In another boost to Mozilla, Google has created a tool that lets users synchronize the settings of their Firefox browsers across multiple computers.
With Google Browser Sync, users will maintain the same bookmarks, Web site visits log, saved passwords and persistent cookies in all their copies of the Mozilla open-source browser.
To enable this continuous synchronization to happen, users have to install copies of the Google Browser Sync on every computer where they have Firefox, Google announced late Wednesday in its official blog (http://googleblog.blogspot.com/2006/06/get-in-sync.html).
This free tool also "remembers" the tabs and windows users had open the last time they used Firefox and gives users the option to open them. One downside is that the tool updates settings every time Firefox is launched, which will increase the time it takes a browser to open, Google warns.
Google Browser Sync works with Firefox 1.5 and newer versions. It doesn't support Microsoft Corp.'s Internet Explorer, Opera Software ASA's Opera or the Mozilla Suite, which includes the Mozilla Navigator browser.
It's not surprising to see Google developing tools for Firefox that don't work with IE. Google has a close relationship with Mozilla that involves technology collaborations and cross-promotion efforts. Meanwhile, the relationship between Microsoft and Google is at best adversarial and often acrimonious. They compete in search, online services and, increasingly, in desktop and hosted software.
Browsers in particular are a contentious area between Google and Microsoft because they are an entry point to Web search activity. Recently, Google has complained about the new IE, version 7, which is now in beta and contains an embedded search box with a drop-down menu set by default to use Microsoft's search engine, but which includes other options.
However, some have criticized Google for being inconsistent on this point because its search engine is the default choice in the embedded Firefox search box. Firefox is a thorn in Microsoft's side, because it is the most credible competitor to IE in years, holding now an estimated 10 percent market share.
In April, Google caused a stir when it promoted Firefox on its home page, a rare move and one clearly intended to help Firefox grow its market share. Google also includes Firefox in its Google Pack, a free, downloadable software suite that it distributes and that includes products from Google and other vendors, including Adobe Systems Inc. and Symantec Corp., but not Microsoft.
More information and download instructions for Google Browser Sync can be found at: http://www.google.com/tools/firefox/browsersync/index.html.