What is a Browser? Google Explains…

By Craig Buckler

What's a web browserIt’s a simple question: “What is a web browser?” Unfortunately, Google’s random survey in Times Square, New York, revealed that only 8% of people knew the answer. The remaining 92% of users either did not know or confused it with a search engine. Google had even more worrying concerns — the vast majority of respondents had never heard of their Chrome browser.This is a problem that directly affects web developers. We want people to use the latest browsers so we can implement new technologies and techniques without spending time coding around problems on older applications. IE6 development is particularly problematical yet it retains 20% of the market 8 years after it’s initial release. How can we encourage people to upgrade when the vast majority don’t know what we’re talking about? Those users cannot possibly comprehend the benefits of newer browsers because they’re happy with their existing software.There are deeper problems for Google. The company makes its money from search and online applications. As those systems become more sophisticated, they have become reliant on new technologies such as HTML5. Microsoft has made no firm commitment to HTML5 and, even if it is implemented, they are unlikely to provide support for their legacy browsers. Yet 65% of people continue to use Internet Explorer; they cannot run Google applications such as Wave.Google is attacking the issue on a number of fronts. They are:

However, user education remains the biggest hurdle. Google has identified that users spend more time surfing the web than driving, but they are more likely to know their car’s make and model. Few users realize they have a choice and Microsoft benefits from apathy and lethargy. Therefore, Google’s latest campaign is entitled “What Browser”; they’ve released a video and a mini-site explaining what a browser is to the Internet masses:

I like it. The video’s short, simple, to the point, and offers links to browser websites. I’m sure my parents would understand it.Will the video have a major impact? It’s unlikely. Just because someone knows about the alternatives, it doesn’t follow that they will want or use that choice. Browser differences are imperceivable to many people; IE is good enough and they see little reason to change.However, while the effect of this mini-site may be negligible, this is one small part of Google’s larger campaign. Their success depends on companies and individuals upgrading their browsers. You’d be brave to bet against them.Links:

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  • It’s funny to me that Google would like for you to use their browser, yet in the video they clicked on the Firefox icon. Also, at the end of the video, they listed themselves as third behind Firefox and Safari.

  • At least they’re being honest. Also, the purpose of the video is to educate users about browsers. Many more people have heard about Firefox, so it’s a good example to use. Ultimately, Google want you to use their web applications — any compatible browser will suit them fine.

  • Jasconius

    Google is finally doing what is needed, brute force to move the web forward.

  • What’s with the logos on the “Try a new broswer” page? Are they allowed to colour the logos like that?

  • Tim

    Pretty sure they have to re-colour the logos for legal reasons. I don’t think they are allowed to be reproduced in their original format without permission. It could also simply be to fit in with the styling of the video.

  • While it is easy to get tunnel vision while working in high tech and media, it is important to remember that we are a minority in terms of the total population in how we view software. I liked the Google video as it explains the concept of Internet browsers in a lowest common denomination fashion.

    Asking the average, layman, Internet user about which browser and version they use is like asking a person who is not in the automotive industry how many cubic inches/liters their car engine is. Many don’t know and won’t care, as long as the car starts when they turn the key and gets them from point A to point B, yet mechanics will be bewildered at the notion of people not know or caring about such things.

    Given the large number of YouTube users, if Google wants to quickly move Internet users off of IE 6.0, forcing an upgrade through denying YouTube support of 6.0 will likely be all that it takes. With a player as dominant as Google, you have to take them seriously.

  • Asking the average, layman, Internet user about which browser and version they use is like asking a person who is not in the automotive industry how many cubic inches/liters their car engine is. Many don’t know and won’t care

    I think that’s a bad example. I don’t know anyone who wouldn’t know the size of their car’s engine, both men and women.

  • Adil K

    This is an old article. I remember reading this, i think, two weeks back. It was funny though. I remember also searching for the phrase “stupid americans” after watching this video.

  • biju

    Google is a funny and they want to monopoly

  • kooladesign

    My neighbor asked for computer help recently. I just about managed to contain my shock as I find he is on a dial-up connection and uses Internet Explorer 5. Yes… Internet Explorer 5! He said how he keeps getting reminders about IE8 but like every pop-up, he just ignores and closes it.

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