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The Problem with Google Chrome

October 22nd, 2008 - by Brett Derricott - Salt Lake City, Utah

By now you may have heard that Google has released its own web browser called “Chrome.” While more competition in a market is usually a good thing for consumers, Google’s decision to put another browser in the mix doesn’t sit well with a lot of web developers.

Although Chrome is built from the WebKit rendering engine that also powers Safari, it’s still another browser that developers will have to cater to. So, each additional browser that a developer has to target increases the total cost of development.

Why, you ask? It’s because each browser vendor takes some liberties when they interpret the standards that dictate how HTML and CSS are rendered. Getting code to look the same in all browsers ends up being quite a chore, with special tricks needed to workaround individual issues in each browser. So, each version of each browser can vary in how it interprets and displays code, making a developer’s job pretty difficult. That difficulty ends up translating into higher costs for you and your clients.

Another problem with Google Chrome is that it competes head-to-head with Mozilla’s Firefox browser. Firefox has been gaining momentum in its quest to unseat Internet Explorer as the dominant browser on the Web and most of us have been cheering Firefox on. Chrome is likely to gain most of its market share from existing Firefox users, at least initially, effectively cannibalizing the effort to overtake IE. Some may argue, however, that Chrome has a better shot at accomplishing this than Firefox and should, therefore, take over the lead in this fight. The jury is still out on that one.

Finally, Google’s motive isn’t really to make a better browser, just like creating Gmail wasn’t about making email better. Google wants access to all of our information and to everything that we do online. The more they know about us, the more targeted their advertising can be. Having targeted advertising isn’t inherently a bad thing; in fact if I have to see advertising I prefer that it’s at least relevant to me. The issue is (and it’s a bit conspiracy-theory, I admit) that Google has their hands in too much of our information already.

Thanks to Google, a single system now has the ability to see everywhere we go online (Google Chrome), everything we search for (Google Search), all emails we send and receive (Gmail), the documents we create (Google Docs), conversations with our friends (Google Chat/Talk), the news and information we subscribe to (Google Reader), and even what’s on our computers (Google Desktop).

If a person uses every service offered by Google, nearly every touchpoint to the Internet is via Google. It wasn’t that long ago that we were all complaining about the stranglehold Microsoft had on the industry. Are we sure it’s a good idea to let Google become the next Microsoft?

What are your thoughts about Google Chrome? Post a comment below. I’m positive not everyone will agree with my viewpoint on this subject!