Over the last decade or so, Google has earned a dominance over the Internet, not only with its search engine but also with its other innovative ideas for the web. Be it YouTube, Orkut or Google Earth, Google has added another dimension to our online world.
Amongst all these brilliant products, Google Chrome stands apart from the rest, not by the virtue of being unique, but rather by being… predictable! At first glance, Chrome appears to be what one would expect from any modern browser. It seems to be lacking that particular Google edge throughout.
But on a little analysis, one discovers that this browser was never meant to woo the world at all, but rather to ensure Google’s dominance in the future…
On September 8th 2008, when Google Chrome was released, I rushed to download the latest innovation from the makers of the world’s most popular search engine. Quite frankly, I was disappointed.
The browser was awfully similar to the modern day browsers; it had very little innovation to offer and was actually pale in comparison to Mozilla Firefox. The only novel idea coming out of chrome was probably its process isolation feature, which allowed multiple tabs to run independently of each other. But still, I couldn’t fathom; why would Google waste its resources to produce such an average browser. I mean, Firefox was already eating into Internet Explorer’s territory, and Google being an open supporter and promoter of open source, seemed quite content with that. Why would Google unnecessarily jump into the browser market?
Then I noticed something that I had missed the first time around… its monster of a Java Engine! Some test indicated that it was about a 100 times more powerful than the J-Engines of its competitors (link). Besides being blown away by that statistic, I was soon puzzled by yet another question, ‘Why would any browser need such a powerful Java Engine in the first place?’
Then the intention behind Chrome dawned on me.
Ever since Google took out the last generation’s search engines to become the market leader, it has been regarded as the single most important company as far as the World Wide Web is concerned. With the expansion of the Internet into our lives, Google made sure that its importance steadily increased. Google went where ever Internet could go: social networking, email services, online broadcasting, etc.
Now as had been foreseen a long time ago, the permeability of the Internet coupled by the advent of broadband, started to create, in the Internet, a platform for the applications of the future. Quite predictably, Google was seen as the leader in this development too. These developments form the basis of the developments that continue till the present day.
Microsoft, which has maintained a monopoly in the Operating Systems market since the very beginning, doesn’t like the idea of loosing the all important application platform. Microsoft will quite obviously, try to resist the devaluation of its operating systems, as more and more applications shift their base of operations from the user’s hard drive to WWW. As a result, it has come out in direct competition with Google, for the Internet. A realm it has to capture in order to avoid loosing significance in the coming future, which in all likeliness will be online.
The competition between these two heavy weights has been out there for everybody to see for some time now. Google openly advised its users to drop the IE-6 browser in favor of Mozilla Firefox or Chrome, saying that they offered a much faster browsing experience compared to IE-6 while using its popular email service Gmail (link).
Microsoft retaliated by setting the default search engine on its, market leading, IE-8 browser to ‘Live search’ even when the majority of the world uses Google for searching the internet.
Google went on to proclaim that software like Word processing, etc. could be run directly via a server; hence implying the redundancy of Microsoft Office and questioning its very future. In fact, it even produced Google Documents, a stripped down office suite that does most of MS Office’s work.
Here, one must remember that Microsoft has, in the past faced such fierce bitterness. And every time, it has come out on top! One can still recall the business practices of the old Microsoft and fury it unleashed on the Netscape Navigator. Though this is probably the first time that it has come face to face with an adversary of this size, in a territory it is still weak in.
Now it’s too early too judge how far will Google bite into Microsoft just by providing alternate software solutions through its Google account. But one thing’s for sure, if it needs to get anywhere in this regard, it will need requisite processing abilities at the user’s end. Without which, it will eventually come to a dead end where its aspirations will be bottlenecked by the browsers present in the market.
That’s where Chrome comes in!
See, Firefox is doing a decent job of irritating Microsoft, its fan following has also grown over the years. But Firefox is an open source software and the Mozilla Foundation is a non profit organization. The bottom line is that it essentially cannot be manipulated. So, no matter how much Google spends on promoting open source or Firefox itself, it cannot change the trajectory Firefox takes. Google and Firefox are fighting the same enemy, but they are not allies!
So Google could imagine how its plans to attack Microsoft through the Internet could come to an expected collapse when it eventually faced the processing bottleneck that the prevalent browsers would produce.
That’s why they decided to take things into their own hands. They released a browser, which was terribly similar to other modern day browsers and fitted it with a ‘V8’ Java Engine. They introduced process isolation so that individual applications could run simultaneously within the same browser without coming in each other’s way. Therefore, if one of the application crashes, the crash is limited to one particular tab rather than bringing the whole browser down.
This way, Google ascertained a future in which they shall not be running into a wall as far as browser compatibility is concerned. A java engine which is 100 times faster than anything out there, will be more than sufficient to run almost any application that Google can imagine for now.
Also, its initiative has forced Firefox to declare a similar Java engine to catch up with its newest competitor. Soon IE will also be left with no other option, but to respond.
So clearly, Chrome is one Google product which was never meant to change the online world, but was instead introduced to allow Google to expand its territory from the conventional to the unconventional to take on the untouchable Microsoft. If Chrome succeeds, Google will eventually come face to face with the giant in a battle that has never been won. And maybe, just maybe it will make reality what many have imagined for too long; and go from being the undisputed king of the search engines to being the single most important name in the IT industry.