Browser as Gateway

By Matthew Hicks  |  Posted 2004-09-23 Print this article Print

Web developer Pinder Johal, who first reported on his Blogzilla blog about sighting Google in a Mozilla bug report, has his doubts. He said he would expect other types of applications, such as instant messaging, to be a bigger priority for Google. "Theres nothing conclusive out there, but a lot of people are speculating," Johal said. "Im still skeptical about it all. Other than an R&D type of thing, I dont think theyre going to launch something like they did with Gmail." Gmail is Google Web-based e-mail application that it launched as an invite-only beta in April.
While reading Googles tea leaves is always difficult, search-engine expert Danny Sullivan said it would make sense for Google to move into the browser space to tackle the coming competition from Microsoft.
Microsofts MSN division is working on its own algorithmic search engine and has said it would launch a desktop search product late this year. Likely more worrisome to Google are Microsofts hints that it will build search more directly into the operating system and potentially into the browser, Sullivan said. "The browser is the gateway to the Web," said Sullivan, editor of Search Engine Watch. "People have talked about search as the gateway, but search is the second gateway and the browser is the first gateway. If Google could control the browser, it gives them control from the get-go." Google already has started to move its search engine onto users desktops, but it piggybacks on Microsoft to do so. Its Google Toolbar for Internet Explorer puts its search query box front and center on the browser, while its Google Deskbar adds its Web search to the Windows taskbar. "It makes sense for them to protect themselves for whatever might come down the line," said Sullivan, who even floated the idea of Google version of the Linux operating system. Sullivan said any Google browser effort likely would bring together the companys increasing number of services. Along with Gmail, Google runs the Orkut social-networking service, runs the Blogger service and is testing its next-generation e-mail list service, called Google Groups 2. It also acquired Picasa Inc. in July, gaining an application for storing and sharing digital images that industry watchers said could be central to future desktop application plans. Rather than worry about a browser, Google needs to think more like a media company and focus on extending its search—and its advertising programs—to more types of content beyond Web pages and into applications, Weiner said. "The social networking stuff and IM stuff would be more compelling as immediate applications [for Google] than the browser," Weiner said. "The browser to me, honestly, would be an ego thing." Check out eWEEK.coms Enterprise Applications Center at for the latest news, reviews and analysis about productivity and business solutions.

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Matthew Hicks As an online reporter for, Matt Hicks covers the fast-changing developments in Internet technologies. His coverage includes the growing field of Web conferencing software and services. With eight years as a business and technology journalist, Matt has gained insight into the market strategies of IT vendors as well as the needs of enterprise IT managers. He joined Ziff Davis in 1999 as a staff writer for the former Strategies section of eWEEK, where he wrote in-depth features about corporate strategies for e-business and enterprise software. In 2002, he moved to the News department at the magazine as a senior writer specializing in coverage of database software and enterprise networking. Later that year Matt started a yearlong fellowship in Washington, DC, after being awarded an American Political Science Association Congressional Fellowship for Journalist. As a fellow, he spent nine months working on policy issues, including technology policy, in for a Member of the U.S. House of Representatives. He rejoined Ziff Davis in August 2003 as a reporter dedicated to online coverage for Along with Web conferencing, he follows search engines, Web browsers, speech technology and the Internet domain-naming system.

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