Google Chrome could be big
So Google dropped the bomb yesterday that they were going to be launching their own open source browser today. They also had Scott McCloud draw a comic to help them explain it, which initially annoyed the crap out of me, but as I went through reading, found strangely compelling. I ran through a gamut of reactions to this, how stupid it was, how cool it was, how much Google annoyed me, etc…
Google finally takes a stand
Google’s latest actions also speak to their ambition, Android and Chrome are interesting, because to some degree you (or at least I) wouldn’t have thought them at all necessary. Google doesn’t need it’s own phone OS, they just need to get apps onto Symbian, iPhone and WinMob. That’s a way huger userbase than Android will have and they can sell ads on their apps all day, same as they will on Android. Same with Chrome, with both Firefox and Safari (well sort of) open, they could have wedged themselves in there. However, they think they can do it better (great!) but also they want to control everything, they don’t want to have to rely on Mozilla needing their money to get those ad deals.
I’m sure time constraints were a big issue, but it’s surprising, given all this, that Chrome wasn’t built for Android first. Looking at the benefit that Safari has received (and will continue to receive) from being moved onto the iPhone and given the splash that Android hopes to make (and since they were building a new browser anyway and mobile one’s more than desktops would do well with the memory efficiency that Google is building into Chrome) it’d seem like a good fit. I don’t doubt that this will come, but still, it’d have been a good match. I’m curious to know how long Chrome has been under real development.
There’s a lot of interesting tech and UI work that they’re putting in. I’m super excited for the distinct processes for tabs, to me that’s a huge problem I’ve been having with Safari and Firefox. There’s some frame in the comic that has a man screaming at the sluggishness of his browser, yeah, that’s totally me. It’s cool (and slightly creepy) that they’re using their knowledge of most clicked links to test the rendering of key pages across the web, again something they get from being a web consumer before they were a browser developer.
Nevertheless, for the first time in awhile, I’m excited to see Google enter a market. It looks like a strong debut and hopefully they’ll follow through on this and build a genuinely good and different browser. It’s foolish for John Lilly (of Mozilla) to say he isn’t worried about Chrome. His whole comment about how Mozilla is the only one who just cares about the web smacks of that Colligan quote about how “the PC guys weren’t just going to walk in” to his core business.
I think this is going to be a long slow road, hopefully Google means to walk it. More than any recent launch I believe they are. It’s got its skeptics and its lovers. Even if as a browser it never achieves significant market share, I hope its impact as a competitor and a free codebase will push and aid the theory and practice of browser development for the 3 bigs. What do you think? More hype? Or something deeper? Are you starting to worry that Google’s ambitions are a bit much and them controlling the browser scares the privacy beejeezus out of you?