Does the World Need Another Browser?

Last Updated Sep 2, 2008 1:23 PM EDT

Google thinks it does. It's decided to launch a browser, Chrome, which you can download in beta starting today. It's tempting to say that Google needs this browser more than we do. Never mind that Internet Explorer has lost ground to Google's former BFF Firefox. There are also Safari, Opera and a slew of lesser-known or regional browsers, like Maxthon in China. The market seems to be taking care of itself.

That said, Google outlined its technological reasons for making a new browser in this comic book. Though it's a technical discussion, non-geeks can follow most of it, and there seem to be some good reasons for a browser like Chrome, which has some innovative approaches to the browser.

[UPDATE: Larry Dignan has a good discussion, It's all about the ads and cookies, stupid!, on why C-level executives should read the comic book. Included are several links to interesting posts on Chrome.]

One thing the comic book doesn't directly get into is that software makers are facing a big technology shift, as processors move to a technology called multicore. So Google may be responding to a kind of platform shift that has opened room for new players in the browser market (if it has, we'll see new competition in other parts of the software market, as well). It may also be that Google engineers had used their company-mandated 20 percent free time to develop a series of nifty ideas, and felt they could get this project more quickly in-house than working through Firefox. Firefox management may also not have wanted to make the kind of sharp break Google appears to be making with its interface design.

Then again, Google may think it needs to respond directly to Internet Explorer Version 8. Though creating an open source browser, and thus one Microsoft can also borrow from, doesn't seem to be a way to undercut Internet Explorer.

So the business question in any case has to be whether Google is forgetting what it does best: sell advertising. What do you think?

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  • Michael Fitzgerald

    Michael Fitzgerald writes about innovation and other big ideas in business for publications like the New York Times, The Economist, Fast Company, Inc. and CIO. He’s worked as a writer or editor at Red Herring, ZDNet, TechTV and Computerworld, and has received numerous awards as a writer and editor. Most recently, his piece on the hacker collective the l0pht won the 2008 award for best trade piece from the American Society of Journalists and Authors. He was also a 2007 Templeton-Cambridge Journalism Fellow in Science and Religion.