Will Google Renew the Browser Wars of the 1990’s?

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After the introduction of their Chrome browser, some have suggested that Google may have just kicked off the beginning of a new era of the browser wars.  And before you begin by asking the obvious – “What about Firefox?” – read on and you’ll perhaps see why Chrome is a bit different, and why it may prove to be a true competitor to IE.

In the 90’s it was Internet Explorer vs. Netscape Navigator, with IE coming out on top. The way IE was able to grab a huge following was through Microsoft’s bundling of the browser with Windows computers.   The browser was simply just there, and consumers saw no reason to seek out another browser when they had one already readily available to them.

In recent years, Mozilla Firefox has been nipping at IE’s heels, and although they’ve managed to snag a good chunk of the browser market, IE is still by far the more preferred browser. Opera and other lesser-known browsers barely make it on the radar, and Apple’s Safari browser barely even captures 1% of the market share.

Google, now a decade old, have matured into a behemoth of a company.  They’re an internationally recognized brand, have more engineers and employees than you can imagine, and a good deal of cash on hand to spend on developing promising projects.

While the idea of creating a new browser to compete with the likes of IE is far from new – many have tried, many have failed – the way that Chrome fits into Google’s vision of the web and of computing is what may make it a formidable opponent to Microsoft.  Chrome is not simply a standalone browser.  Well, it is, but if fits into a much bigger picture.

Google’s vision of the web and computing has become very clear over the years.  They’re committed to indexing the world’s information, and that holds true for anything from stock quotes to DNA.  If it’s data, they want it indexed and they want to make it easily searchable.

Google’s business model for making all this information and their related services available to the masses is also quite different than that which has been practiced in the technology sector over the years.  Instead of operating on the old IBM model of offering leases and services, or the one-time payment for software like Microsoft, Google says let’s make it free, and find a way to make money off it through advertising.  It’s a novel approach which has worked in some instances, and in other cases they’re still trying to figure out how to make it work.

So while Microsoft will still be packaging their Internet Explorer browser with their Windows operating system, and preventing us consumers from removing IE from said operating system, Google will likely continue to win over the hearts and minds of the masses through their mostly free and easy access to their wide range of products and services.  Love Gmail? Well then you might be more willing to try Chrome than you would, say, Opera, who has no other services and products that you likely use on a daily basis.

Google’s brand recognition and status as a cultural icon will help them win over followers. But until Google works out all of Chrome’s bugs, and has been established for a couple years, I think the next-gen browser wars are still a bit off. What do you think?

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  • I agree, I don’t think Chrome will shake up the market that much right now. Only geeks, webheads, and early adopters like us are downloading it right now. Microsoft’s bundling strategy is a pretty tough one to beat.

    While I love lots of Google’s products and their intentions behind Chrome, I’m frustrated that web developers have yet another browser for which to develop. With all the browser vendors, versions, and platform combinations out there (not even including WAP browsers), it’s quite a time-consuming & expensive effort.

    But hey, maybe web developers should thank Google for this, since it’s a great form of job security, yea? hehe.

  • There is no reason for the majority of web users to switch to chrome. Chrome is fast and has the “cool” factor but in the end the non-techs will stick with IE cause that is all they know and the techs will bounce from FF (and all their plugins) to Chrome.

    FF should be more worried about Chrome then MSFT

  • You are absolutely right to put Chrome in the context of Google’s overall strategy and business model.

    Being open source, it sits well with the freedom of information ideal, and it’s Microsoft-independent as well. If open source continues to grow, Linux becomes more widely used on the desktop, open source software becomes mainstream etc, Chrome will benefit.

    Google are clearly targeting the mobile platform, and have already said that elements of Chrome will be incorporated into Android. So Chrome could help Google become the Microsoft of mobile.

    Chrome’s protected tabs make it much more suitable than IE for running web apps, because one application crash won’t bring down the whole browser. So it’s ideally suited for using applications like Google Documents and Spreadsheets. That also makes it a good platform for delivering targeted advertising, because those applications have the potential to help Google identify your particular areas of interest, and push out relevant adverts.

    All in all it’s the ideal platform for Google to push out free information, supported by advertising. Whether users will buy into it on a large scale remains to be seen.

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