Kara Swisher

Recent Posts by Kara Swisher

Google Ignites a New Browser War With Microsoft by Unveiling One of Its Own This Week

In its most frontal and aggressive attack on Microsoft yet, sources with knowledge of the project said Google is preparing to unveil a new browser–ready for download to users as early as tomorrow–to try to loosen Microsoft’s iron grip on the most important piece of software for navigating the Internet.

In addition, Google Blogoscoped has published a comic book that Google is apparently using to explain the technical aspects of its open-source browser, which is called Chrome.

[UPDATE: Here is a post on Google’s official confirmation of the browser launch in 100 countries tomorrow, which was released on its blog this afternoon. The beta version will be initially available only for Windows, but Google said Mac and Linux versions were coming soon.]

Until now, the Google-Microsoft battles felt more like a Cold War, mostly limited to Google (GOOG) poking at Microsoft (MSFT) via the development of small-scale Web-based software to compete with Microsoft’s dominant Word, PowerPoint and other such products, and Microsoft’s thus-far unsuccessful attempts to break Google’s lock on the search market.

But with this move, which has been rumored since 2004, the war most definitely has gone red-hot, as Google aims to grab a chunk of Microsoft’s huge browser market share, which various surveys put at about three-quarters of the market.

The efforts to do this have been well known within the company for a long time, although the timing of its launch has not.

But Google FedExed the comic too early to Blogoscoped–who is based in Germany–and possibly others, which makes BoomTown really appreciate express mail more than ever.

(I also obtained a copy and have posted the comic book here, and Digital Daily’s John Paczkowski has written a quick executive summary of it.)

Sources said Google has made the move to create and distribute a browser due to worry about what new features in IE8 could do to its search business.

These features include privacy changes that could prevent Google from collecting information related to the effectiveness of its ads, quick-linking to Microsoft mapping and other offerings, and a more robust search bar that is also more Microsoft-centric.

To combat Microsoft’s IE dominance in recent years, Google has been backing Mozilla’s Firefox browser, which grew out of the ashes of the once-powerful, now-irrelevant Netscape browser like a phoenix to claim an astonishing 18 percent of the market.

That market share has climbed from 11 percent just two years ago–even against Microsoft’s IE juggernaut with 74 percent and Apple’s Safari browser with six percent.

Mozilla’s recent launch of Firefox 3 had a record-setting debut day in mid-June, with 8.3 million downloads in 24 hours.

Google recently renewed a deal with Mozilla making its search engine the homepage and search bar default until 2011. In return, Google pays Mozilla royalties for Google ad clicks that come from searches originating in the Firefox browser.

(Here’s a recent post I did about a visit I made to Mozilla’s HQ, right around the corner from Google, as well as a video interview I did with its CEO John Lilly.)

But obviously, Mozilla’s efforts were not enough for Google, which clearly has decided it must own and distribute a browser, especially since the browser has become the most significant piece of software related to the Internet, and the fulcrum on which most of Google’s business lies.

In other words, Google is declaring the browser critical to its future and, in this regard, it is entirely right.

Please see this disclosure related to me and Google.

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Just as the atom bomb was the weapon that was supposed to render war obsolete, the Internet seems like capitalism’s ultimate feat of self-destructive genius, an economic doomsday device rendering it impossible for anyone to ever make a profit off anything again. It’s especially hopeless for those whose work is easily digitized and accessed free of charge.

— Author Tim Kreider on not getting paid for one’s work