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Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Rumor: A WebKit-based GBrowser?

In the post The Google Browser from earlier this year, someone going by the name “the Lizard” says that Google is developing its own, WebKit-based browser. Lizard argues that it is strategically dangerous to bet too much on just Firefox, which sends a lot of paid search traffic to Google, and that this made Google start an internal project in mid-2006 titled “GBrowser.”

According to the Lizard, GBrowser is built on top of the open source WebKit browser framework, which was also used by Apple to create Safari, and is also used for the browser of Google-initiated mobile platform Android. “More than that,” the Lizard writes, GBrowser “will offer integration with many Google services, such as Gmail, Google Calendar, Blogger, and likely Google Talk.” Lizard continues:

Rumblings of a Google browser have been carpeting the web for years, but it wasn’t until 2006 that an entire team was actually committed to working on what will become GBrowser.

Google, always known for iterating slowly on most of its projects, has taken its time on GBrowser for a very good reason: it only has one chance to get it right. Failing to succeed in its browser move means rocky negotiations with a core partner, Mozilla, and could negatively impact its financials in a significant manner. A move into the browser market requires perfection, and GBrowser has undergone at least one substantial rewrite and many major user-interface iterations.

Lizard adds, “Mozilla knows GBrowser is coming and discusses it at length internally.” And then, I heard another rumor that Google will be creating a standard which allows the toolbar of GBrowser to change when visiting certain sites – say, when you visit Google Docs you get a special Docs toolbar. Now, I don’t know if there’s indeed such a browser in the works, and have to file all of this under rumor until further details are known... but thought it’s an interesting rumor nevertheless. Once in May 2006, when Google CEO Eric Schmidt was asked in a Q&A whether Google would consider building their own browser, he replied “We would only do so...if we thought there was a real user benefit.”

[Thanks Anonymous! Illustration based on WebKit homepage logo. Hat tip to Tony!]


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