Burning Chrome

03 September 2008

I’m sure this is the zillionth post on the internet about Google Chrome, but a thought struck me and I’ve not seen it articulated like this yet.

Tom Scott makes an excellent point about one reason for Chrome’s existence in his blog post on the topic:

Google want to offer much richer and, more importantly, faster web applications.

The current browsers, including Firefox, just can’t cut it. JavaScript isn’t fast enough (thereby limiting the UX), browsers are single threaded and they aren’t stable enough. If Google want to challenge Microsoft (or anyone else for that matter) in the desktop space they needed a better platform. Of course others have sought to solve the same problem – notably Adobe with Air and Microsoft with Silverlight. Google’s solution is I think much neater – build an open source browser that supports multithreading, fast JavaScript execution and stuff Google Gears into the back end so it works offline.

I think that’s all very sensible, and very true. But there’s also a much simpler strategy at work – a strategy around their brand.

Google need users on decent, standards-compatible browsers, to make the most of the rich web; they don’t want to be working around IE all the time. Forgetting the advances of a much better, JIT-compiled Javascript engine, they just need people to stop using IE.

The greatest coup Microsoft pulled with Internet Explorer was putting the word “Internet” in its name. It sits there, on the desktop of every new Windows computer, and it says “Internet”. So you click it.

Chrome is a browser from Google – Google, who, for many people, are now the Internet. It’s their first port of call, it’s their homepage; many user-testing surveys comment on users typing URLs straight into Google.

What better way to beat a browser with the word “Internet” in its name – a browser that seemingly can’t be beat no matter how hard we try – than the Internet Company itself making a browser?