Google Chrome or also known as Google’s Browser Project
The world has long assumed that the Google team working on Firefox simply moved off to another project. That assumption is true. The real question is: What project are they working on?
It was September 2006 when Mozilla Corporation CTO Brendan Eich removed Ben Matthew Goodger as owner of the Firefox project and placed Mike Connor at the helm. Goodger was first demoted to “peer” status, and from there he officially removed himself from all leadership positions throughout the Mozilla project. (Those outside of Mozilla should know that the project has a hierarchy for managing and running various parts, or modules, of its codebase. “Module owners” have final say over what features and bug fixes go into their module and provide leadership in determining the future of the code. “Peers” are secondary to owners but know the module well enough to make decisions about what code should be accepted.)
Goodger wasn’t the only one to leave, however. Long-time Mozilla contributors Brian Ryner and Darin Fisher, as well as Pam Greene, Brett Wilson, Peter Kasting, Tony Chang, Annie Sullivan, and others also removed themselves almost completely from the Mozilla project, though some would continue to participate through the launch of Firefox 2.
Months prior, Goodger, one of the original Firefox creators (alongside Dave Hyatt, Blake Ross, Joe Hewitt, and Asa Dotzler) and its long-time lead, had left the Mozilla Foundation to work for Google, charged with building a team that would contribute strongly to Firefox. As transitions in the Mozilla world go, it was a fairly clean and prosperous one for both parties involved. In one fell swoop, the Firefox project gained several new, competent developers (Google developers are some of the best in the world and were even more so in 2006) who proved critical to the success of Firefox 2. Meanwhile, Google worked the profitable end of the transition, furthering its message of openness and “no evil” while making mountains of cash off its position as the default option in the Firefox search bar and as the only option on the start page. The almost immediate success of Firefox 2 helped the Mozilla Corporation solidify a 2-year multi-million dollar deal (in total, over $60 million a year) with Google which would help it continue operations through, at the least, November 2008.
Why then, all things being beneficial to both parties, would Google pull its team off of Firefox?
Consider this: Since its inception, Firefox has pushed billions of search queries to Google, from which billions of dollars have been made. Not millions, billions.
As companies go, Google’s not a particularly evil one. Supporting open source in so many aspects of its business is a wonderful, non-evil thing. However, continuing to support Firefox fully would mean further reliance on Mozilla’s not screwing up a good thing. That is, Google needs Mozilla to keep making the right decisions as the browser maker grows its business. On the other hand, this same growth gives Mozilla a reason to start requesting a larger piece of the pie – and with reason.
As Firefox continues to grow – its market share is around 20% worldwide – Google keeps getting a better deal. For merely a few million a month, Google’s market share in the search and advertising industries has the ability to grow leaps and bounds and generate a five- to ten-fold return on investment. A win for Firefox is a win for Google … until Mozilla gets greedy.
Betting any large percentage of your business on one single entity is never a good idea. Once that entity desires more money and threatens to go elsewhere, your business starts hurting substantially. Even more importantly, once another browser, which you control even less, appears and begins to threaten Firefox growth, it’s time to start thinking about why your business isn’t fully under your control in the first place.
And so, in mid-2006, after several months of semi-serious internal discussion, the skunkworks project known simply as GBrowser was officially but quietly launched inside Google. It wasn’t until after that September divorce that the pace really sped up, however.
But what, really, is GBrowser? Simple Firefox customisations? No, friends, it’s much more than that.
The much-rumoured Google Browser is a complete browser built on top of WebKit. More than that, it will offer integration with many Google services, such as Gmail, Google Calendar, Blogger, and likely Google Talk.
The GBrowser team was smart in staying clear of the aging and fragile Mozilla technology. They looked for a streamlined rendering engine that would be easy to work with. It wasn’t hard to find Apple nearby, working on WebKit. In fact, Goodger was still in close contact with Dave Hyatt, who is one of WebKit’s initial developers and an Apple employee.
Rumblings of a Google browser have been carpeting the web for years, but it wasn’t until 2006 that an entire team was actually committed to working on what will become GBrowser.
Google, always known for iterating slowly on most of its projects, has taken its time on GBrowser for a very good reason: it only has one chance to get it right. Failing to succeed in its browser move means rocky negotiations with a core partner, Mozilla, and could negatively impact its financials in a significant manner. A move into the browser market requires perfection, and GBrowser has undergone at least one substantial rewrite and many major user-interface iterations.
The GBrowser team and Google leadership have also done well at keeping this project quiet internally. If screenshots or mockups leak from this project, it could threaten the relationship Google has built with several partners as well as lower the company’s credibility with its own employees as a supporter of open source software. No, this project must be developed “right” so that others can truly grasp the need for an all-new browser.
The one point that hasn’t been mentioned yet is, quite possibly, the most important. Mozilla knows GBrowser is coming and discusses it at length internally. Mozilla employees, reasonably, believe that Google’s proven inability to create solid, popular desktop software will hinder the search giant and its play in the browser market. But most of these obstacles can be overcome with a leader who knows full well what he’s doing, having done the same thing with Firefox; Google’s hiring of Goodger in 2006 now seems like a prescient move.
While the importance and potential success of GBrowser are continually downplayed internally at Mozilla, the Lizard believes our new overlord, John Lilly, does not underestimate what Google can do.
Why build a browser:
A fresh take on the browser
At Google, we spend much of our time working inside a browser. We search, chat, email and collaborate in a browser. And like all of you, in our spare time, we shop, bank, read news and keep in touch with friends – all using a browser. People are spending an increasing amount of time online, and they’re doing things never imagined when the web first appeared about 15 years ago.
Since we spend so much time online, we began seriously thinking about what kind of browser could exist if you started from scratch and built on the best elements out there. We realized that the web had evolved from mainly simple text pages to rich, interactive applications and that we needed to completely rethink the browser. What we really needed was not just a browser, but also a modern platform for web pages and applications, and that’s what we set out to build.
So today Google is releasing the beta version of a new open source browser: Google Chrome.
On the surface, we designed a browser window that is streamlined and simple. To most people, it isn’t the browser that matters. It’s only a tool to run the important stuff – the pages, sites and applications that make up the web. Like the classic Google homepage, Google Chrome is clean and fast. It gets out of your way and gets you where you want to go.
This is just the beginning – Google Chrome is far from done. We’ve released this beta for Windows to start the broader discussion and hear from you as quickly as possible. We’re hard at work building versions for Mac and Linux too, and we’ll continue to make it even faster and more robust.
We owe a great debt to many open source projects, and we’re committed to continuing on their path. We’ve used components from Apple’s WebKit and Mozilla’s Firefox, among others – and in that spirit, we are making all of our code open source as well. We hope to collaborate with the entire community to help drive the web forward.
The web gets better with more options and innovation. Google Chrome is another option, and we hope it contributes to making the web even better.
The best test of Google Chrome is to try it yourself
credits goes to Google for this post,