Google Browser Is Now Google Chrome

I’ve mentioned the long fabled Google browser for ages now “googlefox” as it began. Some more interesting news came today regarding “Google Chrome“.

Some of the features touted by the comic include:

  • faster – mentioned throughout via new js virtual machine (might be SquirrelFish) that’s potentially embeddable into other applications and using WebKit. Also multi-threaded.
  • More Stable – Separate process for each tab means one page doesn’t crash the browser. Also more memory efficient in the long run since you’ll kill tabs that hog memory at some point.
  • UI – UI is minimal, tabs contain the controls (tabs on outside), are detachable from the window, and similar to Prism can be minimal enough to make a web application feel like it’s not in a browser. Omnibox (awsomebar equivalent), auto complete only to what you’ve explicitly typed before, improved new tab screen (similar to others proposed and implemented).
  • Secure – Sandboxes processes (sounds like the work from GreenBorder), plugins running in their own processes, phishing protection. Also has porn privacy mode.
  • Compatible – Based on WebKit, automated testing via “chrome bot” browsing pages, unit tested, fuzz tested.
  • Google Gears Included – Includes Google Gears, which is downloadable for other browsers already.

Also interesting were some of the names mentioned in the comic. While long known a few Mozilla hackers went to Google, here’s a list that are mentioned in the comic: Darin Fisher, Ben Goodger, Brett Wilson (various Mozilla contributions via Google), Arnaud Weber (Netscape).

Check the comic for more details. This is pretty much the main info in there for those who don’t have the time to sift through it all.

Edit [9/1/2008 @ 6:23 PM EST]: Google Blog post.

Edit [9/1/2008 @ 7:45 PM EST]: John Lilly’s Thoughts on Chrome & More.

Edit [9/1/2008 @ 9:05 PM EST]: Apparently this was announced prematurely due to someone not realizing that it Labor Day isn’t in Germany. As a side note, how does one get on that mailing list?

Edit [9/2/2008 @ 8:55 AM EST]: Code should appear here.

Googlefox Redux

Yes, it’s another Google/Firefox blog post. This time in response to a CNet blog post regarding Google’s relationship with Mozilla. It makes a few interesting points, but quite a bit of it is silly or outdated. It was edited at some point late this morning or early afternoon from it’s original form (as it mentions).

While Apple also gets a nice chunk of change from Google for the search bar in its Safari browser, Apple has enough other sources of revenue that it can easily walk away from Google’s cash.

Yes, Google provides a great sum of cash. But indirectly. The real money machine is the search box, and the start page. Right now they are hooked up to Google per an agreement (which I haven’t seen in any way shape or form). In the future that money machine may be hooked up to something else. Will it? I don’t have a clue. Don’t forget $19,776,193 in expenses and $66,840,850 in revenue leaves quite a bit of cash in the war chest and that’s only for 2006. 2007 is rapidly approaching it’s end. There was a 2005 at some point in the past. With the mobile landscape just warming up (new potential for partnerships/revenue streams), there’s opportunity. Google is lucrative, no question about it, but it’s not the only means of survival. Yahoo is already used for some parts of the world. That relationship could be expanded in the future.

Fact: Users who enter keywords or misspelled URLs into the Firefox 2.0 location bar will essentially be running a Google “I’m Feeling Lucky” search. That is, they will be taken to the first result for a Google search query for those terms.

I believe Netscape had this feature about a decade ago, but with a different partner. Not really news here. Back then I believe you paid for that, now it’s about your rank in Google’s search results. I personally think the Google method is much more neutral.

Fact: In addition to the Google cash flowing to Mozilla, a number of Google engineers spend significant amounts of time working on Firefox. This includes Ben Goodger, the lead developer for the browser. Yes, other companies pay developers to work on Firefox, but none throw as many overall corporate resources at the browser.

Fact: This statement quotes things from 2005. I don’t think Ben is very (if at all) involved with Firefox in the past year. The other reference to Darin Fisher is also inaccurate since he hasn’t been very active (if at all) in the past year or so as well. There’s a reason why all those links are to 2005 stories. By the way, the Mozilla Corporation throws way more resources at Firefox than Google.

This begs the question: why doesn’t Firefox adopt the features of AdBlock Plus and CustomizeGoogle? While the terms of Google’s contract with Mozilla are not public, even if Mozilla were contractually free to include anti-Google-tracking features, it would not be a wise move, business-wise. After all, it is not too smart to anger the company that provides more than 85 percent of your financing.

It would not prove to smart to take the first step towards moving the web to a pay-per-site model. Firefox forced the IE development team out of retirement. If Firefox removed advertising, there would a strong amount of pressure on Microsoft to do the same. Microsoft relies on ads for several of it’s properties including MSN. Does anyone want to see the web as a subscription model? I’m pretty sure the answer is no all around. More and more sites have moved away from that such as the NY Times. While some users will block ads regardless of technology most won’t know how, or bother to providing revenue to keep the majority of internet content free. Firefox is about the open web. Payments for every page you visit isn’t anyones definition of “open”. Mozilla thus far has played things pretty neutral. Adblock Plus is treated like any other extension. It’s not shunned or hidden.

This brings us to a really interesting dilemma. Google has a well-known flaw in one of its Web sites that can be (ab)used by phishers and malicious hackers. Google refuses to fix the flaw, as it believes that it is not a problem. Google also operates the Firefox phishing blacklist. Will Google add one of its own domains to the phishing blacklist? Of course not!

Is this a Google issue? Or a company/organization/person issue? I’m not aware of any entity that is immune to this. I can’t even think of a company that hasn’t been down this road before. IIRC Microsoft disagreed with security researches on flaws more than once. Google shouldn’t have to add one of it’s own domains to the phishing blacklist. It has the immediate ability to report the problem internally and shut down the offending problem. For the record Google’s even willing to notify webmasters of certain problems. If your a webmaster, you should be signed up.

Google’s SafeBrowsing is mentioned several times as well. For the record there is a documented method for blacklist providers to use (and yes, you can bundle it as an extension). Thus far, there’s not much on the landscape of free blacklists. The only one I’m aware of is PhishTank.

So there you have it, nothing has changed, Google hasn’t taken over. Nothing to see here. IF Google were to stage a takeover, I’ll be sure to blog about it. Just keep an eye on this blog. Thus far I haven’t seen any evidence of it.

For the record, there was a bug fix committed today by someone at Google (not sure if it was Google backed, or just done by a Google employee). “Fix the incorrect function prototypes of SSL handshake callbacks”. And no, that doesn’t mean Google took over encryption.

Google Outage

Seems google.com is down. Who turned off the lights? I wonder what happened? Did Googlefox cause a power surge?

Update #1 [7:13 PM EST]: It’s DNS related as this still works.
Update #2 [7:15 PM EST]: Seems to be coming back now.
Update #3 [7:39 PM EST]: Engadget suggests a DNS Hack, perhaps poisoning, but that’s unlikely as the site they are talking about is likely www.google.com.net

Don’t make browsers, make extensions

There’s been a ton of speculation regarding “gbrowser”, google’s alleged browser, Netscape’s Firefox based browser, now even thoughts Yahoo might be interested. Though I wonder if that really is beneficial to anyone involved?

I’m going to make the bold statement that custom browsers are bad, making extensions are good.

There are several reasons why custom browsers are bad:

  • Casual web surfers don’t always realize “Browser X, and Browser Y are custom versions of Browser A”. They see them all as different products. It’s confusing, especially when websites block them because of their UserAgent. “I’m not using ‘Netscape’, I use ‘Mozilla'”.
  • Anyone who distributes a browser is obligated to maintenance, statistically the vast majority in a project life cycle. Especially in regard to security updates. Get them out quick. It can sometimes involve some extra work, and has minimal benefit for the distributor.
  • Self-competition becomes a factor. One thing that confuses many people about switching to linux is the simple question of “what distro?” This question, and the inability to quickly make a decision turns many people away. Windows and Mac OS have the advantage of making it very easy.
  • Over branding. Yes there is such a thing. You put a brand in someone’s face for too long, and it loses it’s significance and impact. They overlook it. How many people actually notice a McDonalds when driving around? Most don’t even see them, simply because they are more common than traffic lights. Now how many notice less popular dining establishments? Quite a few.
  • Ineffective marketing. When you share 90%+ of the code, you share features with tons of others and really have very little to market. What you do have to advertise, is somewhat insignificant. Why download a new browser for a logo? Is that even a feature? Why can’t I just bookmark your page if I like it?

The Correct Approach
I personally believe the correct approach in this arena is extensions. A great example is the brand new Yahoo Toolbar, or SpeakEasy. Why are these the right way?

  • Both leave security to the Mozilla Foundation, users can get updates as soon as they are released, they don’t have to wait for the distro’s cobranded builds to become available.
  • Users get new features as the product is updated. Don’t need to wait for the distro to update the cobranded builds.
  • Users choose branding, can uninstall it if they wish.
  • Less downloading. I change from speakeasy to yahoo, I don’t need to download a new browser, just install the extension.
  • Cross platform. It’s much less work to support Mac and Linux users when you provide an extension rather than a custom build. Get the whole audience.
  • Lower cost. It’s much less development to release an extension rather than a browser.

What do they lose?
Really nothing. You can do pretty much everything via extensions. You can create a skin, add features, overlay menus, add toolbars etc. etc. There’s quite a few possibilities.

Conclusion
Releasing your own browser, unless you really make radical changes (Camino, Galeon, K-Melon) is somewhat of an ineffective use of resources. You can accomplish the same thing, while providing better service to customers by trying to use an extension framework. Extensions by nature have less development requirements, easier to update, allow the user to have the latest browser, and give the user choice.

I personally think Yahoo and Speakeasy have done an excellent job. They accomplished their goal and really addressed the point I’m trying to make in this post. I just hope some other companies will seriously consider what they are doing, before they try and get their users to install hacked up copies of Firefox.

Extensions and Themes are the best way to customize a browser. If at all possible, try to keep within those frameworks. You’ll thank yourself later when you realize that you need little/no changes to work perfectly with Firefox 1.5 or later.

Ben + Google = Googlefox?

If there is anyone left who didn’t hear, Ben left the Mozilla Foundation for Google. Details on Ben’s Blog.

Well, he said the 10th, so several days ago.

Oh, and he’s still working on Firefox.

And still will be working out of the foundation a bit.

Oh, and Googlefox? I know everyone’s been speculating about the (Google/Mozilla) (alliance/association/interaction).

[17:56] ben is ~beng@xxx-xxx-xx-x.google.com Ben Goodger

Googlefox Uncovered

Well, now we get the info we need on the elusive “Googlefox”.

The second area of Mozilla intends to explore with new versions of Firefox is integration with desktop search.

Companies like Google, Vivisimo and Copernic make search applications that comb through all the information on a personal computer. The way it is now, a browser’s bookmarks, cache, history and e-mail reader present the desktop search application with a wide array of APIs (application programming interfaces) to negotiate.

Mozilla said it is in discussions with desktop search providers to simplify and standardize those tools to make them more easily searchable by search programs.

[Source: CNET News.com @ 11/10/2004 12:00 AM EST ]

I think that’s about the most information disclosed about the Mozilla < --> Google relationship thus far.

Not to mention this.

I think that says a lot.