Google Browser: ABCs of Information Access

September 1, 2008

A is for Apple. The company uses WebKit in Safari. B is for browser, the user’s interface to cloud applications and search. C is for containers, Google’s nifty innovation for making each window a baby window on functions. The world is abuzz today (September 1, 2008) with Google’s browser project. The information, according to Google Blogoscoped, appeared in a manga or comic book. You can read that story here. There are literally dozens of posts appearing every hour on this topic, and I want to highlight a few of the more memorable posts and offer several comments.

First, the most amusing post to me is Kara Swisher’s post here. She a pal of the GOOG and, of course, hooked up with the media giant, currently challenged for revenues and management expertise The Wall Street Journal. The best think about her story is that Google’s not creating an extension of the Google environment. Nope, Google is “igniting a new browser war”. I thought Google and Microsoft were at odds already. After a decade, a browser war seems so 1990s to me. But she’s a heck of a writer.

Second, Carnage4Life earned a chuckle with its concluding statement about the GOOG:

Am I the only one that thinks that Google is beginning to fight too many wars on too many fronts. Android (Apple), OpenSocial (Facebook), Knol (Wikipedia), Lively (IMVU/SecondLife), Chrome (IE/Firefox) and that’s just in the past year.

Big companies don’t have the luxury of doing one thing. Google is more in the “controlled chaos” school of product innovation. Of course, Google goes in a great many directions. The GOOG is not a search engine; it is an application platform. It makes sense to me to see the many tests, betas, and probes. Google’s been doing this innovation by diffusion since its initial public offering and never been shy about its approach or its success and failure rate.

Finally, I enjoyed this comment by Mark Evans in “Google Browser or Slow News Day” here. He writes:

The bigger question is whether a Google browser will resonate with computers users. Many people are using an increasing number of Google services (search, GMail, Blogger, etc.) but are they ready to surrender to Google completely by dumping Firefox and IE?

My take is a bit different. Two points without much detail. I have more but this is, after all, a free Web log written by an addled goose.

  1. Why do we assume that Google is suddenly working on a browser? Looking at the screen shots of Google patent documents over the last couple of years, the images do not look like Firefox, Opera or Safari. Indeed when I give talks and show these screen shots, some Googlers like the natty Cyrus are quick to point out that these are photoshopped. Not even some canny Googlers pay attention to what the brainiacs in the Labs are doing to get some Google functions to work reliably.
  2. Google’s patent documents make reference to janitors, containers, and metadata functions that cannot be delivered in the browsers I use. In order to make use of Google’s “inventions”, the company needs a controlled environment. Check out my dataspaces post and the IDC write up on this topic for a glimpse of the broader functionality that demands a controlled computing environment.

I’m not sure I want to call this alleged innovation a browser. I think it is an extension of the Googleplex. It is not an operating system. Google needs a data vacuum cleaner and a controlled computing environment. The application may have browser functions, but it is an extension, not a solution, a gun fight, or an end run around Firefox.

Stephen Arnold, September 1, 2008

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