Why do we need another browser?

So Google thinks there are too few browsers out there. Ask any web designer and they’ll tell you: There are too many. Testing applications on IE and Firefox is cumbersome enough as it is. Maybe that’s about to change with IE8 as sources close to Microsoft said IE8 is more compliant. The problem will not go away so easily though, as more and more people are reluctant to upgrade their MS components (see the Vista flop).

So why does Google feel that it needs its own browser? Especially that it is Firefox’ main sugar daddy.

Perhaps because the browser will be the battlefield for the next paradigm shift. Since Web 2.0 popped its over-hyped head, people started dreaming again about the Internet and started dreaming about a world where applications would run in the browser, making the underlying OS more or less irrelevant. It’s one major weakness for Microsoft. Microsoft has a near monopoly on the desktop, perhaps in the same way that once Apple had a monopoly of graphical user interfaces and IBM of personal computers. They all lost their monopolies by being complacent and not driving the market. A market leader has the responsibility of driving the market, not just milk the customers.
Microsoft managed to displace Apple, IBM and many others by being quick to market (with half baked incremental solutions) and by vapourware (announcing products way before they’re ready in order to kill off demand for competitor software). But Microsoft is now perhaps in a position whereby the only direction is downwards.
Microsoft for too long has ignored the browser market, instead of cultivating it and driving it forward as a true market leader. And that is turning against them now.

Google no doubt is very aware of this vulnerability and the new browser is their show of commitment to take over where Microsoft seemed to have left it off. Google would like to drive forward the browser market and in the process deliver a better platform for delivering web apps that can compete better with the MS Cash Cows (Office in particular). There’s a long way, but it all looks very promising. Improvements to Javascript engines made it run very fast indeed, opening the roads for applications that were not possible before. I still remember the days when a for loop in JS over some DOM elements would take 30 seconds or so. Those days are gone and the future for web apps looks great.

The questions I have are:
1. What will happen to Firefox? – I love Firefox
2. What will be Microsoft’s reaction? – will IE8 be any good? will it be any innovative or just a “me too” browser?
3. How fast is Google’s Chrome going to be compared to Firefox and IE8
4. How many Google specific features (e.g. Code gears) will Chrome have compared to the compliant browsers?

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