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Google Chrome, a stab in the back?

September 2, 2008

Google has announced that they are working on a web browser, called Chrome. They are claiming it’s a “fresh take on the browser”, which I have to disagree with. They have many ideas that are improvements that’s for sure, and I’m sure it’s going to be a great browser. And looking through their presentation, my immediate reaction is to wonder why they don’t just improve Firefox. With Googles power this probably will, in the long run, kill Firefox. Sure, it will take time. I’m not abandoning Firefox for web development until Chrome has a plugin like Firebug, for example. But if Chrome turns out to be better then Firefox, then this probably will all but kill off Firefox, and probably then also the Mozilla foundation, as it get’s most of it’s money from Google.

But does that mean that Google is stabbing Mozilla in the back? Well, it seems so. But then I slap my self in the face, and tell my self, “competition is good for you“! Because remember, this will kill Firefox if Chrome is better! If it isn’t better, it will not kill Firefox. Yeah, surely, if Google put it’s browser development money into Chrome instead of Firefox, sooner or later Chrome will be better. And people will switch. And Mozilla will die. But remember, competition is not there to be good to the producers, it’s there to be good to the consumers, and that’s all of us. Many complained about Microsoft giving away it’s browser for free. It was unfair competition is was said. And it killed Netscape, which had it’s main income from Netscape Navigator. That’s bad, right? No, it’s good, because it gave the world a perfectly good browser for free. Yes, Internet Explorer sucks, but so did Navigator, and Navigator cost money. After the browser wars, browsers are not definitely for free. Good for consumers. The almost-monopoly Explorer had came largely from that it was free, and good enough. There was always competing browsers, either for a fee, or for advertising or also for free. No one took any significant market share before Firefox, because none of them was significantly better to get people to switch. Firefox was significantly better, and for free. If Chrome is to kill Firefox, it’s because it also is free, and is significantly better than Firefox. And this is good for us.

Google also promises to make the browser open source, which means that Mozilla Foundation can use many of the things Google does. For free. So even if Chrome gets better, maybe Firefox will keep up, and stay on top. And even if it doesn’t, it means that the world now have an even better web browser than it had before. And that’s really not a problem. The only problem is that “Google will own the web“. But remember, Google does that because it is doing things better than other companies. Just as Microsoft owns (or at least owned) the desktop, because they actually did things better. When I was a part of evaluating what office software to use in the early 1990’s, we chose Microsoft. Not because it was Microsoft, but because every part of MS Office was better than the competitors. Excel kicked Lotus 1-2-3’s ass. Wordperfect for Windows was unstable unusable crap. And making presentations with Powerpoint was a breeze. And before that, IBM rules because they made business machines like no one else. But then they fucked up, and almost went bust. Microsoft ruled the desktop because they were the best. But when it comes to the web, they have failed. And Google rules the web because they are the best. And sooner or later, they too, will fail.

So I’m not very worried. I say hi to Chrome, and welcome to the world. If you suck, I don’t have to switch browsers. If you rule, I get a better browser. It’s a win-win situation.


From → plone

  1. Credit where credit’s due: Webkit is the engine used for Chrome – that’s why Google may ‘kill’ Mozilla.
    They chose Webkit for the same reason Apple chose KHTML to build Safari: it’s light and powerful. At least, lighter and pretty much as powerful as Gecko.
    Gecko is getting on the years: version 1.0 came out in 2001, after 2 years of development Right now, Firefox 3 uses Gecko 1.9 – which still carries on the cruft of version 1.0 (some ideas that were deemed as good at the time were found to be not so good after all). As such, Gecko 2.0 (which is being actively developed) would have been the better choice – however its development hasn’t even reached pre-alpha state.
    Saying that Webkit competes with Gecko is not very truthful either: both teams often share tests and bugfixes, on top of openly discussing how to implement W3C recommendations. They compete on who will be better in this or that, but the browsers based on these engines are swapping so many elements back and forth (if only in test apps) that saying which one is better makes little sense…
    – Gecko can be used to build and drive an application from scratch: code differences between Firefox/win32 and Firefox/Linux are so small it actually fits in a pair of XML files (different themes). Cost: it’s bigger.
    – Gecko’s Javascript engine is, for now, the reference implementation of Javascript, and if nightly builds of Shiretoko are any indication (with JIT enabled) also the fastest Javascript interpreter/compiler there is. Cost: its bigger.
    – Gecko can actually parse and validate XML. Webkit can’t – yet.
    Quite a festival for Gecko. However, and that’s the part Google must have looked at:
    – Webkit is already light enough to run in a handheld device – see Android.
    – Webkit is already very good, and matches Google’s requirements.

    The way I see it: Mozilla (and Firefox) will remain the very best browser there is, the one developers use to create websites and applications, in one word: innovate. Webkit will follow, providing Mozilla with a competitor other browser vendors can’t emulate: another open source project.

    Which is what OSS is about, anyway. It can last, too: see BSD and GNU, xfree86 and Xorg…

  2. Absolutely, I agree. (Except about that Webkit and Gecko doesn’t compete. They may coopoerate as well, but they still compete. In open source the lines are blurred).

  3. Sounds exciting doesn’t it? But would it not give Google even more power? And, why can’t they join forces with FF to beat IE?


  4. They already have joined force with FF. As mentioned Google is the main force behind Mozilla. FireFox would never have been this good without Google. The question is why they decide to start over instead of improving FireFox. I can’t answer that.

  5. Gecko’s engine is a sinking inflexible, memory-leaking, XPCOM morass – nothing like Webkit which is clean, lean and mean C++. No surprise why they chose WebKit over Gecko at all.

    Now if they just come out with a linux build soon…

  6. Balazs Ree permalink

    I have the feeling that we don’t have the full picture yet, and some surprises are still coming up.

  7. I just started looking at Chrome and, have to say, I’m impressed. This post, and previous comments, are almost 1.5yrs old. Right now (Feb 2010), chrome is building out-of-the-box for Ubuntu Linux and seems to be very stable. The only glitch I see so far is it doesn’t support Zope external edit (which I use almost by default in an emacs window) but I have a feeling the failure is a security issue.

    I agree initially with the initial statement that Chrome is a Firefox-killer but I more heartily agree with the thread summary about competition. I think the Google Boys (think Peter Pan’s Lost Boys) wanted to create a better browser – and in doing so will foster a better SET of browsers. AND Google is very much in the OSS development camp. I also agree with your statement that firebug is an indispensable tool – a big reason to stay with FF (it’s analogous to searching for a pay phone before cellphones.)

    I am really looking forward to the FF and Chrome back-and-forth along with, perhaps the Linux and Chrome OS back-and-forth. Android is another interesting development. Too much stuff to look at.

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