Daily Debrief: Why the browser wars redux will be great for users
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>> Charlie Cooper: Does the world need another internet browser? Better yet, does the world want another internet browser? Maybe we'll find out in the days, weeks and months to come now that Google has introduced its own web browser called Chrome. Welcome to the CNET News Daily Debrief. I'm Charlie Cooper here with my colleague Webware Editor-in-Chief, Rafe Needleman. You went down at the headquarters today, Google headquarters, where they rolled out to one and all their project which has been under stealth, leaked in a bizarre way on Sunday with a comic book making its way on the internet--
>> Rafe Needleman: Yeah.
>> Charlie Cooper: --revealing the news in brief, why are they getting into this market?
>> Rafe Needleman: Why are they really getting into it or why they're saying they're getting into it? [Laughter]
>> Charlie Cooper: The truth.
>> Rafe Needleman: It's interesting. I mean, they sent this thing out by mistake on Sunday or Monday and then called a hasty press conference today and invited us all down there and we went to hear why they launched Google Chrome. The reason that we heard from Larry Page among others is that browsers need a refresh. There are some things that are wrong with the current, you know, spate of browsers, you know, Microsoft and Firefox being the main ones, but there are others as well and that Google in an open source project thought that they could bring a better experience to users and to developers and thus to the internet economy as a whole.
>> Charlie Cooper: One of the refrains that I heard during the press conference which was streamed on the web was that they want to ensure the vitality of the internet ecosystem. Obviously, I mean this -- we're not talking about Albert Schweitzer. What's in it for them?
>> Rafe Needleman: A healthier internet economy, more people using the internet to do day-to-day things is better for Google, short story. More people use the internet, more people use, see Google ads. I think that's what it really all comes down to and the more Google can push the development of a robust browsing environment, a robust platform for internet applications, the more people will use the internet as their primary platform instead of say Windows.
>> Charlie Cooper: And yet Microsoft is able to send out its browser along with its products, its desktop product, and therefore has a hands-on advantage. Of course, Firefox open source has done quite well. What's the rationale at Google? What's the thinking that they can come out with an open source browser that will not cannibalize Firefox, but will take share away from Microsoft?
>> Rafe Needleman: I think it will cannibalize Firefox, although Google says that their target is not Firefox. They have a partnership with Firefox. They make money from Firefox because Firefox's default search engine is Google, so there's money flowing into Google from Firefox. Since Microsoft Internet Explorer has the majority of the market share, that's the target they're going for. That's the share they want to steal. Realistically, I think they'll get some of that. I think they'll get some of Firefox's as well, probably be more damaging in the midrange to Firefox than it is to IE because the Firefox users are more likely to be experimental and switchers than the people who just go the default IE, but ultimately this will force -- because there are really interesting things in its browser, so it's a very interesting and innovative product. This will force development in both Firefox and IE and in the other browsers, will force people to be -- build more robust apps, to focus more on usability and speed and that is good for everybody including Google.
>> Charlie Cooper: I think you're right about the technical specs that were demonstrated this morning will have to, you know, run the browser to its [paces], but [coughing] what's interesting is that if you remember the last time that there was a browser war is Microsoft versus Netscape back in the late '90s and Microsoft at that time was able to outgun Netscape, you know, 10 to 1. This time, it's a bit different. You're talking about Google which is a multibillion dollar company and has the wherewithal to really make a stand if it wants to take Microsoft on directly.
>> Rafe Needleman: What you're really talking about is competing business models and Netscape couldn't stand up to Microsoft which had a more set-up business process and knew what losing the browser war meant. But today, the different business models, the open source ad-supported business model versus the pay-for-software, traditional software business model that Microsoft is running are really at odds.
>> Charlie Cooper: And with Google at that time --
>> Rafe Needleman: Yeah.
>> Charlie Cooper: --excuse me, Netscape in the beginning, you paid for Netscape's browser--
>> Rafe Needleman: Right.
>>Charlie Cooper: --and they were forced to cut the price to zippo when Microsoft came out with the free alternative.
>> Rafe Needleman: And they never had the business model to support it.
>> Charlie Cooper: Right.
>> Rafe Needleman: Google does. Google has the ad-supported model to support it and this is another way to get more people to see internet ads. It is a very, very interesting play. I don't know how many people will use Chrome, Google's browser, instead of Internet Explorer on Windows. Long-term, I think this play is a much bigger issue than it is on just Windows. I think that Chrome on other platforms on the Mac and Linux on [embedded] devices is a very, very interesting play.
>> Charlie Cooper: If I were to suggest that this is more of a, not a PR stunt, but a way to show Google's engineering chops, a vanity play rather than a serious business initiative, do you buy that?
>> Rafe Needleman: On the business side, I think you're on to something there. This is sort of a science fair experiment. It's like, "Hey, look, we can build a browser using pieces and parts from the open source community plus some of our own. Our engineering, our user interface, the [Webcade] open source platform, a new Java script engine." This really does though -- the one thing that Google hasn't really going for it is this does light a fire other competing undercompeting developers and it forces them to do a better job in innovating in the browser which ultimately benefits Google. So whether or not this browser, whether Chrome itself is a success, I think it will benefit Google anyway, whether or not.
>> Charlie Cooper: And what's beyond [contestation] here is that, you're right, over the last decades, more or less since the end of the first round of the browser wars, browser innovation has been relatively tepid.
>> Rafe Needleman: It's been moving along, but not fast.
>> Charlie Cooper: Yeah.
>> Rafe Needleman: And it's hard to move a browser -- the browser environment along because you see still got as somebody wrote in one of our comments, you still have that 25% of the people out there using Internet Explorer 6. So if I build a fancy new web tool application, I have to make sure that it supports IE 6 which is old as well as taking advantage of all the cool new stuff in Chrome and that's one of the things that's slowing us down, that Google can't really do much about right now.
>> Charlie Cooper: Well, [in the meantime they counsel] make sure they drive Microsoft [inaudible].
>> Rafe Needleman: We like to see that, yes.
>> Charlie Cooper: We do like to see this. We could go on for another half hour, but we've gotta stop or my engineer will give me the hook. [Laughter] On behalf of my colleague, Rafe Needleman, this is Charlie Cooper.
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