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Google stepped into the Web browser market today with the release of Chrome. Google has been reaching well beyond its base of Internet search ads into the worlds of mobile phones, word processing and online video. Now Google claims its new browser is faster, more secure and easier to use than any other browser. And by that, the company means a certain one called Microsoft Explorer.
Here's NPR's Laura Sydell.
LAURA SYDELL: So let's say you've been driving around in the same old Chevy for years. It gets okay gas mileage, but it's not that fast. Now, someone has come out with a sleek hybrid that gets great mileage and it's agile on the road. That's how Google would like us to think about its new Internet browser in comparison with Microsoft's Internet Explorer.
Mr. SUNDAR PICHAI (Developer, Google Chrome): We've tried to build a browser which is modern and handles the applications of today's Web.
SYDELL: Sundar Pichai is one of the developers of Chrome. He showed it off this morning at the company's Mountain View, California offices. Like Google's highly popular search engine, the front page of Chrome looks spare.
Mr. PICHAI: With Google Chrome, we have attempted to create a very simple user experience for users. Think of Google Search, how simple it is for people to use. Anyone from a very sophisticated user to people like my dad and mom, who aren't necessarily that Internet-savvy.
SYDELL: Pichai says it's what's under the hood of the car that makes it run so well. Brian Rakowski, who also worked on the browser, says what Google has done is build a browser that's right for today's Internet. Microsoft's Explorer, Apple's Safari and even Mozilla Firefox are older, and they were built when the Web was simpler, had more text and less audio and video.
Mr. BRIAN RAKOWSKI (Developer, Google Chrome): When you have a fresh approach and you can start from nothing, you can reexamine some of the decisions that were made and you can see how things work. It would be very hard to do that if you had to bolt it onto an existing product.
SYDELL: Rakowski sits in front of a laptop and calls up Chrome in a flash.
Mr. RAKOWSKI: Here's the Chrome desktop shortcut. Let me double-click on it. You can see just how fast it opens. It's there instantly.
SYDELL: Rakowski opens several tabs on the browser: YouTube, Amazon, email. Then he shows me what would happen if YouTube suddenly froze up.
Mr. RAKOWSKI: You can see, you get a little puzzle piece here with a sad face that shows that something's gone wrong with that plug-in.
SYDELL: Other browsers would immediately freeze up every open tab. But Google's browser kind of makes it like each tab has its own engine.
Mr. RAKOWSKI: If one Web app misbehaves, or one Web app is consuming a lot of your computer's resources, the rest of the apps can still act very responsively.
SYDELL: Well, that may be. But no matter how fast or how much simpler Google's Chrome may be, it is still going to have a hard time grabbing market from Microsoft's Internet Explorer. Explorer has around 70 percent of people online, and it comes pre-installed on most PCs. Sheri McLeish, an analyst with Forrester Research, says that old Chevy may be slower, but it's what people are used to.
Ms. SHERI McLEISH (Analyst, Forrester Research): The general user population uses what they're comfortable with and what they know. If you look at the email example, most people keep email accounts that they've had for years, because they're familiar with it.
SYDELL: Still, McLeish says Google might be able to steer people to its browser by getting them there through its popular search engine. McLeish says the good thing for users is that if Google's Chrome is really good, other browsers will be likely to adopt its features, and that will improve everyone's online experience.
Laura Sydell, NPR News, San Francisco.
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