So during lunchtime today I got to play with Chrome a bit. It's got a nice clean implementation, and it's fast. Sure, it doesn't do everything that either Firefox or Internet Explorer does yet, but hey, it's a beta. I like it.
The burning question a lot of analysts and my ZDNet comrades may have, however, is why do we need another browser? I mean both Internet Explorer and Firefox are robust, right? And Safari and Konqueror are perfectly good browser platforms too.
I think we all know what the answer is, but we're afraid to say it -- Google is taking an entry directly from the Microsoft playbook: Embrace and Extend.
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Say what? Google does no evil! Chrome is Open Source! Google has exposed its API's! Perlow, how can you say such a stupid thing?
Well, perhaps I should qualify how Google is going to "Embrace and Extend". Instead of taking Internet standards and making their own proprietary extensions to try to control a platform, Google is going to do with Chrome what Microsoft is doing with .NET and Silverlight -- create a web-based application deployment platform that is fully optimized for use with Google's online services, such as their core search engine, their Google Office suite, GMail, Google Maps, Google Base, and Google Everything Else. In effect, Chrome will become the new computing platform to compete with Windows, the Mac and even iPhone. So in essence, they are "Extending" their own online platform to a browser platform which they can have full control over and optimize for use with their own online properties -- such as with the built-in Gears functionality. The ultimate expression of eating your own dog food.
Sure, everything that will be in Chrome will be Open Sourced in various different licenses. Gears, for example, has already been released into the BSD license and is a downloadable plugin for Firefox. Some of the other enabling technologies in the browser are borrowed from Mozilla and Webkit, which are already Open Source. So is there any cause for concern here?
Well, yes and no. If Google is truly "do no evil", they'll make every single piece of code that goes into Chrome browser from the Chromium project available to anyone who wants it at any time, so that other browsers such as Firefox, Safari, and Konqueror will be able to incorporate the same Google-optimizing features.
But there will be a catch. If you want the best experience with Google stuff, you'll want to use Chrome, because it will become the highest on the food chain in terms of browser support, and it will have all the cool features before everyone else does. Want the new super-cache offline store and forward whatchamacallit mode for GMail? Oh, its Open Source, and it uses the latest Gears implementation in beta, but it will take the Firefox guys a few months or another version to implement it. But we got it in Chrome!
And once everyone is completely hooked on Google's apps and is completely dependent on its APIs for just about everything, (aka, the "Cloud") particularly once things like Mashups start using more and more of their stuff, it will be fairly easy to make the transition to the Linux version of Chrome, or better yet, on embedded versions with Android devices. And you can bet that when compared to Chrome Embedded, iPhone is going to be a second class citizen.
Everyone, meet the new boss. The same as the old boss. But because we all love Google, we WILL get fooled again. And we'll love it.
Will Chrome become the most important browser in Google's support food chain or simply an advanced technology demonstrator? Talk Back and Let me know.