Why Mozilla should be afraid of Google Chrome

So after years of rumors and speculation, Google has made it official, the GBrowser, now known as Google Chrome will be released Tuesday for Windows, with Mac and Linux following.

It’s another bold move from a company that wants to be everything to everyone, but logical in the sense that Google is a web company and the one common thread that all Google users share is using a browser to access the web.

There’s no guarantee that Google Chrome will make a significant impact in browser share, and Google’s previous attempts of extending itself onto the desktop or with services like Lively have shown mixed results at best. Google does have a history of half-hearted releases without backing up the product through promotion or development post release, but I’m willing to bet that this isn’t the case with Google Chrome. Simply, there’s too much money at to be had by getting users to install it, and Google loves nothing more than looking for the next large income stream. We don’t know all the details, but certain things will be a given: Google search as default (will they offer competitors will be interesting to see), Google Toolbar functionality built in, Google page rank tracking goodness for everyone.

But who has the most to fear from Google Chrome?

It’s not Microsoft, who despite ignoring the browser for years still has around a 70% market share (depending on which set of figures you read…it’s closer to 20% among Inquisitr readers for example) and will always be able to depend on a pre-installed base of Windows users who despite having options, either don’t want to change, or don’t know how to. The organization with the most to fear from Chrome has to be Mozilla.

Consider that a Firefox user has downloaded and installed Firefox on their machine, because in Windows and OS X Firefox isn’t offered natively. A Firefox user isn’t afraid to install a plugin, or use tabs. A Firefox user looks for the best experience from their browser, and is aware that there are alternatives and isn’t afraid to try them.

The biggest thing going for Chrome out of the box is that it’s not built on Firefox, but built on Apple’s WebKit, the engine behind the Safari browser. Now Safari hasn’t been a huge success story, but WebKit has one very strong thing going for it: speed. Couple this to the Google built V8 javascript rendering engine that should in theory make Chrome quicker again. Lets presume that the feature set Google has added on top offers at least a half compelling range, and immediately Firefox users will be presented with a viable competitor backed by the largest internet company in the world.

It’s also conceivable that Chrome will start popping up pre-installed on Windows machines. Google already spends good money now getting the Google Toolbar pre-installed, extending that to pre-loading Google Chrome would seem a given. You therefore have Firefox users willing to switch if Chrome offers a viable alternative and/or is better to use, and others getting it preinstalled…not quite a perfect storm, but a compelling use case in the quest for market share.

We’re still missing one thing though from Google: the rabbit in the hat. Offering a great product isn’t going to deliver significant market share without a special mix of something to drive uptake forward. Firefox is one of the best examples of viral marketing, Microsoft uses its presence, but what will Google offer? They’ve scrapped the affiliate program for Google products, but could they reintroduce that? $1-$2 per install will immediately drive Google Chrome ads across the web. Could it be something else we haven’t seen, a cashback scheme on Google Checkout (something a little like Microsoft’s Live cashback scheme) or some sort of direct user incentive that we are yet to consider? Don’t rule it out; if Google is serious about building share, they will have a plan in place. And no matter what way you look at it, Firefox will be the browser to take the biggest hit.


Share this article: Why Mozilla should be afraid of Google Chrome
More from Inquisitr