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Google Hopes Chrome Will Help, Not Hurt Firefox

Internet Explorer. Firefox. Safari. Opera. Flock. Now Chrome.

Do we really need another browser?

"I guess the computer industry is a little weird, because we've come to expect that one or two browsers are enough," Brian Rakowski, group product manager at Google, told InternetNews.com. "The analogy I like to use is for buying a car. There are hundreds of cars to choose from out there. People would think it's strange if there was just one or two models to choose from."

Rakowski said Google had many ideas bubbling around the company, driven in part by its own wants for other application projects and also stuff people dreamed up on their "Innovation Time Off" period Google gives employees to work on new ideas and projects not directly related to their primary job responsibilities.

But Firefox, an established browser with 20 percent of the market and growing, wasn't the place to experiment, he said. "We think Mozilla is fantastic, but we wanted to try some more radical things," he explained. "It would be hard to do with something with millions of users like Firefox, so we wanted to try some things out with out being disruptive to the great product they have."

Something like Chrome's multi-process architecture would be a big change to the internals of Firefox, which had its own development cycle. The multi-process architecture has an isolation property for multiple tabs. If a person were to open multiple pages in several tabs and one site, page or tab locked up, it would bring all of a Mozilla or Internet Explorer browser down. In Chrome, only that tab would fail.

Mozilla need not fear

One of the lingering issues is where this leaves Google's long-standing relationship with The Mozilla Foundation. Google has contributed to the Mozilla project and the agreement with the two for Google to be the default search engine is responsible for 85 percent of Mozilla's revenue. That deal was recently renewed for another three years.

In an interview with GigaOm, Mozilla Foundation CEO John Lilly said he views Chrome and Google as a competitor. His comments would indicate he had no warning Chrome was about to be released.

Rakowski would not say if Lilly had been told before the news exploded on the wires Tuesday, but he also said Mozilla shouldn't fear its arrival. "There hadn't been a lot of work in browsers until Mozilla came along. That's been great for us," he said.

"We are looking forward to working even more with Mozilla now that we are open. There is an open source project for this, Chromium.org. We're hoping by opening the code they can benefit from some of the stuff we've done."

Darin Fisher, tech lead on the project, added he would "absolutely" like to see Chrome code find its way into Mozilla, "and I'm sure we'll see innovation in them we'll want to adopt."

Chrome uses a GNU/BSD license while Mozilla uses a triple license of Mozilla Public License, GNU General Public License (GPL) and GNU Lesser General Public License (LGPL). Some elements of Chrome use LGPL because it shares some code from other projects, Fisher explained, and the LGPL and BSD are fairly compatible, so he did not see problems in code sharing.

"We open sourced the entire code base because the entire goal is to benefit the entire Internet and make all browsers better," he said. "We hope that by entering this space we can contribute something there and it will be great for users."

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