Friday, October 30, 2009

Why Chrome isn't a flop

There seems to be a good deal of belief that Google's Chrome browser is a flop and is likely to stay being a flop.  This afternoon I read Google Chrome: The Fast Browser With Slow Adoption on PCWorld.  The author goes through many reasons why Chrome is not in wide spread adoption, but ultimately misses the point of why Google developed Chrome.
Chrome is merely a means to an end.  Google's platform is the web.  The better the web platform is, the easier Google can make money.  Google doesn't care about web browsers or operating systems except for how they affect users getting online and using Google services.
Getting users online is their business model.  Any hindrance to this end is a hindrance to Google making money.
Web browsers have a lot of unrealized potential.  In fact, web browsers really don't do many of the things they should be doing.  This is why Google built Chrome.  They want to set the standard for which web browsers are judged, so they set out to build the best web browser there is.
There are key design features of Chrome that hint to Google's real intentions with Chrome.
First, Chrome is a child of a parent project named Chromium.  Chromium is an open source browser developed by Google.  Chromium can be modified by anyone and spun into their own browser.  Google spins Chromium into it's own Google branded browser named Chrome.  Anyone else could do the same, brand it with their logos and features and call it what they want.
Another key element of Chrome is its rendering engine.  In stead of writing a new rendering engine they plugged WebKit into their browser.  WebKit is an open source rendering engine, which is most notable for being used by Safari.  Chrome actively contributed to WebKit pushing forward new features of the latest web standards and optimizing it to be fast and flexible.  They then take these news improvements and push them into Chrome.  This way they are not only making Chrome a better browser that will push the web into the new age of online computing, but they are also pushing Safari, and every other browser or product that uses WebKit to display web pages, with them.  Despite a stable version of Chrome being available for the Mac, every Mac user benefits from Google's development of Chrome, which in turn helps push forward Google's business agenda.
Another key element to Google's release of Chromium is how it snaps into two other major projects of Google, namely Android and Chrome OS.  These are two Linux-based operating systems that Google is producing.
Android is currently available to T-Mobile customers and will soon be available to Verizon customers as well.  In the future more mobile carriers are set to join in carrying Android power mobile phones.  The Android mobile-phone operating system is designed with Internet connectivity in mind.  It presently uses Opera for its browser.  When the Linux version of Chrome goes live it is a sure bet that it will start shipping with Android, instantly making it a mainstream browser.
Chrome OS is a desktop operating system targeted for Netbooks.  Its key feature will be that all applications for it will be Internet applications.  Without a doubt Chrome OS will ship with the Chrome web browser.  The success of Chrome OS rides almost entirely on the ability to attract developers to build great applications for it that will entice consumers, the same way the wide availability of cool applications for the iPhone has made it an instant game changer in the mobile industry.
Last of all the open source nature of Chrome means that anyone else can freely and easily borrow any of the code and put it in their browser.  Google really doesn't care of anybody actually uses Chrome for their browser.  What they care about is pushing browsers forward.  If browsers move forward then better applications are built for the web.  If this happens people will be inclined to be on the web more, and people are more likely to use Google services or use the service of companies that utilize Google AdWords.  Essentially Google will do whatever it takes to get people online so they can make money.  And that is what Chrome is all about.
You simply cannot measure the success of Chrome by how many people are using it.  As long as Chrome keeps raising the bar for what a browser can do  and that entices other browser makers to keep up, Google is making good on their investment in Chrome.
That being said, I have been using the nightly Ubuntu builds of Chrome and it is in very very good shape.  It is fast, stable, secure and overall a pleasure to use.