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Analysis: Google Chrome versus Firefox & Internet Explorer

Should Microsoft and Mozilla be afraid?


Google finally released its long-awaited web browser, Chrome this week. We look at the effect its going to have on the other big players in the browser market.

Mozilla

For four years now, Mozilla's Firefox has reigned as Internet Explorer's most serious rival. Actually, that's an understatement. Firefox was the browser that proved that competing with IE wasn't a pipe dream. If Firefox had never existed, it's entirely possible that Google never would have thought developing a browser was worth the effort.

At this early stage in Chrome's history, it would be premature to make any predictions about its chances of chipping away at Firefox's market share, which by most accounts consists of a bit less than 20 percent of all browser users. But given the power of the Google name and distribution pipeline, Chrome is the first browser that stands a chance of displacing Firefox as the highest-profile alternative browser.

In many ways, Firefox and Chrome have similar aims: both place an emphasis on simplicity, security, and strict adherence to web standards. (Even end users should care about that last point: when a browser supports standards well, sites and services work the way they're supposed to.) And both aim to make web-based applications more usable by providing fast implementations of the JavaScript programming language. (Firefox's new JavaScript capabilities, dubbed TraceMonkey, are set to debut in Firefox 3.1, due later this year.)

At the moment, Firefox has multiple advantages over Chrome, including legions of loyal users and the richest collection of extensions of any browser, which give it much of its power and appeal. (Chrome can't even run the Google Toolbar.) If I were Mozilla, I'd be less concerned about Chrome stealing current Firefox fans and more worried about future IE defectors' being more likely to adopt Chrome than Firefox - especially since the energy that Google has put into promoting Firefox will presumably now go into drumming up interest in Chrome. A Firefox whose marketshare stalled would be a much less compelling open-source project than one that continued to grow.

Opera

The venerable Norwegian browser remains a worthy product, and an influential one - the thumbnails of recently browsed sites in Chrome look like they were borrowed from Opera's Speed Dial feature, for instance. In market share, though, Opera is stuck at less than one percent. Today the company is focused on mobile web browsing, and I'll bet it's far less curious about Chrome than it is about the potential impact of the browser in Google's Android phone OS.

NEXT PAGE: Chrome's effect on Apple and Yahoo

  1. Should other browsers fear Google's entry into the market
  2. Should Mozilla be concerned by Chrome's arrival
  3. Chrome's effect on Apple and Yahoo




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