For the Love of Chrome: Google's Stealth Attack on IE Through ... IE

By Clint Boulton  |  Posted 2008-12-30 Print this article Print

The other day a reader using the name Eric Blair and claiming to be a Googler commented that while the Google Chrome Web browser is currently headed for disaster, the powers that be at Google are using marketing tactics in an effort to save it.

We've all seen the major ad -- the button on the Google home page that invites us to download Chrome for a "faster way to browse the Web." So, what is a Googler's take on this tactic to help Chrome bust beyond the lame sub-1 percent market share it currently holds? Blair writes:

We never used to advertise Google products, but now Chrome ads are being built into every toolbar, every Google page, every interaction. Getting tiresome.

Even so, this piece from Emil Protalinski on Ars Technica confirms Blair's claim. Protalinski stumbled upon an ad button for Chrome in Gmail running in Microsoft Internet Explorer Version 6.0. I'm grateful to him for pointing this out because I haven't used IE 6 in a few years and haven't used IE 7 in over a year.

Between the Gmail user's e-mail address and Settings tab is a new button inviting users to "Get faster Gmail." When you click on it, it takes you to this page, which advises:

Browsers are getting faster and better at running Web applications like Google Mail that use browser technology to its limits. In order to get the best experience possible and make Google Mail run an average of twice as fast, we suggest that you upgrade your browser to one of the fastest Google Mail supported browsers that work on Windows.

Directly beneath this message are two buttons, one inviting you to download Firefox 3, the other inviting you to download Google Chrome.

Beneath that is a "note" explaining that a faster version of Internet Explorer, IE 8, is in development and available in a beta release. This note offers a link to this beta, but no big button the way Firefox 3 and Chrome scream at you from the page.

Consumers at large will read this as a cautionary note from a concerned service provider looking out for its customers. More savvy Web users read this as a subtle marketing attempt to lure users from IE.

Let's think about the logistical problem for a second. I'd venture to guess that if Gmail users are accessing Gmail through IE 6, they may not even be aware that other browsers exist. Heck, Microsoft is on IE 8!

Why are users still surfing the Web with IE 6? Why haven't they graduated to IE 7 at least? That's sad to me. The fact that Google has to explain that Gmail or any Web app runs faster on Firefox 3 or Chrome than IE speaks volumes.

Most computer users who don't follow the Internet software market with gusto probably use the browser they grew up on, one that came on their PCs. IE comes installed on almost every PC, so most users who weren't savvy enough to graduate to Firefox, Opera, Chrome or something else by this time are still on IE and unlikely to leave.

Yes, I am in fact saying that people who still use IE 6 as their browser don't know enough about the relationship between Web browsers, Web applications and the Internet to realize what they're missing in speed and efficiency from Firefox, Chrome, Opera or Safari.

These same users may not have even explored Gmail to the fullest to see what it can do beyond compose, send and receive e-mail. Targeting them with a tiny button up at the top that takes them to what will be a mysterious software download invitation is not the way to do it.

Do you really think people who use IE 6, who probably have never downloaded Web software before beyond perhaps clicking yes to an upgrade invitation, are going to act on the "Get faster Gmail" button and end up downloading Firefox or Chrome?

I don't, but it's a nice marketing touch, even if it won't be a successful coup. The percentage of IE 6 users has to be small and yet ... Google is trying to lure them.

So, yes, when Blair writes that it's "tiresome," I agree. But Google has to do something to get the word out on Chrome. Unfortunately, the way to do that is not by reaching out to laid-back, casual Web users who still access the Web through IE. No offense, mom. Oh wait, you're not reading this "blog thing" that I write.

No, Google needs deals with OEMs to get Chrome out to the market on 2009. It needs OEMs to help get Google Chrome onto desktops, laptops and especially netbooks, where Microsoft isn't the 800-pound gorilla. |

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