Google Working on Browser: What About Mozilla?

By Josh Catone
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Update: Windows users can download the browser here.

Google-watching blogger Philipp Lenssen received a package in the mail from Google today containing a 38-page comic book detailing a long rumored side project of theirs: the Google web browser. Lenssen put the entire comic online, and it’s an interesting read. But why is Google planning their own browser?

First, some quick facts (based on the comic):

  • Chrome is a fully open source browser based on Webkit — the same underlying architecture that powers Apple’s Safari and their iPhone browser.
  • It will be multi-threaded, with each process having its own memory and copy of global data structures.
  • Because each tab will run using its own process, crashes or memory leaks or renegade JavaScript theoretically won’t bring down the whole browser — just that tab.
  • It will have an OS-like process manager so you can get a tab-by-tab view of which web apps are hogging your CPU and bandwidth.
  • Google claims that nifty new implementations of how the browser deals with JavaScript (like a built-in JavaScript virtual machine called V8) have significantly increased the speed of web applications.
  • Gears comes pre-loaded — which means a commitment to web standards.
  • Tabs are above the address bar, not below it (as in other modern browsers), meaning more emphasis on the pages you’re viewing. Each tab has its own controls (forward, back, address bar, etc.)
  • The address bar has auto-complete and keyword suggestions baked in.
  • A “new tab page” shows your 9 most visited sites, searches, recently bookmarked sites, and recently closed tabs when you open a new tab.
  • Chrome has a privacy mode (think IE 8’s now infamous InPrivate mode, that the web has unceremoniously dubbed “porn mode”) built-in.
  • Popups are confined to the tab where they originated, unless you want to drag them out to their own window.
  • Web apps can be launched in their own toolbar-less browser window — along with Gears support that sounds a lot like Mozilla Prism territory.
  • Chrome will have built-in phishing protection based on a continually updated list of bad sites.

So why is Google building Chrome? According to the comic, the reason is that they wanted a browser that was built from the ground up with web applications (like the ones that they create) in mind. Google says they want a browser that is “more stable, faster, more secure, [and] with a clean, simple, and efficient user interface.” Apparently Firefox, the open source browser project from Mozilla that Google has backed almost since the start, isn’t any of those things.

Google has been rumored to be working on a browser for at least 4 years, so it’s not really a surprise that they actually are working on one. But why start from scratch with their own offering rather than just put more effort into supporting Mozilla? That’s an especially interesting question considering that last week Google renewed its investment with Mozilla through 2011.

Google says that Chrome is about helping “all browsers become more powerful” by building “a solid foundation for modern web applications,” and hopes that other browser developers — including the Webkit and Mozilla open source projects — will borrow some of the ideas they put out there.

That’s admirable, but this also feels a lot like it fits in with the Google trend of wanting to be in control of everything. Yes, it is an open source project, but it’s one crafted in Google’s image (like Knol is Wikipedia in Google’s image, or like Google Friend Connect is open standards done Google’s way). And as Google Operating system observes, Chrome is actually the long rumored “Google OS.” If the web is the operating system of the future, as many contend, a browser designed specifically with running web applications in mind will be hugely important and potentially have an advantage over other players.

That said, some of the ideas Google presents in their comic are really intriguing so we can’t wait to try it. How about you?

Update: Blogoscoped has screenshots, and Google has an has an official announcement. Word on the street is Windows beta drops tomorrow.

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  • Lame, google is starting to get into to much. I’m pretty confident the pages you browse will be some how tracked by google and used for something or other. either way this hurts Firefox more than it will IE in usage. Most FF users will be like zomg new browser from Google lets go!!1!1!

  • Hiveon

    Just one more step in taking over the internet completely.

  • I don’t understand this new trend of seing Google as an evil corporation.

    What’s wrong with creating a new browser from scratch? I think that having the opportunity to pack the last 6~8 years of knowledge and trends in web evolution, into a browser designed with those new trends in mind is pretty exciting! It’s an opportunity to review how things are done in web browsers and boy, do they need to be reviewed!

    The damn thing is open source, how is Google trying to be like Microsoft here is way beyond my understanding. If they do something wrong and do try to get control of the internet (uh-uh…), just get the damn code and create your own browser. Trust me, if they screw up enough, someone will eventually do that.

    And if it hurts FF more than IE but in the end we get a better web because more browser makers are forced to make them more standards compliant due to having even more standards compliant competition, so be it!
    This is not a race to see who has the greatest share of usage and people need to understand that.
    This is about making the web a better place for both users and developers.

    And by the way, it is not multi-threaded, it uses multiple processes.

  • They are >this< close to hitting that “devil’s peak” of negative PR moves that MS has done.

    When people feel saturated, it is the same thing as being suffocated, and the natural reaction is to “repel” that feeling.

    Google might be joking, but it’s not funny.

  • Wow… porn mode. Im stoked.

  • Jon

    Google don’t have a choice. They can’t afford to let Microsoft control the browser market and slowly take over the RIA market with Silverlight. They need an alternative application platform, and they need to be able to push it forward at a faster pace than the open web has crawled the past decade. Everything they’ve done has been leading in this direction. They got people excited about the possibilities of of Ajax with Gmail and Maps, they developed GWT to help developers produce their own web apps, they developed Gears to help plug gaps in existing browsers, and increase the parity between desktop and web apps. Producing their own browser is just the next logical step in their strategy to overcome Microsoft’s monopoly.

  • cdomigan

    Web apps can be launched in their own toolbar-less browser window — along with Gears support that sounds a lot like Mozilla Weave territory.

    Do you mean Mozilla Prism?

  • lewis

    googles next big app, only available with “Chrome”. It is going to happen, why create a platform and not develop for it.

    Google is a business, it is out to make money and a new browser war will go far in deciding who will control that market.

  • ionix5891

    great now they can embed more spyware (im looking at you google toolbar) and make sure the browser doesnt get adblock (no mention of plugins)

    do no evil…

  • If anyone qualifies to make a browser from Scratch, it’s Google. They know more about the web than anyone else.

  • If is less cluttered and more stable than FF, more than welcome. Several friends and family, which I convinced to use Firefox a couple of years ago, are switching back to IE because FF3 crashes, freezes their machines, etc. Same has happened to me.

    Now for the “evil” part, sure. Google is in a position that could make their browser a defacto one. Though I believe the share will be split in IE, FF and the Google browser more or less equally in years to come.

  • @XLCowBoy, that’s exactly the kind of thought that I don’t get. I mean, compare Google to MS? Are you serious? Google could put all the spyware they wanted in Google Toolbar and people would still have no reasone to hate them nearly as much as they’d hate MS!

    And as for spyware, ionix5891, could you be a little more specific? What spyware does Google toolbar have? It’s a legitimate question, since I never used it and don’t really know much about it.

    @cdomigan, yes, they probably do mean Prism, or at least that’s what anyone who knows the product would think, since they openly thank Mozilla in the end of the comic. What’s the problem of taking a good idea, use it and who knows, maybe even improve it? You probably want software patents in europe to become a reality, don’t you?

    I don’t want to sound like I’m defending Google, here. I have no interest in that. What I don’t like is seing everyone get into the same wagon and bash people and companies around, just because someone else did it first. It almost seems like people need to do that to feel accepted within their society. It must be fashionable, or something. But it’s still stupid as hell.

  • Google is the internets!

  • @borfast – it’s an exposure thing. We (the peeps who have done or do marketing) see it time and again. Generally speaking, it basically boils down to over exposure. It’s the same phenomenon as the “Obama-fatigue” that a few people are feeling. In fact, Apple too, is already experiencing it with the “anti-Apple” fanatics.

  • But we will always have to validate in IE still, this adds another browser to the equation :(

  • TestSpammer2

    Few features borrowed from opera there …

  • Tarh

    Who decided that it was a good idea to compile javascript and run it natively on the processor?! Javascript is already far too powerful, and now it’s about to get even worse with potential to cause far more damage to the operating system itself. Browsers have bugs (they even admit that they will have bugs in their comics), and all it takes is one bug in their javascript compiler to introduce some of the most powerful web exploits imaginable. Yet another great reason to block javascript completely by using plugins like NoScript. Oh wait, they didn’t mention anything about a plugin system. Why is anybody excited about this, again? It’s just another browser that we’ll have to worry about when developing.

  • So the start tab is really similar to Opera’s Speed Dial. Plus the “Omnibar” is a lot like Opera’s address bar and Firefox’s new awesome bar. Not new. Plus the privacy feature has been in Safari for ages. I’m interested to see it, but lots of stuff borrowed from Opera there.

  • @cdomigan: Yes! I did, thanks. Fixed. You’d think I would have a better memory of these things since I wrote about Prism for RWW last October … I’ll blame jet lag for as long as I can get away with it. ;)

  • i think one should not sleep with enemy, that being google, as in the end google is the one that really wins. if there’s two things google knows well it’s how to manage its image and manipulate others.

  • @alvaro – I don’t have any problems with FF3 crashing or slowing down – still a mile better than IE7 in my opinion, plus I am running a solid 10-12 extensions…

  • Anonymous

    I wonder if open-source will be a GPL licence or compatible?

  • Anonymous

    Apparently Firefox, the open source browser project from Mozilla that Google has backed almost since the start, isn’t any of those things.

    Thats a lame comment, increased competition in browser world is good for the web and hopefully, for web developers. No need to demonize google, calling them firefox-haters.

  • Arkh

    I don’t understand this new trend of seing Google as an evil corporation.

    Maybe it isn’t inherently evil.
    But they have a lot of information (analytics, adsense, your search, your mail, maybe your agenda, word documents, your youtube usage etc) which could tell a lot of thing about you if someone gets its hand on it. And they have to obey court orders, which can make them give these infos to any government. Like the youtube history which they had to give to viacom :
    The best method to protect data is to not store it.

  • Anonymous

    Its all academic really – the proof will be in the pudding. I’m sure many of us will try it out. It’ll be interesting to see how it will render CSS etc. I for one am more than happy with FF3. With pipelining etc set up FF is the bees knees.

  • It will be just another headache for web developers.

  • Stevie D

    I’m cautious because I don’t want to see “Google” as synonymous with “the internet” – but as I use Google Search and Google Maps all the time, I am hardly in a position to throw rocks. And it seems like most of the negative views here are only because Google is getting maybe a bit too powerful – there’s nothing wrong with Chrome, it’s only because it’s Google Chrome…

    On the whole, I think this is a great bit of news. Another open-source browser that looks like it’s going to be (a) great to use, and (b) good to develop for. Anything that is likely to bring down the number of people using IE is a good thing.

    Yes, they’ve taken on ideas and features from Opera, Firefox and Safari – why wouldn’t they? These are great browsers and they have lots of features that users love – incorporating similar features is only common sense.

    If I was working on Chrome, I would be very careful not invade users’ privacy, because that would open Google up to sooo much trouble – they are built on a spotless reputation and they can’t afford to mess that up.

  • Franklin

    I enjoy how they openly admit their software is in a beta mode and they like to launch “early”. Good luck getting users to understand this when they want their web pages and apps optimized for the new browser day 1.

  • Anonymous

    I have no problems with the browser being from Google. But, based on what was shown in the comics, I probably won’t be using it due to security concerns. Whether or not this is a good thing does relate directly to Google [b]Chrome[/b], and whether or not it will be easy to develop for. They say that they’re using Webkit as the rendering engine, but I got the impression that they’ve modified it in some way. I also got the impression that there will be plenty of proprietary tags to go around, especially ones that Google finds useful for their own apps.

  • Neil Bradley

    I can’t wait ’til they start making cars. Will you be able to drive it drunk and still make it home in one piece?

  • I think it sounds interesting. Just as long as it’s standards compliant and doesn’t create any more browser compatibility testing issues I am fine with any new browser entering the market.

  • zuneone

    I’ll be sticking with IE8, but thank you Google for your efforts

  • I definitely want to try it out. I was slow to download FF3 but this I will download as soon as I can.

  • Franklin Says:
    September 2nd, 2008 at 10:49 pm
    I enjoy how they openly admit their software is in a beta mode and they like to launch “early”. Good luck getting users to understand this when they want their web pages and apps optimized for the new browser day 1.

    Havent you heard?.. alpha is the new beta. Beta the new stable.

  • I enjoy how they openly admit their software is in a beta mode and they like to launch “early”

    lol, many of their products are betas, in fact. For instance, Gmail. So, nobody can blame them for bugs, because they have betas only, even though those products have been marked as beta for about 5 years…

  • randomhero

    I find the potential of Google quite exciting. I’m not the biggest fan of Microsoft but I do love Google applications. It seems that eventually they’ll have free software for EVERYTHING. Google OS anybody?

  • Just downloaded and installed. All very slick as was expected… Now the big question… does it render differently to IE, FF etc?

    Unfortunately for web devs the world over, YES, it would appear that it does :0(

    It may be a bug with the css engine that will be smoothed out but currently there’s a very small glitch present on the homepage of one of my clients sites that isn’t rendered in any of the other browsers.

    I have to say my heart actually sank when I saw it :0(

  • dmwalk

    Just downloaded Chrome and it is very slow. MSNBC took 65 seconds with Chrome and only 6 seconds with Firefox. Other websites are also very slow, although they were rendered correctly. I can’t believe Google released this browser with such poor performance. This browser is DOA without some major improvements.

  • dmwalk

    Update: After several restarts, Chrome is now of about equivalent speed as Firefox.

  • GP

    Google Chrome is now live:

    Please update your post.


  • TuxNerd

    I am on Chrome right now and am thoroughly impressed, its UI is simple and would not be difficult for IE users to adapt to, and yet there are some nice dev tools included. The CSS3 support which isn’t mentioned, but is included, is awesome, even has some supported features which FF3.1 alpha does not have. For you designers, chrome doesn’t support text-shadow but does support multiple background images, supports multi-columns, resizing, opacity, etc.

    It loads like a webkit engine, where it loads the entire page before displaying it, which is different than FF, but is nice anyways. Before you hate it, check it out, I am a fan of any open source browsers out there that open up the internet and help support good standards.

    For anyone interested it does render the text like webkit driven safari, where it is a little bolder than FF or IE.

    But overall I give it a go, and recommend checking it out… granted I also have Opera, Netscape, IE, FF2, FF3.1 alpha, and safari installed on my vista machine, so I like to test out all browsers, kind of have to when you are a web developer.


  • I am on chrome right now, it seems nice enough… From what I can tell it is rendering pages closely to FF3. I’ll play around with it more before I finally decide but one thing I like is that you can open a control panel that tells you what is making your page run slow.

    I would hope that this would take mroe users away from IE than FF

  • I’m on it. All my sites render exactly as they do in FF except for older ones where I used “px” for fonts instead of “em”.

  • Chromer

    Posted from chrome, windows VM in Linux (no Linux version yet)

  • Speedster

    Incorporate Firebug then I’ll use it daily. Oh btw, rendering is more close to Safari than FF.

  • I played with chrome for a little while, today. It was fast – really fast (compared to ff3). I like the minimalist approach and the stolen features from opera. However, I will stick with firefox for my everyday browsing (the plugins are invaluable). I’m hoping that v8 won’t cause too many js issues and that they don’t stray too far from the webkit base *fingers crossed*.

  • TheBuzzSaw

    It’ll be upgraded and patched as time goes on.

    If Chrome is running more slowly than your other browsers, you have something configured incorrectly (either in your system or in Chrome). Chrome promises to (and does) run faster than other browsers easily.

    Personally, I think Chrome is fantastic. The improved memory management is quite slick. Tabs crashing instead of entire windows is a miracle in web browsing.

  • brandaggio

    This is a superb browser that work intuitively and is designed with the knowledge of the mistakes of the past.

    It is a game changer and a new day for web apps.

    Haters, hate on…

  • Anonymous

    no Flash… no Good….

  • Developer

    Google is really starting to get too powerful. They have been on the edge for a while. Now we have another monopoly to deal with. Anything google releases is considered to be the best, people instantly switch over and give away all of their private data… and all for free.

    I, for one, am offended that google chose not to simply invest more in Mozilla, which has been the open-source community’s browser of choice for a good long time, and has been doing a LOT to try to fight the evils of IE.

    Instead of one microsoft, congratulations, we now have two.

  • zaaylo

    Absolutely great move by Google, spreading wings Eagle Eye.

  • iwebie

    I have installed Google Chrome and found browsing fun with its simple Gtalk like Simplicity. I’ll stick with FireFox for now until Chrome gets some useful plugins to enhance it.

    Read more below

    Just waiting for the Google ToolBar Plugin for Chrome. But for me Firefox rocks

  • My site is showing differently in Chrome to FF. Chrome is doing the IE and putting and extra whitespace area underneath a closing form tag… Functions

    Unless my HTML is wrong…

  • Oh, you can’t paste code in the “code block” tag

  • @no Flash… no Good…

    Err… it seemed to load the flash used to do our dynamic graphs in our traffic monitoring system okay :)

  • israelisassi
  • Anonymous

    Using it with google maps gives you a much bigger viewport. Nice!

  • TuxNerd

    flash works fine here, used pandora and imeem for music without any problem (kind of neat to see the cpu and network usage of flash for those btw.

    I guess there was a vulnerability found already, which is why its still beta… a reminder to the world, BETA !== FREEWARE, and it doesn’t mean its stable.

    But hey, I can’t get too upset about bugs on a beta that has only been out for less than 24 hours… hopefully they fix their shit before it goes live (though with google’s history that may be a while, (*cough* gmail *cough*) anyways, at least give it a try before you go off on how evil google is becoming.

    Google isn’t microsoft btw, they use opensource and freeware, don’t even begin to compare the two. Microsoft files patents on everything, they are NEVER open source, and they hate the open source competition. Google promotes open source, (is still funding firefox for 3 more years at least), promotes community development, they are a pretty dang good company, so stop with the trendy bashing of google… hell stop with the trendy bashing of microsoft unless you have a reason to, i hate it when people just jump onto the band wagon.


  • Anonymous

    Using google maps gives you a much bigger viewport, nice!

  • Diana

    Blazing speed? Nuh-uh. I downloaded Chrome yesterday and used it for my normal development: make a change, reload in my browser, review my changes from the remote Web server. This is something I do every day, so it was a hum-drum, routine test. Chrome was ungodly slow at refreshing the pages, jumping focus up to the top of the page before refocusing to my original location lower on the page. The CSS graphics took a long time to show up, and there really were very few. These are text-heavy documentation pages, so they should be loading in a flash. The pages are PHP pages; the changes were minor text edits. Reloading is unnoticeable with FF 3.0.1 or IE 7. Chrome slowed me down–I did not expect it at all.

  • Bill

    I hate to show my ignorance but if Chrome uses webkit, why wasn’t there a simultaneous release for the Mac platform? Do you think it was just because they didn’t have folks who could do it at the same time?

  • Muffin
  • ger

    I have know used chrome for twenty four hours, and cannot not fault it, blazing speed, renders all my sites as I thought they would be seen when I wrote them. I will definitely be recommending this one, once it gets a few months under its belt for bug fixes.

  • I quite like the new browser – it looks very sleek and trendy.

  • @Muffin

  • ewand

    I’m playing around with Chrome on Ubuntu Hardy via VirtualBox, and I have to say I’m quite impressed so far. Runs faster than FF3 running natively, both in terms of page loading times and UI responsiveness.

  • franglix

    It loads up very very fast and cleanly over here (if being in Paris makes any difference).
    I don’t read comic books by choice, but it rendered the Chrome explanation ‘easier’ I suppose. However I found the latter technical sub-plots a little wearing; they just seemed to want to show all the development contributors and their enthusiasm.

    As to whether I would use it? I would probably keep its use to particular browsing activities as just working on my sites as it remembers what I want easily. FF3 will remain the place where I keep all my diverse pro-info bookmarks, Opera for personal stuff, IE7 for CSS function checks. I just can’t be bothered to replicate them across all browsers, and then forget where I put an important bookmark.

  • Rajakumar

    I think few features are missing here “Reload on right click”

  • lovethefind

    Corporate policy dictates IE here, but I’ve had a play with Chrome – it’s almost worth it for the ‘Find in Page’ function – it highlights every instance of the search item and gives an indication on the scroll bar where each item sits on the page. It’s the little things…

  • Anonymous

    Chrome is just what devlopers need. It’s not there to replace Firefox (just yet). It can’t, as FF’s main pro is it’s extensions. Until chrome supports extensions and has some compromable to that in Firefox (cough, web dev toolbar, firebug, cough), Firefox hasn’t a worry.

    It’s definitely going to be more appealing to an average internet user using IE than to a power Firefox user. It’s what we need to usurp IE. Once these ‘Never used anything but IE’ people have changed their browser once, maybe they’ll be more inclined to change it again (maybe even to firefox).

    plus this is great as it’s one more (powerful) vote towards some of the awesome features implemented by the webkit team…now the other rendering engines have something to worry about.

    Stop the stupid google bashing, if a different developer released this you wouldn’t complain.

  • Tried it. Like it.

    I like the minimal look, and even the beta feels much snappier. I’m looking forward to seeing how other browsers respond.

  • Anonymous

    Check out the Google Chrome Terms of Service. Read Paragraph 10.1. Then read the definition of “Services” in Paragraph 1.1. Then tell me what you can legally (if you actually abide by the TOS) view with Chrome. I believe you must conclude that Chrome may be used only for Google services such as Mail, Maps, the search engine — but NOT any non-Google pages even if found by the search engine. Maybe you can legally view the cached pages on the Google servers. That seems to fit within the definition of Services. Google’s lawyers have already been forced to retract a claim to ownership of all YOUR content (older version of Paragraph 11). Perhaps they may be forced to undo this nonsense. I’m sure it is not what Google themselves intended, but their lawyers are overzealous.

  • ghostme

    Google has started to dip its hands into many things now…let’s see how this one plays out