Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Chrome plated world domination

So, Google has released its browser. And if you are one who is wondering why Google released yet another browser when developers are struggling to cope with the four different ones that are already in the market, welcome to the club.

It isn't that the users are going to be benefited either. There aren't many features in Chrome that aren't in the IE8 Beta. For instance, both run tabs in separate processes. Both have a private browsing mode, and both consume tons of memory. Further, IE8 while being standards-compliant, also has a IE7 mode for sites that won't comply by the time the browser is released.

And V8, while being a better Javascript engine, isn't revolutionary. Running apps in secure sandboxes isn't new either.

Nor will Google's clientele necessarily switch to Chrome. From what I know, techies who would be the ones that download and use Chrome nearly never click on ads, while non-techies are generally happy with their default browser, be it IE or Safari. Yes, the percentage of techies who use Google Docs/Spreadsheets may have a better user experience, but again, unless they click on ads, how does Google benefit?

Here is my take on the "how". This is Google's first step towards world domination. I'd written earlier (see the comments) that all Google needed after Docs and Spreadsheets was an OS and a browser that they can ship as default on systems. Not only would you then use Google software, but all your data would be on Google servers, making them indispensable. In addition to really hitting MS revenue sources, this will insulate Google from the low cost of switching that plagues its services. 

Welcome, folks, to chrome-plated world domination!

(PS: Needless to say, and like every other post on this blog, this post only reflects my views and should not be construed as being that of my current/previous/future employers.)


Karthik Kambatla said...

I recently attended a talk on the amount of data companies store on the sites that we have visited. All the third-party cookies and java scripts that run in the browser.

If you read about Obama on CNN and in four days search for energy, the link that comes up would be the CNN one, apparently.

They bought DoubleClick which has been doing this for the past 15 years. This aggregation of data would continue only if the users are not privacy-aware. IE 8.0 doesn't really allow this, as the default settings protect privacy to an extent.

With Chrome, they can just send it directly, unless you disable the option. :D

BTW, Google knows that you have been to a site, for more than 90% of the sites.

Balbir Singh said...

It is a feeling of nostalgia among other things. Other companies have done and been investigated for what you complain google has been doing.

Gopal, you missed a very important point in the whole thing. Chrome is mostly open source. Yeah, you can get the code via SVN, except for some dll's they bunched in and the source is based mostly on top of WebKit (Apple's web browser core engine). So, all your complaints can be verified by looking at the code and fixed by developers in their local builds or at-least shouted out in public. Can you do that with IE8, heck no!!!

So, your case doesn't make any sense, it is just FUD that you are spreading around

Gops said...

Geez Balbir, you and your open source!

Will browsing through the code in SVN or whatever tell you what business strategy Google is going to adopt? Just because someone keeps their source open or uses open source, doesn't mean they are an open organization.

I agree that other devs might find and fix bugs - and Google might redistribute the fixes - all of which are very good, but my only point is that at this point in time, another browser wasn't what the doc ordered for the web devs. I know that from some level of personal experience.

Regarding your FUD point - if you are saying that I'm FUDding the fact that Google wants world domination, I can only ask you to open your eyes. Open source is great, I don't deny that, but not every company supports open source because of noble intentions. Not your own, not Google, not anybody. All the companies in the world are in this business for money - if anybody thought that opening source code would harm their business, they wouldn't do it. And I only said Google is aiming for world domination - which mind you, in itself, is nothing wrong. It is just that they are doing it.

And that is the fact. Regarding investigations by authorities, it is only a matter of time before those start.

On the other hand, if you say I'm FUDding the features forgetting that open source devs will fix all of them - yes, you may be right, but I was only referring to the current state of the browser, not what it'll become in the future.

Balbir Singh said...

Yes, me and my open source. The blogger you use, uses open source and has been developed on open standards. The keyword is open standards.

The point I was trying to make was we need to encourage browsers like chrome and not say "oh! one more browser". You provided IE8 as an alternative (that provides all those features that chrome provides), the point I was making was that it is fundamentally flawed to think that IE8 is the alternative or we don't need an alternative to IE8. The doctor did order a web browser that you could peak into, enhance and would be standards compliant (look at the WebKit ACID results).

Why is launching a browser a plan to world domination, because it competes head to head with some companies products and plans?

Every company supports open source to make money, agreed, but there are certain rules for playing in the industry. It is called open standards and you'll find companies like open source because it gives them open standards and helps customers by providing an open level playing competitive field.

Gops said...

Open standards are different from Open source. If you are talking about standards, IE8 will probably be the most compliant browser!

How does a browser help world domination? As I wrote earlier, Google services suffers from the "easy-to-switch" problem, and having a browser and an OS is the best way to counter it. It is not wrong - there is nothing wrong in a company wanting to dominate the world, as long as it uses fair means. Chrome is as fair as it gets, and that is fine by me.

From a webdev's point of view, I'd have liked to see Google contribute to and effect these changes in Firefox instead - the problem now is that instead of worrying about compatibility between 4 browsers, web devs have to worry about compatibility between five. And by pointing out the comparison with IE8, I was only making the point that these features aren't new, and was trying to make the case for the web developer, that another browser simply makes things harder.

Like with open source, companies decide to support open standards when it suits them. For instance, while IBM and Sun are major supporters of OOXML, I would love to see them advocate open standards in an area where they are on top. And when Google advocates open standards or open source, keep in mind that Google makes their money through ads, not through software. For them, software is a means to get more people to click on ads, and the more open they are, the more people will come. I wish I knew more computer history, but am sure that there have been instances when the companies that are shouting at the top of their voice for open standards violated some or more of them for their benefit.

And Joel Spolsky has this brilliant article about standards here.

Balbir Singh said...

Gops, open source is definitely based on open standards, the other way around is not necessarily true.

IE had even stopped development, thanks to the open source browsers, they woke up the IE team. Look at the general tooling around Firefox and Chrome, it is no nice and easy to debug things. Chrome does not have a linux version yet (so I crib about that), but adding a new browser is good. Let us eliminate the old and foul or at-least wake them up for heaven sakes.

Balbir Singh said...

Oh! and BTW see http://www.crn.com/software/211201754 for why IE lags behind

Gops said...

Well, open source need not mean open standards. You could be open source, but not standards compliant, openly :)

You might be right that IE got carried away by its success, and I completely agree that competition is ultimately good for the end-user. But all I'm saying is that Firefox was already competing (and according to you, winning market share), so why bring a new browser? That is the question I was trying to answer on behalf of Google :)

Adding a new browser, again, makes life more difficult for web devs.

Regarding the site you pointed out, a fair comparison would be IE8 to Firefox Beta 3.1, not IE7 to FF3.1.

Don't know how that comparison will work out, but even this site butresses my point, that FF is a good enough browser, and there was no real need for Chrome, other than what I outlined earlier.