Google seeks route around Microsoft with Chrome

Google's surprise announcement of a new browser, Chrome, via a Web comic book could prove to be another game-changing development for the Internet in the coming years.

The browser presents a serious challenge to companies such as Microsoft and Apple, which hope their Web browsers will be the predominant ones used on the Internet and a gateway to more of their products.

With Chrome, Google is promising people faster browsing, better security and compatibility across multiple operating systems. Google ultimately sees Chrome as the doorway for broader use of its Web-based applications, which threaten the desktop-based software that has traditionally been Microsoft's domain.

Google published a 38-page comic book describing Chrome's features, a comprehensive view of what Google thinks people will want from a browser. Google's announcement of Chrome "reads almost like an operating system release, not a browser release," said David Mitchell, senior vice president for IT research at Ovum.

The company has also taken a new approach to dealing with JavaScript, the coding language used to create more interactive Web pages and Web services. Google has created its own virtual machine for processing JavaScript faster. It means Web services such as Gmail will, in theory, work faster.

But JavaScript can also be buggy on some Web pages and cause a browser to crash. Google says Chrome can manage that problem better, too. Tabs -- a common feature in browsers -- allow multiple Web pages to be opened. But if one of those tabs encounters bad JavaScript, the whole browser will crash. Google said that Chrome isolates those tabs so if one crashes, it doesn't crash the whole application.

Google has also incorporated its Gears toolkit into Chrome. Gears lets developers create applications that can be used offline, synching data with Web services when Internet access is available again. It's a key part of Google's strategy to embellish its Web-based applications with the convenience of desktop applications.

Chrome also takes a new approach to security. Pop-ups -- annoying boxes triggered by JavaScript -- will be isolated to an individual tab. Chrome can also block malicious programs on the Web from installing themselves on a PC's hard drive, using a technique known as sandboxing.

Google will make the code for Chrome open source. "It's in our interest to make the Internet better, and without competition, we have stagnation," said the comic book character representing Chris DiBona, Google's open source programs manager.

The introduction of Chrome raises concern that Google could use its browser -- much as Microsoft did with Internet Explorer -- to lock users in by offering features that are difficult for other browser makers to replicate.

However, it's not likely Google would risk incurring the backlash from people who advocate that Web-browser makers should conform to agreed-upon standards to make Web pages work for everyone, regardless of the browser they're using, Mitchell said.

Another question is how Chrome will impact Mozilla's open-source Firefox browser project and Opera Software's Opera browser. Google isn't unhappy with Firefox, as the two companies have a harmonious relationship, said Tristan Nitot, president of Mozilla Europe.

At the end of August, Microsoft's share of the browser market was 72.15 percent and falling, with Firefox holding 19.73 percent and Safari 6.37 percent, according to Hitslink, a service of Net Applications.

Google's Chrome project likely sprouted after worries over how Internet Explorer (IE) handles Google's applications since Explorer's development is controlled by one of its chief competitors, Nitot said. More than 70 percent of Internet surfers use IE, primarily because it ships with the all-dominant Windows operating system.

"Right now Google is delivering their services mostly through IE, which is an uncomfortable situation considering that IE is not very good in terms of performance," Nitot said.

Microsoft, which recently released the second beta version of IE 8, said people will pick its browser for its privacy and data control features. "The browser landscape is highly competitive, but people will choose IE 8 for the way it puts the services they want right at their fingertips," according to Dean Hachamovitch, Explorer's general manager.

But where does that leave Mozilla's Firefox? Mitchell said Chrome will likely just help fuel confidence open-source software development, where code is not kept secret as it is in companies such as Microsoft and is open to peer review.

"It's a huge mistake to view this as a head-to-head battle of Firefox versus Chrome," Mitchell said. "There's plenty of space for more consumer choice. If it [Chrome] gains market share, it will take it from all around."

CIOs will probably be open to letting users install Chrome as enterprise applications become less dependent on a specific browser to run, Mitchell said. "The category of applications that are only supporting IE are declining anyway," he said.

Opera spokesman Tor Odland said Google the introduction of Chrome is fine as long as it adheres to Web standards. Apple declined to comment.

(Mikael Ricknas in Stockholm and Peter Sayer in Paris contributed to this report.)

Join the Good Gear Guide newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags Google Chrome

Our Back to Business guide highlights the best products for you to boost your productivity at home, on the road, at the office, or in the classroom.

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Jeremy Kirk

IDG News Service
Show Comments

Essentials

Microsoft L5V-00027 Sculpt Ergonomic Keyboard Desktop

Learn more >

Lexar® JumpDrive® S57 USB 3.0 flash drive

Learn more >

Mobile

Lexar® JumpDrive® S45 USB 3.0 flash drive 

Learn more >

Exec

Lexar® JumpDrive® C20c USB Type-C flash drive 

Learn more >

Audio-Technica ATH-ANC70 Noise Cancelling Headphones

Learn more >

HD Pan/Tilt Wi-Fi Camera with Night Vision NC450

Learn more >

Lexar® Professional 1800x microSDHC™/microSDXC™ UHS-II cards 

Learn more >

Budget

Back To Business Guide

Click for more ›

Most Popular Reviews

Latest News Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Azadeh Williams

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

A smarter way to print for busy small business owners, combining speedy printing with scanning and copying, making it easier to produce high quality documents and images at a touch of a button.

Andrew Grant

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

I've had a multifunction printer in the office going on 10 years now. It was a neat bit of kit back in the day -- print, copy, scan, fax -- when printing over WiFi felt a bit like magic. It’s seen better days though and an upgrade’s well overdue. This HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 looks like it ticks all the same boxes: print, copy, scan, and fax. (Really? Does anyone fax anything any more? I guess it's good to know the facility’s there, just in case.) Printing over WiFi is more-or- less standard these days.

Ed Dawson

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

As a freelance writer who is always on the go, I like my technology to be both efficient and effective so I can do my job well. The HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 Inkjet Printer ticks all the boxes in terms of form factor, performance and user interface.

Michael Hargreaves

Windows 10 for Business / Dell XPS 13

I’d happily recommend this touchscreen laptop and Windows 10 as a great way to get serious work done at a desk or on the road.

Aysha Strobbe

Windows 10 / HP Spectre x360

Ultimately, I think the Windows 10 environment is excellent for me as it caters for so many different uses. The inclusion of the Xbox app is also great for when you need some downtime too!

Mark Escubio

Windows 10 / Lenovo Yoga 910

For me, the Xbox Play Anywhere is a great new feature as it allows you to play your current Xbox games with higher resolutions and better graphics without forking out extra cash for another copy. Although available titles are still scarce, but I’m sure it will grow in time.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?