Google Launches Web Browser – Chrome

Google has launched a new web browser ahead of the Internet Explorer 8 launch. We had earlier expected that the Google browser would be launched just before IE8 somewhere in the start of 2009, but this early release by Google has come as a surprise for all.

Google Chrome as it is called looks an appealing browser and according to tests by major software giants on the Acid3 and other tests it comes up better than IE and Firefox both.

The Acid3 test rates Chrome at 78 out of 100 ahead of Mozilla Firefox and Internet Explorer 7. Although the browser doesn’t meet the lofty standards of the Opera browser that scores as high as 83 on this test routine.


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Web 2.0 Woes: A Perfect Example!

On Monday, I pointed out that Web 2.0 presents some challenges for sales teams. On Tuesday, I posted what must have seemed a bit of a non sequitur — a rant about the bonehead PR policies at Wiley books. In fact, that second post had a hidden agenda — to smoke out an example of how Web 2.0 can burn you if you don’t know what you’re about.

The PR manager who responded probably thought that he (or she) was fighting fire with fire, using the immediacy of Web 2.0 to respond to criticism in the same forum in which the criticism appeared. In fact, however, respondent was lulled by the convenience of Web 2.0 into dashing off a reply that’s virtually guaranteed to create more bad publicity (like the current post) — and thereby make it even more difficult for Wiley’s sales reps to get pull-through demand.

So that everybody can learn from the experience, let’s look at exactly what the respondent did wrong — and use it to create a set of rules for corporate response to negative blog entries. Here goes:

QUOTE: Dear Reviewer, Just wanted you to know that I read your article and agree, we need to make changes to our webpage. In fact, you should know that we are in the process of creating a brand new, user-friendly website for journalists like yourself and I know you’ll approve.

Rule #1: Address the blogger by name. Calling me “Dear Reviewer” makes the comment look like a form letter. One of the first rules of public relations (even before Web 2.0) is to know the identity and beat of any media contact with whom you communicate. Since my name is at the top of the blog post, this is simple sloppiness on Wiley’s part. Furthermore, I’m not a book reviewer, but a writer who sometimes uses expert sources. That’s clear if you click on my name and read the bio.

Rule #2: Don’t shoot from the hip. The entire comment shows signs of being entered in a state of pique. It lacks any sense of forethought of how it might be perceived by the blogger and by the readers of the blog. The most likely effect of such a slapdash comment is to spur the blogger, in this case me, to continue to focus on Wiley’s PR shortcomings. And that’s exactly the effect that it’s had.

Rule #3: Don’t make foolish assumptions. The respondent “knows” that I’ll approve of their new website design. If I were a bettin’ man, I’d bet that I’ll think the new website is either as bad as the current one or considerably worse. But then I’ve had a few years of hanging around myself, so I know how my mind works. The respondent, on the other hand, knows nothing about me — not even my name — but apparently believes that it’s possible to predict my opinion in advance. And that’s vaguely insulting.

QUOTE: Just wanted to point out some things missing from your story. We get more than 100 book requests a day and publish thousands of books, journals and e-product a year in three divisions with offices around the world. We have a full and global publicity staff who regularly meet and speak to reporters, send them books and set up countless author interviews in all types of media.

Rule #4: Avoid making obviously ignorant remarks. Consider for a second… If Wiley has the money to pay for a “full and global publicity staff” why can’t the company hire a receptionist to handle interview requests? A hundred calls a day is only one call every five minutes in an 8 hour work day. Look, you gotta think these things through before you slap them onto the web for everyone to see. Not everyone draws a blank when you throw numbers out; some people can do the math. As for the term “countless” — that just makes it sound like the publicity group either doesn’t keep records or can’t count.

Rule #5: Don’t create an opening for further criticism. Since the book publishing business is guilty of all sorts of horrible business practices, the last thing that the respondent should do is give me an excuse to rag some more about them. For example, the respondent’s comment give me a perfect opening to ask: Since Wiley has a “full” PR staff, why do Wiley’s editors expect business authors to provide a detailed marketing plan, showing how the author will promote the book? And why do they expect business authors to hire their own publicists? More importantly, why should a savvy business reader depend upon Wiley for content on Sales or Marketing, considering that the company is clearly clueless about PR fundamentals? These are all questions that might have remained unasked, had the respondent thought about the response before slapping it into a comment field.

QUOTE: Back to the website. When we researched the requests that came in over the web last year, we found that more than 75% were folks looking for free books to review on their own websites or to sell on Ebay. Review copies are not handouts and we need to make sure our “not for resale” galleys do not continue to be sold online. We are not the only publisher cracking down on the procedures for comp copies. It’s become a necessary evil as more folks continue to misrepresent themselves online.

Rule #6: Address the real issue. Going off on a tangent just makes you look foolish. What do free copies have to do with my trying to interview an author? I didn’t want a copy of a book. Cripes, I get so many free business books — sent without my asking — that I use them to prop up the cat litter in the bathroom. If there’s a problem with people misrepresenting themselves, the best approach would be to hire a reasonably competent receptionist, who’d be able — with quick Google check — to filter out 99 percent of the BS.

BTW, in order to post this I had to register, wait for an email confirmation and agree to have my name and contact info available to everyone on the web, so I guess business journalists won’t have any trouble finding me now!

Rule #7: Don’t complain about the process. For crying out loud, nobody forced you to respond, so complaining about the process of getting into the community is just plain silly. In any case, the situations aren’t parallel. Asking people who want to join a community to identify themselves only makes sense; building roadblocks that keep reporters from interviewing authors is just plain stupid.

But enough of this. A more important question — from the perspective of using Web 2.0 to help sales — is: How should Wiley have handled the post?

One approach would be to do what Gartner did when I blasted them in a similar manner. They got a former employee to be a sock puppet and respond to my criticisms in a careful manner. That allowed Gartner to retain their dignity and still try to get their message across.

But a much better approach would have been:

Rule #8: Be personable and personal. The absolute best approach would have been to forget the Web 2.0 stuff and call me personally, be so polite that it would make me feel guilty for being such a pill online, and then help me with the problem that spawned the blog entry in the first place. In that case, I probably would have blogged that I misjudged Wiley… and been more likely to use Wiley authors in the future — which would be making things easier for Wiley’s sales reps.

However, handling the problem in that way would have required some PR skills — which are obviously lacking at Wiley. So here’s yet another example of yet another company (Wiley) starting with a seriously broken marketing function — which isn’t serving the needs of the sales team — and then using Web 2.0 (like ill-considered blog comments) to make things even MORE difficult for the long-suffering reps.

That’s sad, but at least it provides a valuable object lesson for the rest of us.


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Google Wave Needs Facebook Know-How

Facebook is one of those web properties that people love to speculate should be in play, and who else to buy but Google? Forgetting for a moment that this is unlikely ever to happen, it would be a smart move for Google, but not for the “positioning” reasons you might think. No, Google needs Facebook because it knows how to do something that Google will have to learn.

Google WaveTo understand the context, I’d refer you to Danny Sullivan’s piece about hitting Gmail’s storage limit. He’s looking at the issue of how much email is nothing more than a waste of bytes, in addition to considering whether Google is setting false expectations of never needing to delete messages. But I took something a little different from his post: Just what is Google letting itself in for with Wave?

From the descriptions that are out, like the one by my colleague Michael Hickins, Wave is a collaboration tool that blurs the differences among word processing, spreadsheet, and slide presentation documents; email; real-time chat, and broadcast web conferencing. If this isn’t an invitation to bloat, I don’t know what would be. The problem is that although real-time pondering and discussion is useful, it can also be long-winded and tends to get condensed into the eventual email or document. If everyone in a business is keeping everything and shifting to the web from phone or in-person conversations, then data is going to multiple at a rate that makes today’s race for bigger hard drives seem like nothing.

Cloud storage? That’s fine, but that eventually must translate into real hardware. This is all going to cost money as expectations drive continuing expansion. But just as importantly, it’s going to require an understanding of the operational issues that come up because the minute Google starts rolling this out, it has the potential to explode in scale. And that’s why Facebook would be incredibly useful at the moment. Although not perfect by any means, the company does understand the virtual logistics of keeping a ballooning amount of data more or less moving along. In fact, if you consider that users can attach multimedia documents or links to posts, then the relevance seems even clearer.


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Despite the Hype, Google Chrome Browser Slow to Gain Adoption

The claimed-to-be revolutionary browser still lacks Mac OS and Linux versions and misses many business needs

The launch of Google’s Chrome Browser a little over a year ago brought with it a mountain of hype and expectations, with some suggesting it could be as instantly disruptive and beneficial as Gmail was to the Web mail market.

After all, here was Google opening another front against Microsoft with a big and bold move, and also turning into a competitor to its close partner Mozilla, maker of Firefox, the darling browser of techies worldwide.

Positioning itself as a reluctant entrant to the market, Google stated dramatically that it had no other choice given its deep dissatisfaction with existing browsers, specifically with their speed and performance running Web applications. This browser wasn’t a side project, Google said, but rather a serious endeavor with far-reaching implications for the future of its online services and applications.

It was an epic move: the mighty Google, like Achilles, marching into battle. The problem is, Chrome hasn’t precisely turned things around as the mythical hero did, mercilessly and unequivocally, on behalf of the Greeks against the Trojans.

With a modest market share of about 4 percent, Chrome, which was launched on Sept. 1 last year, hasn’t yet come close to approaching market leader Internet Explorer, nor the second-most-popular browser, Firefox. “To date, Chrome really hasn’t had the success that I suspect Google had anticipated for it,” said Sheri McLeish, a Forrester analyst.

As it turns out, Chrome has more than a few Achilles heels.

For starters, it doesn’t exist for Mac OS and Linux users, two camps full of technology enthusiasts and early adopters. The Mac OS and Linux versions are delayed. To make matters worse, the doors of most workplaces, particularly large enterprises, remain closed to Chrome because it lacks basic features that IT departments need.

While Google will remedy these two issues at some point, there are other obstacles to Chrome’s adoption that may be harder to fix.

One is the widespread ignorance among many consumers about browsers, and their tendency to default to the one that comes with their PC. Another issue goes back to a question asked repeatedly at Chrome’s launch: Does the world need another browser? Or put another way: Does Chrome offer enough of an improvement to justify switching to it?

Google certainly didn’t help Chrome’s chances to sprint out of the gate by releasing it as a beta product that was quite rough around the edges. Not only was Chrome unstable and buggy at first, but it didn’t play well with many Web sites, including some of Google’s own, because Google made its release a surprise and didn’t give webmasters advance notice to adapt their sites.

While Chrome’s low adoption in workplaces isn’t surprising, its modest popularity among consumers is more worrisome. “We haven’t seen any mass exodus from consumers to jump to Chrome from other browsers,” McLeish said.

Since Chrome hasn’t taken the world by storm, and considering that Microsoft, Mozilla and Apple continue to enhance their respective browsers, should Google stick with this project? “Google should stay in the game if they think they can innovate and differentiate in the long run and put enough marketing and R&D [research and development] behind the effort,” IDC analyst Al Hilwa said.

This is Google’s intention, according to Brian Rakowski, a Google group product manager in the Chrome team. “There’s still a lot of work to do, but it’ll be pretty great,” he said.

Rakowski takes exception to the idea that Chrome lacks appeal, saying it has about 30 million active users, even though it doesn’t yet fully play in the Mac OS, Linux and enterprise IT segments. “Given the remaining chunk of market that’s there, we’ve done pretty well in a short period of time. If you look at historical browser growth rates, it’s a slow process. It takes time,” Rakowski said.

A big reason why it takes time is the complacency of consumers. “Most people honestly don’t know and they don’t care about browsers. They just want to get on the Web,” McLeish said. Even Microsoft struggles with this, as many consumers resist upgrading to newer versions of IE, she said.

Hilwa’s research reflects a similar reality. Consumers have been conditioned to think of the browser as an integral part of their PC and its operating system, and thus are unlikely to switch. “Using browsers not supplied with the machine remains the province of power users, which creates a bit of disconnect in the strategy Google has, which is to bring browser innovation to the masses,” Hilwa said. “Ultimately, this might become a war about operating system platforms again before it becomes a seriously competitive browser market again.”

Aware of this, Google is planning an attack from that flank with its still-unreleased Chrome operating system, which will be deeply interwoven with the Chrome browser. In addition, Google is making moves to have the browser pre-installed on PCs, as a recent deal with Sony shows.

Still, Google, horrified at consumers’ ignorance about browsers, has enlisted its marketing department to help educate people. “There’s a large number of people who just don’t know what a browser is. That’s a huge challenge for us,” Rakowski said.

In the meantime, the Chrome team keeps focusing primarily on performance improvements, which are the browser’s main selling points and ultimately the key reasons for its existence. “Everything [in the Chrome browser], from the new Javascript engine to its multiprocess architecture, is designed with heavier, more intensive Web apps in mind,” Rakowski said.

While this is a valid effort, the average user cares or understands little about browser speed and performance, so this is unlikely to draw many new users. “Most of the internal stuff is really lost on the unwashed masses of users who are not going to get into the complexity of browsers,” Hilwa said.

Plus, the browser is far from the only element that affects the performance of online applications and services, McLeish said. Local network bandwidth, ISP (Internet service provider) traffic, the user’s PC hardware and the landing Web site’s server all play a part.

Google argues that the value of the Chrome project isn’t limited to its own success. As an open-source browser, Chrome can help spur innovation in browser technology across the board, which is crucial for Google, Rakowski said.

However, it’s unclear to what extent it will be feasible for other browsers to incorporate Chrome code, when one hears Rakowski explain why Google decided to build a new browser instead of simply contributing to Firefox. “There were reasons not to build on existing technology. Some of the architectural changes we wanted to make were so different and disruptive that it would have been very hard to do in existing code base and very disruptive to existing road maps and plans of these teams,” he said. “You would have had to put the entire development cycle on hold while you experimented with some of these research-y things.”

What’s clear is that, as Chrome enters its second year, the Chrome team is moving as fast as it can, eager to release versions for Mac OS and Linux and add enterprise IT features, as well as work its way down its long to-do list. “As soon as we get some time to breathe we’ll add those things and that’ll enable us to reach a whole other set of users,” Rakowski said.

And when that happens, it will be not a moment too soon.


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Google’s Chrome Browser Share Growth Trumps Firefox’s

Microsoft’s IE8 passes older IE7 for the first time, says Net Applications

Google’s Chrome boosted its Share of the Browser market by a bigger margin than did Mozilla’s Firefox in October, the fourth time its gains have trumped those of the second-place browser in the last year, a Web metrics company said yesterday.

Chrome increased its share by 0.4 of a percentage point in October, according to data from Aliso Viejo, Calif.-based Net Applications, ending the month with a 3.6% share. Firefox, meanwhile, grew by 0.3 of a percentage point, finishing October with 24%.

Google’s browser is closing on Apple’s Safari for the No. 3 spot, which is behind Microsoft’s Internet Explorer (IE) and Firefox. If the trend from the past three months continues, Chrome will surpass Safari in February 2010.

Firefox, Chrome, and to a lesser extent Safari, all gained ground thanks to another downturn by IE in October. IE’s share fell by 1 percentage point to put it at 64.7%. Microsoft’s browser has lost 3 percentage points in the last three months, and 9 points in the last year.

Chrome’s increase of 0.4 of a percentage point was its largest since Google launched the Windows-only browser in September 2008. In the last three months, Chrome has gained 1 percentage point, or 62% as much as Firefox has increased in the same time.

Safari, meanwhile, grew only slightly, while Opera Software’s Opera lost share last month. Apple’s browser ended the month at 4.4%, up just 0.2 of a percentage point; Opera dropped to 2.17%, losing 0.02 of a point. Both browsers appear destined to be also-rans in the market share race. With the vast bulk of Safari’s users on Macs — Safari for Windows accounted for less than a third of a percentage point last month — Apple’s browser gains are directly linked to Mac sales, and that platform’s performance, percentage-wise, against the dominant Windows operating system.

Both Microsoft and Mozilla again made strides in moving users to their newest browsers.

The eight-year-old IE6 lost 1.1 percentage points, dropping to 23.2%, while 2007’s IE7 lost 1.2 points, falling to 18.2%. The new IE8, on the other hand, gained 1.3 percentage points to post an October average of 18.1, another record for that browser. As recently as May, IE8 accounted for just 6% of all browsers.

When IE8’s compatibility mode — a feature that lets it properly render pages designed for older editions — is taken into account, Microsoft’s newest browser accounted for a 20.4% share, putting it ahead of IE7 for the first time.

Assuming current trends continue, IE8 will pass the aged IE6 before the end of the year, making good on a Microsoft campaign to get users off its eldest browser. IE6, said Microsoft’s manager of Internet Explorer in August, should be abandoned by users able to pick their browser.

Mozilla has also had success in migrating its users to Firefox 3.5, the upgrade launched last June, although the pace has slowed. In October, Firefox 3.5 increased its share by 1.3 percentage points to 13.9%, dramatically less than the 3.8-point surge in September. Firefox 3.0 slipped 0.8 of a percentage point to end at 8.8%.

Firefox 3.0 users face the retirement of their browser in January 2010, when Mozilla will stop serving up security updates for the 18-month-old application. Before then, Mozilla should have wrapped up Firefox 3.6, a minor upgrade that made it to beta last Friday.

Net Applications measures browser usage by tracking the machines that visit the 40,000 sites it monitors for clients, which results in a pool of about 160 million unique visitors per month.


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Facebook Poll Launches Secret Service Investigation

If you are a developer, you better watch the content you post on Facebook or else you could be on the receiving end of a Secret Service investigation.  This has occurred after a third party application was pulled that allowed users to create Facebook Polls.  A recent poll that was placed on Facebook posing the following question: “Should President Obama be killed?”

The answers to the poll were either “yes,” “maybe,” “if he cuts my healthcare” and “no.”  The Secret Service Agency spokesman James Mackin has said an investigation has been launched because of the poll.  Facebook users reported the poll to the site owners and it was quickly taken down.  The application has been suspended until the developer can prove that they can better filter the content generated by the poll creator.  Facebook handles these situations by asking users to police the site and flag any inappropriate content.

It appears that the application was created over the weekend and first appeared on the developer’s page Advanced Alien Technology.  The user that created the poll has yet to be named.


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