The new Google Chrome browser: a bad day for Firefox

The Firefox angle is what puzzles me about Google’s announcement that it is is launching a new open source browser. We should get to try it tomorrow; perhaps we’ll see that Google is successfully reinventing the browser. In particular, this is a part of what is sometimes dubbed the Google OS: the client for cloud applications running on Google’s servers:

Under the hood, we were able to build the foundation of a browser that runs today’s complex web applications much better.

Google is using some proven technology in the form of the Webkit rendering component (as used in Apple’s Safari). I imagine it can do a decent job. But why? From Google’s perspective, the browser market was shaping up nicely already. Microsoft’s IE has a still large but declining market share; Mozilla Firefox is growing, has a vibrant community, and relies on Google for the bulk of its income in return for making it  the default search engine – a deal which has just been extended for three years.

Now Google appears to be going head-to-head against Firefox. It won’t necessarily succeed; Firefox has lots of momentum and will be hard to shift. Equally, I doubt that Microsoft’s market share will decline significantly faster against a Google browser than it would anyway against Firefox.

The risk is that this will split the open source community.

As for Firefox, this can only be bad news. It has the embarrassment of relying on a major competitor for its income, and the knowledge that it is driving traffic to a company that will push users to switch to an alternative.

Maybe Google Chrome is so good that it will all make sense when we get to try it. For sure, it is an intriguing development for web applications and I’m looking forward to seeing how well Google can substantiate its claims that it is “much better” for the job of running them.

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