New browser wars commence as Google ‘Chrome’ enters fray

2 Sep 2008

Google Chrome video

Describing its accidentally leaked foray into the browser world currently dominated by Microsoft’s Explorer and Mozilla’s Firefox as a “fresh approach”, Google is hedging its bets on a more visually arresting and technologically diverse cyberspace.

In what can be called a ‘comic’ approach to launching a web browser, Google’s Sundar Pichai, vice-president of product management, and Linus Upson, engineering director, said that Google Chrome, which will be available today in more than 100 countries, will add value for users and help drive innovation on the internet.

The impact of this browser may hark back to the days of the browser wars in the Nineties when Netscape battled furiously against the onslaught of Microsoft’s Explorer.

This time, it took a comic book to kick-start the next phase of the browser wars.

“At Google, we have a saying: ‘Launch early and iterate’. While this approach is usually limited to our engineers, it apparently applies to our mailroom as well! As you may have read in the blogosphere, we hit ‘send’ a bit early on a comic book introducing our new open source browser, Google Chrome,” Pichau wrote.

The comic book revealing Google’s intentions can be accessed here.

“All of us at Google spend much of our time working inside a browser. We search, chat, email and collaborate in a browser. And in our spare time, we shop, bank, read news and keep in touch with friends – all using a browser. Because we spend so much time online, we began seriously thinking about what kind of browser could exist if we started from scratch and built on the best elements out there.

“We realised that the web had evolved from mainly simple text pages to rich, interactive applications and that we needed to completely rethink the browser. What we really needed was not just a browser, but also a modern platform for webpages and applications, and that’s what we set out to build.

“On the surface, we designed a browser window that is streamlined and simple. To most people, it isn’t the browser that matters. It’s only a tool to run the important stuff – the pages, sites and applications that make up the web. Like the classic Google homepage, Google Chrome is clean and fast. It gets out of your way and gets you where you want to go,” Pichau said.

Google’s engineers were able to build the foundation of a browser they claim runs today’s complex web applications much more effectively.

“By keeping each tab in an isolated ‘sandbox’, we were able to prevent one tab from crashing another and provide improved protection from rogue sites. We improved speed and responsiveness across the board. We also built a more powerful JavaScript engine, V8, to power the next generation of web applications that aren’t even possible in today’s browsers.

“This is just the beginning – Google Chrome is far from done. We’re releasing this beta for Windows to start the broader discussion and hear from you as quickly as possible. We’re hard at work building versions for Mac and Linux too, and will continue to make it even faster and more robust.”

Pichai and Upson said the Google development team owe a great debt to many open source projects.

“We’ve used components from Apple’s WebKit and Mozilla’s Firefox, among others – and in that spirit, we are making all of our code open source as well. We hope to collaborate with the entire community to help drive the web forward.”

By John Kennedy

Pictured: scene from the comic book Google used to introduce its new web browser, Google Chrome

Google Chrome video

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years