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Clues may point to Google browser

A domain-name registration, a patent application and several recent hires are among the tantalizing bits of info.

Stefanie Olsen Staff writer, CNET News
Stefanie Olsen covers technology and science.
Stefanie Olsen
3 min read
The Google franchise could be coming to a Web browser near you--if all the recent clues add up, that is.

Evidence is growing that may support rumors that the preeminent search company plans to introduce a Google-branded Web browser down the road. Among the clues are a domain-name registration, a patent application and several recent hires.

Since the search star's $1.66 billion public offering, investors and industry watchers have speculated about new products that could help contribute to the company's next billion dollars in revenue or help broaden its lucrative advertising network.

A Web browser that would meld Google search, Gmail free e-mail, Google's Blogger Web publishing software and pop-up blocking technology could be a winner for the company, industry analysts say.

Backing this idea up, Google registered the Web address "gbrowser.com" on April 26, according to a record at the WhoIs domain-name database. Employees of the company have also recently filed a patent application for delivering ads to client-side applications, including a Web browser or browser plug-in.

In addition, Google has hired several technical staff with expertise in graphics, Javascript and Web browser development in recent months. Included in those ranks are Adam Bosworth, a former employee of BEA and Microsoft who helped create Internet Explorer; Joe Beda, a seven-year Microsoft veteran who's worked on the software giant's next-generation graphics engine, Avalon; and Joshua Bloch, a Sun Microsystems developer who has designed major enhancements to the Java programming language and application programming interfaces, or APIs.

In addition, the company recently hosted the Mozilla Developer Day at its Mountain View, Calif., campus. Mozilla develops an open-source browser to which Google engineers could contribute code as a way of introducing a Google-flavored Internet tool.

Suggesting that such a working partnership exists, a post to Mozilla's Bugzilla system indicated that a bug report had been closed because it mimicked an earlier report. The bug, the post read, was "a duplicate of a private bug about working with Google. So closing this one," according to the blog Deftone.com.

"Google is investing heavily in JavaScript-powered desktop-like Web apps like G-mail and Blogger. Google could use their JavaScript expertise to build Mozilla applications. Built-in blogging tools. Built-in Gmail tools. Built-in search tools," one well-known blogger, Jason Kottke, wrote recently.

The browser could involve a "search pane that watches what you're browsing and suggests related pages and search queries, or watches what you're blogging and suggests related pages, news items, or emails you've written," Kottke wrote earlier this week in a post that also noted Google's gbrowser.com domain name registration.

A Google representative said the company has not announced any plans for a Web browser and that it does not comment on rumor and speculation.

The Mozilla Foundation expressed gratitude to Google for hosting its recent Mozilla developer day but declined to comment specifically on the recent flurry of blog posts speculating on the Google browser.

"To the extent that Google or any other company is starting to invest in the browser space, that's good for users and it's good for the Web," said Bart Decrem, spokesman for the Mozilla Foundation.

Decrem warned against reading too much into bug reports posted to the foundation's Bugzilla system, noting that it cataloged more than 1.2 million largely unregulated bug reports.

"Anybody that wants to can enter a bug that says whatever they want it to say," Decrem said. "Someone could enter a bug saying Microsoft should use Gecko as its next rendering engine."

To be sure, Google throws many technologies against the wall to see if they stick. Earlier this year, it introduced Gmail, a free Web-based e-mail service, and the Google Deskbar, a PC download that lets people search the Web without a browser. It has formulated shopping engine Froogle, search-inside-the-book service Google Print, and personalization tools.

Speculation is rampant that Google will eventually unveil an instant messaging application. Google has also been rumored to be working on a thin-client operating system that would compete with Microsoft in areas beyond search. Techies have even discussed the idea of Google becoming a file storage system.

"It's brilliant marketing," said Gary Price, a librarian and news editor at search-industry site Searchenginewatch.com. "They're constantly putting themselves out there in new ways and reinforcing their brand. It gives them another place to potentially sell advertising."

CNET News.com's Paul Festa contributed to this report.