In December 2008, tech giant Google unleashed the stable version of its browser, Chrome. Less then two years later, it has eaten up over 17% of the browser market share, growing at an unprecedented rate. It’s fast and light-weight, and boasts a sleek interface. The problem, however, is that the small advantages of the new browser, come at big costs.
Chrome is widely known as a free and open-source browser. Unfortunately, that is far from an accurate depiction. A proper open-source project has to stick to some basic rules and principles, and Google have failed to do the following:
- They never released the entire code, making it more like an iPhone OS type of exploitation than it is a collaborative project
- Instead of starting from down up, it is Google’s name that comes first, then the ‘open-source’ browser project. It defeats the purpose of celebrating the beauty of coming together from different parts of the world to bring a tool we could all benefit from. Instead, we are left with a product that gives all the credit to a company that has been making billions of dollars by ripping off advertisers (and here’s partly why it’s hypocritical, and problematic)
- In the open-source economy, the success of projects relies on collaboration, not competition. When we all work together, we can collectively benefit. Here’s a TED talk that does a good job illustrating the advantages and mechanisms of the open-source economy:
Somewhat of a complicated lecture, but be patient, and it will all come together by the end of it
Most importantly: Google is determined to become the richest and most powerful entity on the planet, and its real competitor is not Microsoft, nor Apple, but the open-source movement. That is because instead of competing with equivalent companies, all driven by profits, it is up against a liberating movement that involves millions of people all working for the greater good. As a result, Google’s main objective with Chrome is to weaken the support behind Firefox, divide its people, diffuse the efforts, and hinder its growth.
Just as corrupt governments diffuse labor unions and rebellious groups by bribing and/or making lucrative offers, Google boasts a single, albeit solid, advantage: performance. That is the sole plus that can be made in Chrome’s defense. On the other hand, many forget about the following disadvantages in comparison to Firefox:
- Flexibility and customization is far superior in Firefox
- The massive list of add-ons available that provide a wide range of features via Mozilla make that of Chrome seem more like a joke
- HTML/CSS rendering bugs and inconsistencies in Chrome are a rare encounter in Firefox, making designers and developers work more to make their websites and applications appear properly on Google’s application
This does not mean, however, that there is something unethical about having two different open-source projects in the same industry – far from it. However, the services and functionality they offer must be different, and/or catering to different needs. Chrome is identical to Firefox in terms of who uses it and how.
While making the switch might seem appealing, let us not forget that it is a diminutive gain on the short run, and an enormous loss on the long one. Because soon, probably by Firefox 4.0, the performance will be too close of a call. In the long term, though, we would be helping a company hiding many cockroaches behind the fridge become even more powerful and threatening, at the cost of the only movement that is seeking to benefit all of us, as well as bring the power to the people; the open-source.