Really long time since I posted. To those who’ve been checking back, extremely sorry – I’ve been deluged with work, research and job hunting among other things.
What brings me back from the writers’ grave is the release of Google’s Chrome browser. On their blog, they called it a fresh take on the browser, and thats what got me thinking. The browser, as we know it, has improved bit by bit for a long time. I remember when Firefox was called Firebird (pre-1.0 days), and I was floored by this browser which had this neat idea called tabs. Since then, though, every major browser release has been underwhelming and incremental, no matter how well marketed.
It also comes with a couple of annoyances — Windows only (though apparently we will see versions for Mac and Linux), and the download is a downloader which then downloads the browser, and it installs a separate GoogleUpdater process in a hidden location which doesn’t go away on uninstallation.
I doubt that Google would go to the trouble of making an entirely new browser from scratch for all this, though. Especially since they already pay for a lot of Firefox development; all of these features can plausibly be shoe-horned into Firefox. Nor do I think Chrome was developed to challenge any existing browser or to gain market share — Google couldn’t care less which browser you use to click on ads on an Adsense-enabled page. Their code is going to be open source, so they clearly do not mind people borrowing their ideas and making products that are as good or better. In fact, they encourage it.
Finally, it’s easy enough for Chrome to discard everything that ties it to even being a browser. There is a mode which can take away the tab bar and the URL bar and leave it looking like a normal application window. Since every tab is isolated in it’s own process, there’s no question of it being affected by other Chrome windows or tabs. Google describes this as a good mode for certain web applications, examples being, obviously, GMail and Google documents.
Google’s probably not doing this entirely for consumers like us. PCWorld recently talked about how Google would really like to get into the enterprise space, which right now forms a tiny 2% of its revenue. There’s a huge potential there, especially now that Google has picked off all of the low hanging fruit and much of the higher hanging ones in the consumer search and advertising markets.