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Google: Of the Web, for the Web

Google's strength is that it has no firm grounding on the desktop, allowing it to build out the Web in ways that injure incumbent vendors like Microsoft.

Something struck me in reading this section of Stephen Wildstrom's excellent review of Google's Chrome browser. That something? Google really is a different beast than Microsoft, or even Mozilla:

Both Microsoft's Internet Explorer 8 (recently made available for public download) and Mozilla's Firefox 3 offer admirable security and stability improvements. But they still focus on features designed as add-ons to Web pages...These touches can be helpful, but they reflect an outdated idea of what a browser is all about.

Google has taken a different tack. It didn't expend much effort on what traditionally has been the heart of a browser, the rendering engine, which creates viewable pages from the text, images, and instructions supplied by Web servers. Google just adapted the open-source WebKit browser engine used by Safari.

Google took "a different tack" because it has no investment in the old "tack." It was born on the Web and only need worry about the Web. Sure, it intersects with the desktop, but only long enough to nudge people back to the Web.

Microsoft is in a position of strength and weakness due to its investment in the desktop. Even Mozilla, much as I respect its team and love its Firefox browser, was born in an offline world to help take people online. It doesn't yet have Google's mentality of being born on the Web, needing only to feed the Web and its opportunities. "Web" may well be a Shibboleth that Microsoft mimes but can't really understand.

Is the Web strong enough to take on the desktop's workloads? If you're inclined to say "No," I invite you to stroll over to 280Slides, an amazingly powerful, Web-based PowerPoint alternative. Use it for a day, and then let me know what you think. The Web has become pretty darn powerful.