John Brandon

Google Chrome browser: Dethroning Microsoft or killing off Mozilla?

By John Brandon
September 02, 2008 1:15 AM EDT

Google shut down free dinners at their HQ, and their stock is nose-diving, so news of their new Chrome browser -- now a direct competitor to Mozilla Firefox -- seems like a way to generate buzz again. It's working so far.

The browser, which should be available for download sometime today, offers a tab bar above the address bar. It lets you fire up Web apps without the toolbar and menus. And, there are thumbnails that show recently visited sites. At first glance, the free browser appears to offer nothing new. It actually looks rather simplistic judging from screenshots at Google Blogoscoped, but the BBC news item is positioned on par with Gustav and election news from the RNC in St. Paul.

So what does it all mean? Google has stayed away from the browser war up until now. When I visited Mozilla a few months ago, I realized just how tight the two companies are since Mozilla is right across the street and almost sits as a daughter company in the shadow of the Googleplex.

Yet, Chrome - which I have not tested yet - implies deeper connections with all Google tools, including Gmail, Picasa, and Documents. It's clear that a company-controlled browser will operate better with their own software. And, it means Google won't have to pay Mozilla for the Firefox searchbox ads.

Yet, a three- or four-way race to make the best browser seems like it could be a path of destruction for Google, who was better off letting the little-guy-topple-giant concept work in their favor with Microsoft vs. Mozilla. Now they are competing with Mozilla and trying to take on Microsoft at the same time.

Or could this be a sign that Google is serious about dethroning Microsoft for consumer and business productivity?

Update: The link is still not working, but that's supposed to be the download location for the browser beta today, so keep checking back!

Second update: GigaOM reports that Chrome will be available at 12PST.


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