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Google to Shake Up Browsers With Own Launch

Google is jumping into the browser wars with both feet today with the launch of its new open source Web browser, called Google Chrome.

The new browser takes elements from Mozilla Firefox as well as Apple's Safari Web browser to deliver what Google hopes will be an optimized Web experience.

The Chrome browser will have Google facing off against its partner Mozilla as well as its rival Microsoft for domination of the Web browser market. Chrome is geared for handling the increasingly complex and data-rich applications such as video that are accounting for an ever-greater share of Internet traffic, and that can challenge the limits of existing browsers.

"We realized that the Web had evolved from mainly simple text pages to rich, interactive applications and that we needed to completely rethink the browser," Sundar Pichai, Google's vice president of product management, wrote in a company blog post. "What we really needed was not just a browser, but also a modern platform for Web pages and applications, and that's what we set out to build."

Google is releasing the Windows version of Chrome today with versions for Mac and Linux systems to follow.

In the proud Google tradition, Chrome is designed with a sparse user interface that Pichai likened to the company's home page.

"To most people, it isn't the browser that matters," he wrote. "It's only a tool to run the important stuff."

Behind the uncluttered interface, Google claims it has come up with a fresh take on the elements of a browser, including tabs that are partitioned in their own "sandbox," allowing them to run faster and more securely.

Baked into Chrome is a new JavaScript engine, called V8, that Google developed in order to handle a powerful class of applications that have yet to be invented. Improving JavaScript performance is a key development initiative for browsers in general, with both Apple's SquireelFish and Mozilla's TraceMonkey as examples of new JavaScript technologies designed to increase the speed of their respective browsers.

After building the beta version of Chrome by borrowing elements from an array of open source projects, including Mozilla's Firefox and Apple's WebKit, Google said it will make the browser's source code available to the developer community.

The term Chrome itself is not something new in the browser world either. Chrome is a key UI area of the Mozilla rendering engine. Google is an important partner of Mozilla's and is responsible for the bulk of Mozilla's revenues. Google and Mozilla have a a deal such that Google pays Mozilla for search queries that come from the Firefox start page. Just last week, Mozilla revealed that the deal was being extended by three years until November 2011.

Mozilla, however, is trying to appear unfazed by the competitive threat that Google Chrome may represent. Mozilla recently updated its Firefox browser to version 3.0.1.

"As much as anything else, it’ll mean there’s another interesting browser that users can choose," Mozilla CEO John Lilly blogged. With IE, Firefox, Safari, Opera, etc — there’s been competition for a while now, and this increases that. So it means that more than ever, we need to build software that people care about and love. Firefox is good now, and will keep on getting better."

Lilly also noted that Mozilla will continue to collaborate with Google on technical fronts to continue the evolution of web browsing.

"Mozilla and Google have always been different organizations, with different missions, reasons for existing, and ways of doing things," Lilly blogged. "I think both organizations have done much over the last few years to improve and open the Web, and we’ve had very good collaborations that include the technical, product, and financial."

Microsoft will also face competitive pressure from Google Chrome. Just last week Microsoft released Internet Explorer 8 Beta 2 which includes a private browsing feature similar to one that is set to appear in Google Chrome.

"The browser landscape is highly competitive," Dean Hachamovitch, general manager of Internet Explorer, said in a statement e-mailed to InternetNews.com. "But people will choose Internet Explorer 8 for the way it puts the services they want right at their fingertips, respects their personal choices about how they want to browse and, more than any other browsing technology, puts them in control of their personal data online."

Google confirmed today's launch of Chrome after having accidentally leaked word of the browser's launch to the Blogoscoped.com blog in the form of a 38-page comic book outlining the project.

The Chrome browser also stands as the latest alignment of the business trajectories of Google and archrival Microsoft, whose Internet Explorer, recently upgraded to version 8, commands roughly three-quarters of the browser market.

Updated to add comment from Microsoft