Google's Microsoft-esque landgrab for IE's market share

For those who thought that the Web had ushered in a new era of collaboration, Google's swipe at Microsoft's 20 percent IE6 market share may give you pause.

The browser wars are heating up in earnest, with Google urging its customers to dump Internet Explorer 6 for the Mozilla Firefox or Google Chrome browsers. Internet Explorer commands a 68 percent global market share, according to Net Applications, but a full 20 percent of that share is for IE6.

With Firefox apparently picking up 66 percent of all IE6 defectors, according to TG Daily, Google is effectively subsidizing the open-source Firefox at the expense of Microsoft. In sum, Microsoft is getting a taste of its own medicine from the company that increasingly looks and acts like Microsoft .

Funny how that competition thing works.

Google, of course, has good reasons for pushing upgrades, just as Microsoft has had its own good reasons for forced upgrades. Better security, lowered support burdens, etc. Just because a vendor wants its customer base to upgrade to a newer version doesn't suggest nefarious design. In fact, it often implies the opposite.

But by offering links only to Firefox and Chrome for its upgrade, Google is doing something that helped to make Microsoft the 8,000-ton gorilla on the desktop: playing favorites. Notice how Facebook handles the requested upgrade:

Kryogenix.org

But this is how Google is doing it:

No IE7 in Google browser alert Google

Fair? Yes. A bit sneaky? You bet. Clint Boulton at eWeek sees it as a way to promote Chrome, and he's right. Google now regularly hawks its own Chrome browser on its search page, the same page that 63.5 percent of the world uses. In true Microsoft fashion, Google is going to tie its products together, making a holistic experience that ostensibly helps customers while bludgeoning competitors.

All's fair in love and browsers.

This particular move, however, is not notable for Google's self-preferential treatment. That's to be expected. What is most intriguing is Google's clear anti-Microsoft shot across the bow. "Get rid of IE6, and maybe you should wait on using that scary beta of IE8. Don't even think about IE7" is the message. If Google can get its users trying something, anything besides Microsoft technology, it wins. Even if those Microsoft customers defect to Mozilla's Firefox browser, Google still wins, because the Mozilla Foundation is an erstwhile ally of Google, not a competitor.

Welcome to Competition 2.0. It looks a lot like Competition 1.0, but Microsoft is suddenly on the receiving end.

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About the author

    Matt Asay is chief operating officer at Canonical, the company behind the Ubuntu Linux operating system. Prior to Canonical, Matt was general manager of the Americas division and vice president of business development at Alfresco, an open-source applications company. Matt brings a decade of in-the-trenches open-source business and legal experience to The Open Road, with an emphasis on emerging open-source business strategies and opportunities. He is a member of the CNET Blog Network and is not an employee of CNET. You can follow Matt on Twitter @mjasay.

     

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