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Google Planning Web Browser? 387

Posted by CowboyNeal
from the reaching-out dept.
Kick the Donkey writes "John Dvorak has just posted a very interesting, albeit hypothetical, analysis of Google's future directions. Citing the 'unusual' hires of Rob Pike (from Bell labs), Ben Goodger, and Darin Fisher (both from Mozilla) and the acquisition of the gbrowser.com domain, Dvorak speculates that a Firefox based Google browser and Google-OS may soon be coming to a cluster near you."
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Google Planning Web Browser?

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  • Hey, look (Score:5, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday January 27, 2005 @07:44PM (#11498439)
    It's a dead horse [slashdot.org], let's go beat it.
    • by MST3K (645613)
      Nah, you can do that by yourself. I tried it once, but the horse wasn't actually dead. My girlfriend thinks the hoof sticking out of my forehead is kinda sexy, though.
    • by Ultra Magnus (312814) on Thursday January 27, 2005 @08:46PM (#11499046)
      He didn't just beat a dead horse, he bought a stronger whip, changed riders, proclaimed "this is the way we have always ridden this horse," appointed a committee to study the horse, arranged visits to other sites to see how they ride dead horses, increased the standards of riding dead horses, declared that the horse is better, faster and cheaper dead, and finally, harnessed several dead horses together for increased speed.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday January 27, 2005 @07:44PM (#11498442)
    A browser is one thing and apparently the only thing the evidence supports. Why the jump to a Google OS?
    • by Excelsior (164338) on Thursday January 27, 2005 @07:51PM (#11498529)
      A browser is one thing and apparently the only thing the evidence supports. Why the jump to a Google OS?
      Because Rob Pike was the developer of Plan 9 [bell-labs.com] at Bell Labs. His hiring by Google would imply they are looking to develop their own OS. Microsoft is trying to push in on Google's territory, so it makes perfect sense for Google to push in on Microsoft's territory.
    • If anything it will just probably be a "Google Linux" distro...
      • If Google OS has DirectX game compability, then I am interested for real. No joke. Otherwise I'll just stick to any other existing version of linux or windows for games etc.

        This browser thing must be a big news. I already got a ton of emails from friends and family about this. As if M$ is going down for good.

      • Even if it were just a rebranded linux distro, that's still a pretty big deal. The brand identity that Google brings to the table is no small thing, and would make many who currently disregard linx/open source to stand up and take notice. If they were to successful marry their search (and other) technologies into a desktop os, they would have something to distinguish themselves from the other distros.
      • lol Corel had a lot of money at one point too, and we all remember how the Corel Linux distro ended up.

        IMO, Google's shooting itself in the foot with a browser and a distro, and in a couple years we'll be seeing news releases that state that Google's abandoned those projects.

        That said, I'm sure the OSS community would welcome the extra investment from google.
      • by burns210 (572621) <maburns@gmail.com> on Thursday January 27, 2005 @08:43PM (#11499015) Homepage Journal
        That is just silly. Google has no infrastructure for that, no support system, they have no vested interest in themselves supplying the OS, they would want to piggyback on Novell, Redhat or Apple's products and supply services/applications that compliment them.

        The Plan 9 guy is probably just an OS developer to improve their linux server's configuration and be a high level sys admin for the Google computer network.
    • What's broken in Unix? Rob Pike isn't writing it anymore. So when Google hires Rob Pike, they very well might be "fixing" Unix, or Linux, or Plan 9 - in any event, the move has "OS" written all over it. They're probably not just planning to produce a low-power CPU with a geek spokesmodel [transmeta.com].
    • The idea of a Google OS is interesting. Google profits through advertising and (I assume) data mining. The data mining is a bit scary(no scarier than what Microsoft is capable of,) but a free-as-in-Firefox Google OS with built-in advertising could be removed by those who would most be irked by it. G-lite, if you will. Google has the name and the ability to launch a competitor to Windows. A simple, intuitive desktop interface and a link on the main page is all it would take. Google's popularity and the insan
    • Why not? You know, if Google could spend a few years in heavy development (perhaps they already are) to build a new OS from the ground up (instead of another Lindows - hey, let's make a quick buck off of a Linux distro) they could do well in the desktop market. So many people know the Google name that they would already feel "familiar" with the OS before they even use it. And if they built an OS somewhat similar to Windows (although a different OS in enough ways) to make porting a simpler task (simpler than
  • Dupe (mostly) (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Fletch (6903) * <fletch@@@pobox...com> on Thursday January 27, 2005 @07:45PM (#11498445) Homepage
    The last article about Google browser speculation is here [nypost.com].
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday January 27, 2005 @07:45PM (#11498449)
    I know for a fact. It will be announced in two months and four days.
  • My wish... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by bogaboga (793279) on Thursday January 27, 2005 @07:46PM (#11498460)
    ...is for Google, if the browser news is true, that they base it on Firefox and INCLUDE all extensions people add to Firefox in the browser's installation script. Of course these should be [installation] options.
    • Is for a (google) browser that can properly handle javascript and active-X without spewing its virus and spyware contaminated load all over my windows.

      Oh, and properly handle help files, dhtml, xml, mhtml, zip attachments or pretty much any other form of file known to man.

  • I wish... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by agraupe (769778) on Thursday January 27, 2005 @07:46PM (#11498463) Journal
    I wish this would finally happen, so we don't have to hear about the possibility of it anymore. A google browser, perhaps a re-skinned upgraded version of firefox, would be quite nice. With all the google functions built in. It would be interesting, if nothing else.
  • Advertising Tool? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by fembots (753724) on Thursday January 27, 2005 @07:46PM (#11498464) Homepage
    Google, although well known for its search engine, is making money out of advertisement.

    The friendly article might have hinted a possible failure of such Googled-attempts - "Think of the potential advertising revenue you can generate when you own the entire desktop environment."

    The reason why I choose and stick to Firefox is its simplicity and nothingness.

    And even Microsoft dare not put a single advertisement in its desktop OS.

    Simply put, most people use a tool because it works, and it does only what it's meant to do. An ad-serving (albeit how intelligent it is) browser or desktop is definitely not my cup of cappuccino.
    • Re:Advertising Tool? (Score:3, Informative)

      by Holi (250190)
      Since whern does MS not advertise on the desktop. When you installed 98 there was an icon for AOL. You did not have AOL but that icon was their to let you know that you could get ite easily.
    • Re:Advertising Tool? (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Mazem (789015)
      An ad-serving browser or desktop is ad-ware and should be treated as such. Period.

      That said, I doubt google would do something that foolish.
    • And even Microsoft dare not put a single advertisement in its desktop OS.

      Sorry, I'd love to refute your claim in more detail, but Windows XP just popped up and said that I had to get a .NET passport.

      Really, MS has advertised in its OSes since at least Win 95. Remember when MSN was going to be the AOL-killer and the world's ISP? It was on the desktop of Windows 95. IE was included in Win 98, when it was a direct Netscape competitor. Even in XP, there's not only the .NET Passport, but also the MSN integr

    • Google Ads (Score:2, Interesting)

      I mostly agree with you however, Google has been pretty good about doing ads in a way that people happily accept.
      I wouldn't be surprised if they found a way to provide some extra value or service to the desktop that made people feel ok about the ads.
      I don't think they'll abuse the users like those free internet services of the '90's. People will still have the option to not use them.
      The guys at Google are pretty smart. If they do go this route, it'll be interesting to see what happens. Also, with some serio
  • I hope they have something to add to browser use that isn't already covered by Firefox, and I'm not just talking about having the Google logo plastered all over it in an attempt at 'integration'. Otherwise it's going to be what is known as a pointless endeavour.
  • by de Selby (167520) on Thursday January 27, 2005 @07:48PM (#11498479)
    Isn't this the John C. Dvorak that has worked in technology for several decades, making many predictions, talking of supposed trends... and being wrong on almost all of them?
    • by BasilBrush (643681) on Thursday January 27, 2005 @07:58PM (#11498606)
      Yes it is. Quite frankly he's the slowest and least insightful IT journalist there is. I think he's only where he is because his name sounds like he might once have invented a novel typewriter layout.
    • Ding Ding Ding!

      I clearly remember thinking he was a huge idiot when I was 13 years old, in 1988. To this day, I find him annoying. Dvorak is like Robert Cringeley but two standard deviations down the IQ scale.

      Of course, I also loved "Winger" when I was 13, so I probably shouldn't throw stones.
  • event: Google hired a dark fibre negotiator
    press conclusion: "They must be doing VOIP!"

    event: google hires clever browser developer
    Press conclusion: "They must be doing their own browser!"

    event:Google hired a plan 9 developers
    press conclusion: "They must be doing their own OS!!"

    What's next - google hires a plumber - the end of IT as we know it?
  • by koreaman (835838) <uman@umanwizard.com> on Thursday January 27, 2005 @07:49PM (#11498496)
    No, they aren't. [eweek.com]I mean come on! We already heard about these rumors a loooong time ago. It's not true. Stop posting about it.
  • Duh! (Score:2, Insightful)

    by nagora (177841)
    Dvorak must be the last person to work this out!

    TWW

  • ....Tomorrow ze world. Muhahahahahhaha. Letz hire everybodyz who can maken ze browserz und take over!

    Um, nice conspiracy theory, but they're a web technology company. Predicting that they'll build new web technology isn't exactly what I'd call newz...ahem...I mean news.
  • New Era (Score:3, Funny)

    by Obiwan Kenobi (32807) <evan@misterorang e . com> on Thursday January 27, 2005 @07:50PM (#11498519) Homepage
    Oh my God. I think that's the first time I've ever seen Google-OS in a /. headline (note: headline).

    We've entered a new era.

    I think a Google browser will be excellent, and a just imagining a Google OS makes me giddy. Yup, giddy.
  • by Trillan (597339)
    I liked the idea of a Google branded browser just for the ideas they'll introduce, even if I don't want to use it. But with Dvorak's record, if he says it's so you can pretty much bet the farm against it...
  • by BillsPetMonkey (654200) on Thursday January 27, 2005 @07:53PM (#11498542)
    Even Jason Kottke speculated on this in ummm, last September [kottke.org].

    Is it more credible now that Slashdot's found the story?
  • Settle down boy (Score:5, Interesting)

    by shadowmatter (734276) on Thursday January 27, 2005 @07:53PM (#11498543)
    Blake Ross, in his blog [blakeross.com], had some insightful commentary that I didn't see mentioned here on Slashdot:

    Google's interest in Firefox shouldn't be a surprise to anyone. At the end of the day, 90+% of Google's users are accessing its service through the browser created and controlled by its largest competitor. Would you feel comfortable if customers had to walk through your competitor's shop to get to your own? This is really what Firefox is all about from a strategic standpoint, and this is what "it's just a browser!" naysayers are missing: he who owns the window to the web owns the web. When there's one porthole on the ship, everyone has to look through it. Firefox seeks to add more portholes to make sure people really understand what's going on outside.

    If they're planning an entire OS to make codifying and searching your data easier, I can't see that happening anytime in the short-term. After all, awhile back there was a shoot-out of desktop search tools, and the Google Desktop Search wasn't top-ranked (yet).

    - shadowmatter
    • When there's one porthole on the ship, everyone has to look through it.

      If some things had gone differently we might be looking at a Passport.NET-based web authentication regime.

      Fortunately Liberty Alliance and others ran interference and created enough FUD in the marketplace that it didn't come to pass.
  • First: John Dvorak, I forgot all about his guy. I used to read his stuff all the time like 5 years ago. Didn't he work for PC World or something?

    Anyway: I use the Google Desktop search to find things hiding in Outlook. It does not work with Firefox (yet) but that's cool, b/c I don't want to search my browser cache anyway.

    But if you take the desktop search tool that runs in a browser, you could get away with using nothing else OS related. Sure you would use your Office Apps, your browser, your mp3 pl

  • by G4from128k (686170) on Thursday January 27, 2005 @07:59PM (#11498623)
    Google could also roll out a thin client service in which you do everything within any browser window connected to Google. Google could host user accounts that go beyond email and search. A person could browse through the google browser, manage their googlefiles, run googleoffice, send gmail, buy stuff through froogle, etc. It would be a totally portable thin client service.
    • Google could also roll out a thin client service in which you do everything within any browser window connected to Google. Google could host user accounts that go beyond email and search. A person could browse through the google browser, manage their googlefiles, run googleoffice, send gmail, buy stuff through froogle, etc. It would be a totally portable thin client service.

      Which all sounds fantastic, but they could do all of that with either XUL, or XAML (if it ever shows up). In the end they may simply
    • by pavera (320634) on Thursday January 27, 2005 @08:10PM (#11498715) Homepage Journal
      This would be a trivial thing for google to do, and I think its where they are heading. If they release a browser, look for them to shortly thereafter release a web based office suite (that only works in their browser), or possibly a web based vnc viewer type app (again that only works in their browser), then they can sell desktop apps over the web, charge a monthly service fee, you get 10TB of storage on google's cluster, you get access to the compute power of that cluster, you have access to it anywhere, everywhere, fast and easy.

      This will be the death of MS, but as other posters have said, it is scary as all hell. Google is a nice company now, but this kind of power concentrated in 1 companies hands will prove horrible for the net.
    • They wouldn't have to be browser in browser... XUL and the Mozilla development framework could be leveraged to create essentially, native looking-ish, web-based applications...

      Then you can run your gmail, Goffic, Gcalender, Gcontacts, Gchat, etc. All from what may look like seperate, dedicated programs but are rich client web apps.
  • by reporter (666905) on Thursday January 27, 2005 @07:59PM (#11498624) Homepage
    The Machiavellian spirit in me says that Google is trying to creep into my desktop. The game plan apparently is to leverage Google's search fame into winning the web client market.

    The web client is, in fact, the #1 application on the desktop these days. Literally, many people just click the "maximize" button after the browser is launched, and the web client occupies the entire surface of the screen. Off they go to read e-mail, look at porn, or cause a raucus on Slashdot by posting provocative articles.

    Then, the next step for Google is to create Gunix (Google + Lunix), pronouced "goon-ix". With the Google client in place, you download Gunix and swap out M$ Window$.

    Then ...

    <waking up in a code sweat>
    Google has a very good search engine, but I would prefer that Google stay off my desktop. I like Google just like it is -- a web site which I visit to read the latest news and to search for the best porn pictures.

    The problem with Google taking over my desktop is that I would then be swapping one monopoly for another: Micro$oft. What I like about open source is the decentralization, anti-monopoly attitude of the folks behind the Free Software Foundation. This kind of environment tends to encourage programmers from all parts of the world to contribute her little bit to creating a peace of great software. No one group of developers becomes dominant like Micro$oft or eventually Google.

  • gbrowser.com (Score:2, Informative)

    by rbarreira (836272)
    According to "whois gbrowser.com", the domain was created almost a year ago (2004-Apr-26), so, being true, this is a long time plan...
  • As long as it's Firefox based and they *fix gmail's cutting off of messages in Firefox*. Seriously, this is getting on my nerves. Works fine in IE, but gmail chokes in Firefox. This didn't happen a few weeks ago...
  • by saddino (183491) on Thursday January 27, 2005 @08:05PM (#11498678)
    I'm sure it doesn't take a roomful of analysts at Google to realize that their greatest vulnerability is in web access. If MS were to embed their "next-generation" search so deeply into the UI experience of a future (Longhorn?) OS that the average consumer would become accustomed to simply using the, say, always visible MS search bar in the Sidebar for all web and desktop searches, Google would be toast. And you can bet Microsoft's roomful of analysts have come to exactly the same conclusion: the way to defeat Google is to make it hard to access Google.

    So, if you're Google, are you going to sit around with your hands in your ridiculously deep pockets and let Microsoft dictate the future growth of your business? Hell no. In fact, recent comments from MS make it clear that war has been declared.

    Defensive strategies are already in the works (e.g. using AdSense to "spread" their ad revenue generation so that it doesn't depend on hits to Google proper) so, how to counterattack?

    Well, Google hires smart engineers and likely equally smart business strategists who know that Firefox's success is a free trial balloon -- and it hasn't popped. Google's best move is to build a browser and challenge MS on its own turf. There's a reason Google is always in need of Windows developers [google.com] and its not just to work on the Google Toolbar.

    Is Google building an OS? Who knows. But is Google building a browser? They better be.
  • "Dvorak speculates that a Firefox based Google browser and Google-OS may soon be coming to a cluster near you."

    Just as I said last time [slashdot.org] the idea of a Google OS was brought up, there is no reason for Google to start it's own OS when it has everything running in a way that is platform-agnostic to begin with.

    Google is above the OS wars.
    • However, if the major platform moves away from being tool-agnostic, Google will be in trouble.

    • Re:Once again... (Score:3, Insightful)

      by pavera (320634)
      Google doesn't have to develop an OS, they already have a huge cluster running linux, they just have to give everyone a window into that massive beast of a system (their browser) and install some apps on it, and there ya go, thin client, web based, architecture agnostic computing just what Netscape tried to do before MS killed them dead.
  • So this google web browser is old news and people have pretty much said it's not happening.

    Maybe they aren't building a web browser. Google is in the information organization sector. (you may argue they are in the ad business, but that business is dependent upon their core business of analyzing data). The more logical conclusion in my opinion is if they are building a "gbrowser" that it's a file system browser application. Something that arranges info better than Microsofts Windows Explorer thingie.

    Just m
  • the gbrowser. (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward
    I personally think Google is making a web browser. All the information points to it;

    - they registered a domain (gbrowser.com)
    - they are hiring people who worked on IE at Microsoft (there's an interview with a MS employee about that at NYTimes)
    - they hired the man behind the success of Firefox
    - they hired numerous people that worked on Netscape
    - Fritz Schneider a Google employee (software engineer) is fixing bugs on Mozilla (https://bugzilla.mozilla.org/show_bug.cgi?id=253 7 59)

    And I accidently found that
  • Coming soon (Score:3, Funny)

    by Bite-lover (826567) on Thursday January 27, 2005 @08:20PM (#11498803)
    Coming soon: Google-condoms and Google-brand suppositories!
    • And if the google-condom didn't work (whether technical failiure or due to the inebriation of user), would it implement a browser-like "go-back" button? Or if the experience went by to fast (inebriation),a "refresh" option to try it again.
  • hmm (Score:5, Interesting)

    by blackmonday (607916) on Thursday January 27, 2005 @08:28PM (#11498852) Homepage
    Isn't Google the new Microsoft?

    Has Google done anything new? Not really. Much like the early Microsoft, they simply take existing ideas and improve them. Google wasn't the first search engine. They weren't the first webmail provider. They weren't the first web site that searched Usenet (in MS fashion, they bought deja). Even Picasa, which they bought, is being transformed into a PC version of iPhoto.

    Based on their past history, it wouldn't surpise me if they were to boldly attack Microsoft on browser, OS or even on an Office-type product.

    • Before the google search engine, the best we had was keyword index based lookups. Google blew the rest of the search engines out of the water with pagerank and the sheer genius of indexing by linked popularity.

      Perhaps not a new idea in the world of scientific papers (where the number of papers referencing yours is the primary success indicator) but certainly a new idea when applied to the web.

      If you don't think that counts as "new", then I challenge you to come up with a single example of something new

  • ...might be that, rather than a full-blown OS, Google is looking into building the next generation of information storage and retrieval. If they were to take a standards-based browser with a platform for plugins and add that to their current search and store technologies, they could create any number of tools. Want a data mining app? GMine! Need an executive dashboard app? GDash! How about a POS terminal? GCash! I'm betting dev for such projects would be wicked quick, too.

    Then again, they may just want to

  • by jav1231 (539129)
    Why hasn't this entire story been modded "Redundant?"
    In other news: Apple has released a compact version of their G4-based Macs called the Mini!
    Bill Gate's just made a $750m charitable donation!
    OH! and there's rumors of an XM/Sirius Satellite Radio merger.
    merger.....ahemm...
  • Dvorak is a moron! (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Locke2005 (849178)
    Has John Dvorak ever been right about anything, ever? Remember, this is the same guy that predicted OS/2 would triumph over Windows... I only wish I had his job, so that I could get paid for making assine predictions all the time! Right now I'm basically making assine predictions for free, but at least they turn out correct much more often than Dvorak's...
  • Google Office? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by darnok (650458) on Thursday January 27, 2005 @09:03PM (#11499200)
    It seems reasonable to me that, by hiring these guys, Google is going to build a competitor to MS Office that runs within a (Mozilla-based) browser.

    Consider that XUL has a lot of the capabilities that let users get a good UI in browsers. Consider also that Google already has zillions of hefty servers dotted around. If they extended XUL as required and created e.g. GoogleWord, GoogleExcel and GooglePoint, users could create and store their docs in a secured, always-there backend similar to that used by Gmail. Imagine logging into Gmail and having all your documents stored with your email, labelled (as for Gmail messages) into one or more categories and searchable - I can see that being very attractive for many people.

    Yep, there's obviously a few bits missing:
    - MS Office document compatibility (but is that such an issue if Google can change user's work habits such that people exchange pointers to GoogleOffice docs rather than the docs themselves? Maybe all they need is an MS Office import/export facility, which reads/writes docs in MS' published XML format from a server located in a country that is suitably patent-free...)
    - something to allow documents to be embedded within other documents (wonder what percentage of MS Office users actually use this)
    - XUL would need beefing up in terms of capability
    - 100 others...

    Still, given Google's deep pockets, I don't see these issues as insurmountable. Given that (IMHO) 90% of MS Office users only ever use 10% of MS Office's functionality, a sort-of WordPad on steroids may be enough to get a critical mass of people to switch to using GoogleWord provided they solve other MS-Office-centric issues such as document management on PCs, viruses/spyware and so on.
  • zerg (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Lord Omlette (124579) on Thursday January 27, 2005 @09:12PM (#11499274) Homepage
    Just curious, does anyone have a list of predictions made by John Dvorak which turned out to be true?
  • by WareW01f (18905) on Friday January 28, 2005 @12:38AM (#11500472)
    Actually the concept of Google finally moving on the semantic web [ftrain.com] has been mentioned a few times. If you look at it, the browser is really the last step in really making that happen. Sure you can surf through a google proxy (like you do everytime you use Google images) and Google can watch what you follow to help rank things, but imagine if you where creating relevance data with every link you followed. It's big brotherish, yes, but would be gold as far as ranking things.

    Course there are other nice things you could do like define your own request types for pulling meta-data, etc.

    Let's face it. Google is in the position that Micro$oft has been in for a while, only in the web space as opposed to the OS space. (Case in Point [google.com]) They could finally convince people to get on board the semantic express

    If Google just sticks to their motto, they'll be fine.
  • by whjwhj (243426) on Friday January 28, 2005 @01:05AM (#11500586)
    Before you all get all frothy about Dvorak's predictions, look back at his recent posts and ask yourself the question "does this guy know what the hell he's talking about?" You'll see that he's frequently wrong. He's also got some very odd and misguided opinions. I used to read (and enjoy) his column years ago. But those days are long gone. I clump him right up there with other frequently wrong columnists such as Rob Enderle and Paul Thurrott [winsupersite.com].

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