Google will need nerves of Chrome as growth may be slow


4 Sep 2008

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While Google has shown it has balls of Chrome, its penetration of the global browser market will be slow and steady. But one observer has noted that Google’s attack on Microsoft could contribute to the unintentional demise of Firefox.

An analysis conducted by web traffic firm Statcounter reveals that the first day of launch of its new browser Chrome yielded Google 1pc of the global browser market.

“This is a phenomenal performance,” commented Aodhan Cullen (pictured) of StatCounter, which is a rival to Google on website analytics. “This is war on Microsoft but the big loser could be Firefox.”

StatCounter analysis conducted yesterday found that Internet Explorer holds 70pc of the global browser market followed by Firefox with 22pc.

“Chrome underpins Google’s efforts to expand from search to applications, as part of a broader business diversification. This is a diversification that is both necessary and timely,” explained Laurent Lachal, senior analyst with Ovum.

“The launch starts with the assertion that browsers need to become application platforms – with the implicit assumption that Chrome will be a particularly good platform for Google’s own applications and the starting point for a more integrated experience across these applications.

“Google seeks to expand from search to applications by delivering a better platform for richer web applications, which is less dependent on the underlying operating system (OS). The current version only runs on Windows. Mac and Linux versions are to follow soon,” Lachal said.

Chrome’s built-from-scratch JavaScript VM provides OS/hardware platform independence and runs applications faster by running machine code rather than interpreted code, among other tricks.

Its multi-process rather than multi-threaded design provides the same isolation capabilities found in operating systems. It turns each tab into an independent application environment with its own controls and URL box.

Lachal said this design prevents tabs from crashing the whole browser and enables them to move not just within the browser but also out to their own window. Chrome also features Google Gears technology to make online applications available offline.

Lachal agrees with Cullen’s analysis that the main target of Chrome is Microsoft, not Mozilla Foundation, but doesn’t believe it will challenge Mozilla’s Firefox.

“Chrome challenges not just Microsoft’s IE browser (especially in the mobile browser space – on the desktop space it simply makes the forthcoming IE version 8 look much less inspiring) but also its Windows desktop (by supporting richer web applications less dependent on standard OSs).

“Chrome is much less of a challenge to Mozilla Foundation’s Firefox browser. Its release comes a few days after Google renewed its partnership deal with the foundation, effectively funding it for another three years until November 2011. Mozilla’s main challenge (to grow independent from Google’s funding) remains unchanged.

“The foundation now has more time to get its act together in a market that, owing to Chrome, could become not just more competitive but also more open source browser friendly. Eventually Chrome and Firefox could converge, but at the moment two strong players (Chrome with Google’s mindshare as well as marketing and financial muscle, and Firefox with its market share lead and ecosystem) have more chance against Microsoft than one.”

Lachal said Chrome is only an experiment, in line with Google’s usual approach to try various offerings and see which ones stick – many became resounding successes; others remain complete fiascos.

“It is too early to see which category Chrome will eventually find itself in. We expect success but it will be much more gradual and slow than most suppose and more likely in the mobile browser space than in the desktop one,” Lachal said.

By John Kennedy

Pictured: Aodhan Cullen of StatCounter