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Heavy Mettle: Google Enters Browser Wars with Chrome

in Search Marketing with tags ,

Since Firefox emerged as a viable competitor to Internet Explorer and Apple’s Safari, there have been a number of new browser competitors, such as Flock and AT&T’s Pogo, but none that have been real game changers yet. Google changed that instantly just by showing up, launching the Chrome browser.

Much of the differences are technical in terms of how it loads pages, and how it limits any bottlenecks to a single tab so that the browser shouldn’t crash, just a tab. Interestingly, there’s no Google toolbar or even a search bar. The “omnibar,” as Google calls it, where one normally enters the website address or URL, also serves as a search box – whether for Google or any engine you choose (it imports settings from Firefox and will ask if you want to keep whatever default browser you have there). As it’s open source, anyone can build on it; one could see future versions of Firefox incorporating the best of Chrome.

Trying it out, it does seem faster. It’s far more streamlined; there’s much more space devoted to the page you’re viewing.

There are some downsides. It doesn’t have full-screen mode (a favorite of mine for screenshots). It currently doesn’t support other extensions, so if you have favorite plug-ins, there will be an adjustment period.

Marketers shouldn’t experience any changes. There’s no added AdWords displays here or anything that inherently increases Google’s inventory. In fact, one could argue that people will search less in Chrome since there isn’t a search box calling out to people; conceivably, direct navigation will increase as a result of Chrome. Pop-up blockers are standard, but not ad blockers. Sites appear to load correctly. Firefox 3, the latest version of that browser, has had some issues with Flash and video, and all of that seems to work fine in Chrome.

We’ll see what happens with user adoption. Microsoft will soon be making a big push with Internet Explorer 8 and Mozilla set download records with Firefox 3, so users will consider browser upgrades, but there are barriers to switching. Given how many of the benefits of Chrome are behind the scenes and potentially harder for users to appriaciate, it could be a hard sell for mass market adoption.

Then again, Google’s a brand that spread by word of mouth. Name a major consumer-facing Google ad campaign and you’ll be hard pressed to think of one. If early adopters become passionate evangelists for Chrome, then it will market itself.