The official Google Blog has announced that the company will launch a new open source browser today called “Chrome.” On a basic level, this is a logical move for Google, given that it could provide a more direct front door to its array of online services.
Google has benefited from its deal with Firefox, which gives search and other services default or preferred positioning. This is the greatest source of revenue for Firefox owner Mozilla. Speaking of Firefox, Chrome will enter a competitive browser market, currently led by Microsoft (IE) with about 70 percent share.
But Firefox is quickly gaining share (currently about 19 percent) with lots of new browser standards that were the primary motivation for Microsoft’s recently released feature-rich IE8. In fact the adjacent releases of Firefox3, IE8, and now Chrome, feels like the beginnings of a resurgence in the long-quiet browser wars.
More than anything, Chrome will likely be a direct shot at IE and at Microsoft generally. This is along the same lines as Google’s overall shot at Microsoft for its many desktop services, like MS Office, which Google believes should exist online (a.k.a. cloud computing). In this vision, the browser becomes important as the front door into these services. And building a browser with an evolving set of Web applications in mind (video, word processing, etc.) is Google’s biggest stated intention for Chrome.
The open source nature of the browser could also mean lots of plug-ins and browser add-ons. I can’t help but think many could tie directly into Google Maps, local search and other location-based services similar to what Skyhook Wireless has done with the Loki toolbar. Such plug-ins and tool bars often see very low penetration, however.
Google released a comic book-style walk-through of some of the technical concepts behind Chrome, which you can see here. And we’ll get to see it in action when it releases in beta version later today. More to come.
Update: TechCrunch reports from the press conference just held at the Googleplex.
Update II: Download Chrome here.