Last week, Computerworld reported that Chrome's market share has slipped again -- now fighting for a fourth spot with the Opera browser. That means IE, Firefox, and Safari are trudging on the fledgling Google browser, which has just a .7 market share, according to Net Applications. I think the browser has now almost become inconsequential, a bright blip that has faded faster than my summer tan.
But was there really any hope? I wrote about all of the challenges facing Chrome recently, but I think the biggest challenge by far is compatibility. Web developers know that you had better make sure your site works with IE, and it probably better work with Firefox. Adding another one to the list is a losing proposition -- how many more hours of coding should they do for a browser with a .7 market share? I understand WC3 support, but in the open market of Web browsers, it's about more than just standards. The fact is, anytime a user tries to fire up Cinemanow.com and finds that Chrome doesn't work, it's like a stop sign on the Internet -- it makes the average surfer wonder: why am I using Chrome at all? It leaves an indelible impression on them and they eventually switch back.
It's time for a post-mortem. For one thing, Google is known primarily as a search giant. People don't equate search with the browser platform. A browser is the shell for Web sites, but they don't wake up in the morning and think, man, I really need to get a new browser so I can search the Internet better. No, they go to Google.com and start typing. And, they do this many multiple times per day, all year long.
I noticed that, last week, when Google released an updated to their Blog search engine, that it started working right out of the box. I now use it just as much as Techmeme and Technorati. My own blog posts, such as this one last week about Sarah Palin, showed up in the search listing at Google Blog Search just a hair faster than other blog search tools. Google knows how to do search, they have the best algorithms in the business. This is a market they can dominate. (By the way, does anyone remember Cuil? It's funny: former Google employees taking on Google in the market where they are way more dominant than Microsoft. Brilliant.)
Chrome was intended (notice I am speaking in the past tense) as a kind of operating system for the future Web. I think it made a huge splash, but not as big as Google wanted. I don't think the engineers, let alone the co-founders, were sitting in a conference room saying, I sure hope we have a .7 market share in October! The company is not known for thinking small. They want to own the smartphone market, not just become a bit player that fawns at the feet of the iPhone.
So, what's next for Chrome? I think it's destined to become a developer platform, a tool that coders use to test speed benchmarks against the "real" browsers, just for fun. IE and Firefox are never going to clear the path for Chrome, at least not this year, or next. My prediction: by early next year, Google may even pull the plug on Chrome and say, sorry -- we agree that Chrome was kind of lame.
This story, "Google Chrome = Dead, Google Search = Hot" was originally published by Computerworld.