I’ve been out of town (and completely disconnected) all weekend. Apparently I missed a lot, including the announcement of a Google web browser called Chrome with a cute explanation comic.
What it is:
- a Google web browser
- using the Webkit renderer
Why they’re doing it:
- Google currently pays Mozilla and Apple for embedding Google search boxes into Firefox and Safari, respectively. By stealing some users from those browsers, they’ll be potentially saving millions of dollars per year.
- They’re a web-app company. It would be nice to also be a player in the browser business, since the browser is the environment in which every important part of Google’s business runs.
- They’re minting money and have thousands of employees but no apparent long-term strategy or direction, so they’re really good at launching side projects.
- This could be a massive ad-targeting-information mine. (See final point below.)
Why this could be good:
- The web browser is the center of many computer users’ lives, but we can still only choose between a handful of mediocre choices. Competition is welcome.
- Webkit’s a great renderer — much better than Gecko (Firefox’s).
- The architectural ideas are very promising and could make for a very solid browser.
Why this could be bad:
- Google has historically been very bad at interface design.
- Google could use this to strong-arm their own markup or features into the browser marketplace by releasing features (or entire apps) that only work on Chrome, much like Microsoft did with Internet Explorer, VBScript, and ActiveX. Of course, since nerds are blindly in love with Google, it will be OK when they do it.
- This will strain Google’s relationship with Mozilla, which currently goes something like this: Mozilla desperately needs Google to survive, but Google doesn’t need to care much about Mozilla.
- Google is an advertising company, and they already collect vast amounts of personal data on everyone to target ads at us. Being the browser vendor will expose them to much more personal and behavioral data than they’ve ever had. Even if they claim that they won’t collect or use this data now, how long do you think a public corporation that would hugely profit from it will restrain itself from tapping this goldmine? There’s only so far that “do no evil” will take a public corporation in the advertising business.
I’m very curious about how this will turn out. This could be just what the browser business needs. Or it could fizzle out as yet another irrelevant, unpolished, unfinished Google side project.