Is Google Chrome an IE/Firefox/Opera/Safari killer?

Is Google Chrome an IE/Firefox/Opera/Safari killer?

Summary: So, it would appear that Google has plans to shake up the browser ecosystem by releasing an open source browser of its own. What does this mean for the other browsers.


So, it would appear that Google has plans to shake up the browser ecosystem by releasing an open source browser of its own. What does this mean for the other browsers.

Based on a comic book (yes, you read that right, a comic book) sent out to the Google Blogoscoped blog, the Google Chrome browser will be:

  • Open source, built from scratch
  • Make use of a JavaScript virtual machine called V8
  • Support multiple processes so each tab runs in isolation so bugs and slow-downs only hit a single tab (creating what's called in the comic book a "sad tab") rather than bring the browser crashing down
  • Revolutionary use of tabs (the tabs will be at the top of the window rather than below the address bar
  • Incognito mode that kinda sounds like Internet Explorer's InPrivate mode
  • Make use of WebKit open source rendering engine
  • Plugins removed from the rendering process and placed in a separate process
  • Web app support
  • Whiz-bang address bar called "Omnibox"

Google Chrome

Note: I really like the idea of tabs running in a separate process. It basically means that you can just keep on opening tabs without worrying that a single process will collapse under the weight of work and force me to close and then reload all the tabs I had open.

[poll id=343]

As expected, the comic book leaves a lot of blanks that need to be filled in, but we can take a few things for granted:

  • Google never does anything "small"
  • The browser market is finite, and even Microsoft is slowly realizing that its market share is vulnerable to slow erosion by open source
  • Open source is enjoying growing popularity

What this means is that when Google does release this new browser then it has the potential to have quite a sudden and dramatic effect on the other players. But who's likely to be the main casualty of Google Chrome? Right now it's probably too early to put bets down, but my guess would be that Google's primary target will be Internet Explorer. After all, that's the browser with the largest market share and it's also the browser that's likely to look the worst when compared to Chrome (IE is slow, cumbersome, shaky, poor at following standards and perceived by many to be a security vulnerability). When it comes to ranking the browsers, apart from "it comes pre-installed on your system," IE has little else going for it.

Nut won't Google Chrome suffer the same drawbacks as other browsers in that a lot of the web is written with IE in mind and that sometimes these pages don't play nicely with a browser that isn't IE? Well, page 10 of the comic book seems to suggest that Google will use its knowledge of which sites are the most popular destinations on the web to make sure that Chrome works for those sites. That's an interesting approach to the standards wild west that IE has created. If popular websites work in Chrome then this will encourage users to continue to use it.

Is Google Chrome a IE killer (or for that matter Firefox/Opera/Safari killer)? I think that this depends on a number of factors. First off, what tangible features/benefits will it offer the end user? These have to go way beyond tabs running in separate processes and such intangibles and deliver real and compelling reasons for users to shift browsers. If Google can make Chrome a small download, make is no-fuss to install and make it so that people find it easy to use, and if Google can deliver on the promise of it being fast, reliable and secure, then we could see the other players having to scramble to knock together far better browsers than they've been shipping so far.

To many people (average users) Google is the internet (in much the same way that AOL was the internet for many a few years ago). That said, I think that Google has to deliver a lot more with Chrome that a mediocre browser with a Google logo plastered on it, especially if it is to win over the power users (these users are already probably not using IE). However, given that Google didn't just choose to release a rebranded version of Firefox is a good indication that Google is taking this project seriously.

Where does this leave Firefox? Well, Google has already reaffirmed its allegiance to Firefox, so I don't think that this news has any impact on the Google/Mozilla relationship.

This could be very interesting indeed.

Topics: Google, Browser, Microsoft, Open Source

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.


Log in or register to join the discussion
  • Google starts to blog about Chrome

    They've started to officially blog about it as well:

    Should be interesting indeed with a launch set for tomorrow.
  • Splintering of non IE users

    I suspect that this in fact will cause an immediate splintering of non IE users (causal users and ones that are anti-MS). Furthermore there is only so many OSS developers and now a bunch of them are basically replicating the Mozilla work on a separate platform. Even with both projects being open source it is harder to transfer work from one project to another than to have it be part of the same project to start.
    • How many?

      There are only so many OSS developers? You mean that the number can never change or grow? I doubt that, especially since Google is now paying a bunch to work on Chrome.
  • Googlers don't know where Denmark is

    Someone fixes that V8 part please. It's embarrassing they point to Iceland and call it Denmark.
  • ...

  • RE: Is Google Chrome an IE/Firefox/Opera/Safari killer?

    Looks like a huge month for Google with Android also on the horizon!
  • Diverting open source efforts

    This will hit Firefox harder than IE. Another land grab by Google. It is amazing how powerful a company can become just because they could link advertising to the best seach engine. It is also frightening.

    We need more, and better, competition in the search engine business, not another browser.
    • IE won't be affected as much as Firefox and Opera

      I agree. Power users will check out the new browser but I have my doubts on how many IE users will be converted over. Most of the non-savvy users I know just use IE for browsing. Chrome will probably harm Firefox and opera more than anything.

      It seems (to me) Google is becoming the very idea they stood against when they started. Aggressively chomping at the proverbial hands that helped feed them all these years (ie. Google start page on firefox, linux, etc). What's frightening is that people trust Google so much that they don't question the product or motive. I worry as more mass adoption happens, Google will become more like Apple and start controlling what people can (or can't) do. I think deep inside people realize the power Google is attaining. I love Google products because they are pretty dang robust. However, I gladly said goodbye Google desktop because of memory leak issues and random crashes. Google toolbar was also annoying at times.Can we expect the same issues with other desktop applications?

      As soon as Google opens the browser up for plug-ins, they will get bugs just like IE and FF. Nearly all the bugs and browser issues I experience with IE and FF, and even Opera are buggy plug-ins like flash and java. Just like what hurt Vista so bad was companies like nVidia and HP that didn't know how to make stable drivers but released them anyway.

      Anyhow, being the geek that I am I will gladly check out Chrome and see if it's all that it's made out to be. I personally think Google is making a mistake competing against their allies. Organic growth works quickly and the tide can esily turn away from Google to another "hot" search engine. Look at facebook vs. myspace...
      • So Apple is controlling the InterNet DUH! Hate Apple Much?- NT

  • RE: Is Google Chrome an IE/Firefox/Opera/Safari killer?

    What interests me [Windows XP user] is the potential security benefits from separate sandboxed processes which cannot reach my data. I compare this to Opera, which I use unless I need to open IE to make the page work.
  • RE: Is Google Chrome an IE/Firefox/Opera/Safari killer?

    If Google makes use of browser header information by browsers to offer Chrome to IE users, it could damage M$'s hold on the internet community by a massive amount. Imagine granny opening IE, going to Google, and being confronted with a page saying that her browser sucks and Chrome is better, faster, easier to use, and will make her computer less vulnerable to viruses. I'd almost guarantee granny's gonna' switch to Chrome then and there.
    • Eh.. Maybe...

      More likely scenario... She's gonna call her nephew, grandson or other computer geek friend and ask them for their 2 cents worth of info.
    • granny

      I would suggest that granny has to know what browsers are in the first place. My mother doesn't surf the internet, she just checks her email. My mother in law uses whatever my father in law provides for her, so it may be grandPA not grandMA switching, who knows?
      I may check it out, I rarely use anything but IE, because it is the browser of choice at work and some sites did not work under FF, so who knows if they will under Chrome? As it is I can't find out anyway our computers are so locked down, we can't install much of anything w/o admin privileges. We are still running XP, O2003 generally. HQ was to cehck out IE 7, Vista, but haven't heard anything, probably cannot even consider IE 8 or Chrome until it is checked out.
      • Hey, now

        I have two grandmothers. One is 83, and the other is 75. They are both proficient in the operation of a computer and the utilization of the internet.

        The 75-year-old one is new to it, she just got her first computer for Christmas (guess where it came from? LOL), and has made amazing progress. She started out by trying to move the cursor on the screen with the putting the mouse up to the screen. Now she surfs, emails, downloads music, movies, patterns for her computerized sewing machine, maintains the church's treasury reports with a spreadsheet, and does mail merges to print labels for the mailers. For the most part, she learned all that on her own. She's really impressing me.

        The 83-year-old one has had a computer as long as I can remember, and got the internet as soon as it came to her area. I remember playing Wolfenstein and SimFarm on one of her first boxes...DOS/Win 3.1 days. She knows what she's doing, and is more than capable of learning more.

        Give the grannies a little more credit. Just because they're on the old side doesn't mean they're dumb, or incapable of figuring things out on their own. I would think that compared to the Great Depression and outhouses, the world wide web is a breeze. ;)
    • RE:

      Granny would look for the "Exit" button, as it's interrupting what she wants to do (search the internet), or she'd assume it's a popup (like "We found teh OVA 9000! viruses! Make teh secure computer for uyo!") and close it.

      Anyway, it's insulting the user. "Your browser sucks" also means "you, by using it, also suck!" It's the same kettle of fish Apple opened up with MobileMe, and would not endear Google to the people who use Internet Explorer (willingly or no.)
  • Just another checkbox to have to uncheck!

    Sweet... Another checkbox to uncheck when installing programs..Not to mention the spying that will be going on to "Chrome's" users. I dont trust Google anymore! I will stick with IE thanks!
    • Closed vs Open

      So what you're saying is you won't use the open source chrome browser because it's from Google, and you're worried about being spied upon. Yet you completely trust Microsoft's closed source browser that no-one except IE developers can look into?

      Which one is more likely to spy on you? The one that can be audited and scrutinized by an army of independent voices, or the one who's source is hidden from the public, and can contain anything?
      • Closed vs. Open

        Uhm...the closed one. Because M$ is just too damn scared crap-less of being sued...and because Google has repeatedly shown that it doesn't really care about my privacy.

        Android was supposed to be open source as well...and if you've read the'll note that it isn't.
      • google and're kidding right

        google and privacy goes together like water and oil.
  • RE: Is Google Chrome an IE/Firefox/Opera/Safari killer?

    Chrome is a prelude to a platform independent secure browsing environment which will blur the lines between local apps and web based apps such that MS Windows itself will cease to be a major player.

    Dobbin in Kalamazoo