparently yes…)
Dear Google: your company brand is a freaking verb, for crying out loud. 99% of people who use the Internet equate Google to Internet search. Google may be lacking in certain things, but mind share is definitely not one of them.
Anyone who wants to use Google as their primary search engine already does and will continue to do so, regardless whether they are using IE8, Firefox, Safari or Chrome.
My opinion is that if anything, Google Chrome is a good move to force web browser vendors to continue to innovate and evolve, but a pawn in the hooking war it is not.
Google Stock Price
I’ve previously blogged about how Google always has a knack of reinvigorating its company outlook with industry-shaking news every time its stock price gets too low.
Anyone want to wager that after the Google Chrome announcement, Google stock will make a pretty nice recovery from it’s current four month low of $463 a share?