Is Google Ready to Browse?

New hires, a domain-name registration and Mozilla bugs lead to speculation that Google is preparing a Web browser, but the clues could point in many directions.

First, there was Gmail. Is the Gbrowser next?

A Google Web browser is the latest in the never-ending speculation about what search leader Google Inc. is going to do next after raising $1.7 billion from its public offering.

The evidence: a spate of high-profile hires, Googles domain-name registration of the name and a duo of Mozilla Foundation bug reports that name Google.

Following a New York Post story over the weekend about Googles potential jump into the browser wars, Weblogs and a series of media reports this week jumped into the fray.

The speculation about a Google browser dates back even further to July 2003, when bloggers first began posting theories that included a Mozilla-Google marriage.

While all of the signs appear to be compelling signals of an impending Google browser, each also could be explained as an indication of other moves. Search-engine experts and analysts differ on whether to take the browser speculation seriously, though they agree that Googles true post-IPO intentions remain as unclear as ever.

"Even a powerful brand like Google, if they come out with a browser, it would have to have some significant value to it, or an application to it to get people to move," said Allen Weiner, a research director at Gartner Inc. "Its hard to imagine what that would be."

Weiner said he doubts that the Google browser rumors are more than a trial balloon through which Google can gauge reaction. If anything, Google might provide a branded version of an existing browser, such as Mozillas open-source Firefox browser, he said.

A spokesman for Mountain View, Calif.-based Google declined to address the speculation and said the company has "not announced any plans in this area."

Mozilla spokesman Bart Decrem also would not comment directly on the speculation.

"We talk to a broad range of companies about a broad range of topics, and Ill have to leave it at that," he said.

What is clear is that Google has snagged major developers and engineers from such technology vendors as BEA Systems Inc., Microsoft Corp. and Sun Microsystems Inc. Adam Bosworth in July left his position as chief architect and senior vice president at BEA to join Google. Bosworth is considered one of the top experts in Web services and, in previous roles, was part of the early development of Microsofts Internet Explorer.

/zimages/4/28571.gifClick here to read an interview with Bosworth.

Other recent Google newcomers include Joe Beda, who left Microsoft earlier this month as a lead developer on Longhorns "Avalon" presentation subsystem, and Joshua Bloch, who had been a distinguished engineer for Java at Sun.

While many of Googles new hires have strong backgrounds in browsers and Web development, they are also just as knowledgeable in areas such as Web services and application development.

Googles official reason for the new hires: "Were always looking for the greatest and brightest minds to join us."

Google in April also registered, according to the Whois database record. But companies regularly buy domain names to defend against poachers, and an application named gBrowser already exists. It is a Mac OS X-based browser and organizer for digital images.

Meanwhile, Google is mentioned in at least two different reports on Mozillas Bugzilla system. None, though, points definitively to work between the two organizations on a Google browser.

One, which is dated July 2003, when Google browser rumors first surfaced on a series of blogs, was made private this week. Another, dated earlier this month, deals with tabbed browser issues and was assigned to a Google engineer.

Decrem cautioned against reading much into the bug reports, noting that it is not unusual for a Bugzilla report to name another company or to be assigned to someone working for a technology vendor.

Next Page: The browser as the gateway to the Web.