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I’m a Web Evangelist for Opera, but this post does not represent the official Opera position.
It comes as no surprise that Google was working on its own browser. When your entire multi-billion dollar business is on the web, you’re inevitably going to want some control over the mechanism by which people view it.
I imagine that Chrome was built as a Google Docs viewer. Google owns search, so can serve up adverts when people are doing that. But most people spend a lot of the day typing into Word, Excel etcetera, and not looking at Google’s adverts. Similarly, most people don’t use the vast majority of the features of Microsoft Office, so don’t need to pay the large sum of money that the Office suite costs. If those people can be persuaded to use Google Docs, Google can simultaneously deprive Microsoft of some revenue while showing discreet ads in the document.
Google Chrome has Gears built in, so people can work on the document when they’re off the web, and save shortcuts to documents on their desktop, just like a traditional desktop application. It’s also why Chrome is relatively lacking in chrome and browser controls: it feels less like the web and more like the desktop.
It seems to me that Chrome is designed to compete with Microsoft Windows as an Operating System and Office as an application: Microsoft’s biggest revenue earners (as far as I know).
It surprised me that it didn’t choose Gecko (the engine that powers Firefox), having invested so much in making Firefox fly. But I guess it pays not to keep all your eggs in one basket. Certainly, it doesn’t want to kill Firefox; it still makes a lot of money from people searching through it. And browsers aren’t its prey.
Competition between browsers can only help a consumer, although it can hurt developers if it’s like the Microsoft/ Netscape browser wars. But Google chose Webkit, which powers Apple’s Safari, so it should be pretty standards-compliant and therefore be not too onerous to test, and therefore little of an overhead for businesses with websites or those who make them.
This competition will also help us at Opera. Firstly, on those services Google provides (like Maps, Docs and Analytics) we’ve had compatibility problems as Google didn’t test with Opera properly. Those days are over: it can’t be evil and deny entry to a competitor (which we are, in the browser market). Google now advocates testing across all browsers:
Internet users have an increasing number of choices for web browsers today, including Firefox, Safari, Opera, and now Google Chrome. Sometimes web pages look and work differently in each browser, so it’s important to test your site across all of them to ensure all your visitors can enjoy the experience you’ve designed. (My emphasis)
There are a lot of features of Chrome borrowed from other browsers. Google acknowledges the influence of Firefox and WebKit, but not all the things it borrowed from Opera, which is a shame, but we’re used to it: Ben Ward wrote on Jon Hicks’ blog
I think I’m just sour at their presentation of Opera’s features as their own. The whole comic reads like the speed dial and omnibar are ingenious ideas that Google thought up to revolutionise your web experience. Then whilst Mozilla and WebKit get special thanks in the final panel, Opera gets nothing.
I don’t even use Opera, but in an industry where we preach so much about attribution and respect for the work of others, I’m not happy at the way Google have just danced in like this.
I replied “if there’s one thing that my three months at Opera has taught me (apart from how to drink like a Norwegian) it’s that Opera is constantly overlooked when it comes to doling out the props for its innovations or initiatives.” (That could be why we’re even overlooked in the Chrome user agent string
Mozilla/5.0 (Windows; U; Windows NT 5.1; en-US) AppleWebKit/525.13 (KHTML, like Gecko) Chrome/0.X.Y.Z Safari/525.13, thereby identifying itself to web servers as 1) Mozilla 2) WebKit, 3) KHTML, 4) Gecko, 5) Safari and 6) itself.)
The best thing about Chrome to me is the exposure it’s getting. It was even on the TV news last night. Hopefully, people who always thought that the big blue “e” and the Internet were synonymous will now realise that there is choice in the browser market, and they will make that choice rather than go with the pre-installed browser. Some will choose Chrome, some will choose Firefox and some will choose Opera, and that’s how it should be.
What’s your take, dear chums?
Browser tests (added Sunday 7 Sept)
Techradar tested Chrome against Safari and Opera, concluding the overall winner is Opera, saying
We’re big fans of Apple hardware and software, but Safari for Windows is half-arsed. It’s great on the Mac, but we can’t think of a reason why Windows users would want it – especially now Chrome offers essentially the same rendering engine with a better interface, lower memory usage and better performance.