The Google Browser, Reloaded

After my last post, the bugzilla issue Bug 226572 - Google branded Mozilla browser had also been marked as private. I no longer have a copy of it in my cache. Does anyone else have a cached copy of it? The ironic part is that if work offline actually worked, or if i were using IE, i'd still have the cache of the bug! But from what I remember, it was created in 2003, and in the URL field, it pointed to this page: Simon Willison: The Google Browser. It contained mostly the same kind of chatter as the comments on the above post by bugzilla users. The only item of note was the "This is a duplicate of a private bug about working with Google. So closing this one." comment. It was made by Bart Decrem, who coordinates marketing and business affairs for the Mozilla project.


There's a lot of speculation about mini-apps that Google could build in "GBrowser". Anything from Alexa-like "What's Related" in the form of a Livemarks folder to blogging tools to integrated ads when searching. All of those ideas seem okay, but don't seem substantial enough to me.

But what can Mozilla do but no one else can? If it's just a matter of improving Adsense revenue, why not partner with Opera, which already has an integrated adbar? What is Mozilla's advantage?

I think Google is interested in Mozilla because of one thing: enhancing XUL.

They recently grabbed Joe Beda, the lead developer of Microsoft's Avalon user interface in Longhorn. And Avalon is basically XUL... sort of.

To see an example of a XUL app on the web, check out the Mozilla Amazon Browser.

In my opinion, XUL is a bit cludgy and not-ready-for-primetime yet. But if Google partners with Mozilla to work on it, to enchance it, they could have many uses for XUL for any of the apps they have.

GMail is the most app-like webapp I've ever seen. They have pushed what you can do with a webapp's page-by-page format. And "performing tasks page-by-page is not always the most efficient way of doing things". I think they've reached the limit with what they can do with a hardcore DHTML system. Do they invest more into pushing DHTML to its limits? Once they reach that limit, where can they go from there? The answer: to an enhanced XUL application. Maybe they want to make a XUL version of Gmail? Googe Groups could be much better in XUL interface. XUL could make it easier to search and view threads. And related items could be an expanding tree under the search, etc... The current system is bulky. It uses frames!

XUL isn't exactly Gmail-like "simple" though. It's a completely different way of interacting on the web. I still think it's a long way away before any widespread use. But it certainly has lots of possible uses worth investing in if you're Google.

I still think we'll see a Google IM client before we see a Google Browser.

» posted by pinder on September 22, 2004 at 11:07 PM


I don't need a cached copy as the person who posted the request I can still see it :)

Fact is it contains no clues apart from the dupe against a private bug which may or may not mean Google was interested in a google browser, the foundation may have approached them with the idea and they may have dismissed it.

I decided to post that suggestion to bugzilla after reading various blog posts such as the one I linked to in the report - a lot of people suggested it but no one seemingly had reported it to bugzilla to suggest that they should market the idea to Google.

But whatever's happening they obviously wanted to keep the idea secret so I don't think we should make too much fuss about it, it'd be nice if this had been a surprise to MS if it does happen, but now they probably know it's at least being considered.

# posted by Dave

Limits of what one can do with a hardcore DHTML system??

See - that's the product of the company I'm working at, it adds XUL-like functionality to web pages using DHTML. Click on 'backbase shop' or 'backbase portal' for the demo's. So much for those 'limits' :).


# posted by Laurens Holst

While the GBrowser will definitely affect IE's market share, it will also kill Firefox. This is something that Ben and his cronies need to think of before celebrating too much...unless of course, Google recruits them ;-)

# posted by James Budel

Firefox doesn't matter as much as Gecko and other underlying technologies!

# posted by Tar


That's an amazing site! Easily the best implementation of DHTML I have seen on the Net.

- Prabakar

# posted by Prabakar Sampath

indeed, that Backbase thing is impressive. I've seen lots of DHTML UI lately, including this Quick Search implementation:

I'm a web developer myself. For a recent scheduling-based project, for a week view, they wanted to be able to drag and drop events, right-click on an event and "split it in two", or to "drag and select" to create an event from 2PM to 4PM. As they put it, "like you can in Outlook". Is it possible to do all that? Sure. But how easy is it to do all that? It's not easy.

I don't think Google is going to give up "hardcore DHTML" any time soon. I was just suggesting that as a heavily R&D based company they are, it's probably a good idea to look at XUL and what it can do.

# posted by pinder

Because Opera isn't open source, and it would be incredibly easy to add an adbar to the Mozilla interface (or any interface). No reason for Google to try partnering with a commercial vendor when they can easily go open source (and Mozilla is way better anyway).

# posted by dowingba

When I saw this originally, I thought it made no sense for Google to develop their own browser. But taking a step back and seeing that Google is interested in a display technology (XUL), makes total sense. Although the original private bug could simply refer to something related to the in-house XUL version of the Google bar.

If there was a XUL version of Gmail, perhaps one where most of the UI was in a sidebar, I'd finally have a use for the sidebar. Especially if it can log into more than one Gmail account at a time.

The Gmail interface pushes the HTML envolope to such an extent that it simply begs to be ported to XUL.

# posted by Marty Vance

Someone recently browsed my web site with version 4 of the Google Browser

# posted by Larry Hauge

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