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All That Glitters Is Not Chrome

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With the launch of Google's Chrome browser Tuesday, the Google machine moves into another territory. Like previous moves, Google has managed to grab a decent chunk of the market in just a few days.

Chrome has already grabbed about 2.5 percent of the market, according to Clicky.com, a company that monitors more than 45,000 Web sites. With 1.4 billion Internet users globally, if these numbers carry across, 35 million people could potentially download Chrome in two to three days. Obviously, if the numbers are concentrated more in the United States, the number of downloads will be considerably less.

If Google posts numbers of the initial downloads, it will be interesting to see if they beat Firefox's effort at Download Day -- guess we'll have to wait and see if "Guinness Book of World Records" changes their listing.

Chrome Pros and Cons

The speed of the new browser has impressed many. Also impressive: the browser's ability to keep processes in individual tabs, which isolates any problems. Thus, if one tab crashes, you don't lose all of the connections you have open.

There are some initial challenges to the limits of the browser. A couple of security holes have been found, as apparently it was built using an earlier, flawed version of WebKit, which was also used in developing Safari.

While many of the people in our industry were busy watching the launch and Twittering about it (myself included), it will take some time before it becomes a popular browser. Its streamlined approach has restricted toolbars and plugins, which is a major drawback for people who use many of these tools for work.

Even The New York Times wrote about Chrome's impact on the toolbar industry: "According to comScore, toolbars contribute 12 percent of search queries at Google, 18 percent at Yahoo and 42 percent at IAC's Ask."

Without any toolbar search boxes in Chrome, Google would stand to garner most of that leaked search traffic from the Omnibox, even with their option of choosing the default search engine used to bring up pages when keywords are typed in the address bar.

PC World's "Google's Chrome: 7 Reasons for It and 7 Reasons Against It" provides some good insights into the launch and the application. Among the negatives is a Big Brother feel: "Have you seen all the hype about Google's privacy practices and how much of your data it shares with advertisers? Imagine the potential ammo you're giving it by using this browser. Google will now have total control over your experience from the time you open Chrome to the time you shut down. In some sense, you might just as well invite DoubleClick to watch over your shoulder while you surf."

Aaron Wall offers some interesting insights into the potential impact of the self-fill suggestion approach on search results. If people see the site as a suggestion, they may be more inclined to click on it in the results displayed, thus changing SERP clicks. His article is another that should be read by all SEOs.

Matt Cutts has written a response to many of the objections initially being passed around, including the error in their initial EULA which stated they had control over all browser activity.

Will Chrome Start Another Browser War?

More than likely, Chrome will be a strong contender, but Google will need to have deals in place with PC manufacturers to have it preinstalled before it gains even deeper infiltration. The addition of the offer to download the beta on the search homepage could grab them a lot of users, given their market share. Interestingly, they are offering it in the UK and Japan, but China, Germany and France don't have it on their homepages.

Loren Baker at Search Engine Journal had good coverage on this topic, specifically asking people on Twitter what they thought of it in the first hours of its rollout. Hey, he even quoted me, so you know it was good.

But of all the comments, Jim Hedger's was the best: "The Third Keystroke of the Googopalypse."

Hey, it's a new toy right now and as the name suggests it is bright and shiny. I doubt if it will be "Zunezilla" as CNET has suggested.

Kevin Newcomb Fires Back

I don't think Google really needs to get a very big share of the market for Chrome to be considered successful. Even if it remains the browser of the digerati, Google has gained untold insights into user behavior, and will no doubt use that to make our lives more difficult as search marketers.

During the launch event, Google repeatedly said that Chrome is about making the Web better, so that Google can benefit from more people using its Web-based applications. While that's a noble idea, and it certainly makes sense that Google would benefit from a faster Internet experience, I can't help but be cynical and think there's much more to it than that.

Behavioral data is the Holy Grail of advertising. Just ask MC Hammer. Google is already tapping into this with its toolbar for Firefox, but imagine if Google knew everything you did online. It's "omnibox" captures everything: search queries, URLs, favorites...even searches made on other search engines. Now that's a treasure trove of data.

That data will allow Google to make changes to its Web search, Web analytics, and especially to its advertising algorithms. Google can also use Chrome as a beta for its Android mobile browser.

When you consider that Google is also coming at this from the developer side with Google Gears, it seems like it won't be long before we consider surfing the Googlenet to be the status quo.


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