When Samuel Maddock wanted to build a browser so many of his friends could watch a video simultaneously at the same time, he used the seemingly simplest and cheapest option: Chromium, the free open source version. of Google Chrome browser.
Maddock's browser works fine, but because it's based on Chromium, he needs another Google product called Widevine to authenticate users and prevent video theft. He sent a request to Google, described the project and waited. He continued to wait. Within 4 months, he sent 10 emails and finally just received an answer: "Sorry, you cannot use the software for this project. "
He did nothing illegal. In fact, he also uses Google's secure streaming tool to ensure his project is valid. But the internet giant stopped access, without explaining the reason. Not long after, Maddock abandoned his project.
Maddock said: "You encounter a doorman like Google, who can decide which projects can work and if you are not allowed, you're done. "
No longer a web-based ship, Google Chrome is the ocean
The above is just a small project with a small developer. But his story also shows how big Google's dominance is with the browser market and underlying technology tools below – which allows the company to go further in controlling how it works. of the web and who is allowed to access it.
This is another example of why even lawmakers from India and the European Union are looking for ways to monitor and limit Google's power. The EU has penalized Google for violating antitrust laws in the search engine market, displaying ads and mobile operating systems. In it, Chrome is an important block for the digital advertising system, distributing Google's search engine and giving the company a direct look at what users are doing on the web.
Rarely does a Google product achieve success like Chrome. Launched in 2008, according to StatCounter data, the browser currently accounts for 63% of the market share and with the desktop browser, this number reaches 70%. Mozilla's Firefox is far behind, and Apple's Safari is the default browser on the iPhone. Meanwhile Microsoft's Edge and Internet Explorer are just thin lines on the chart.
Market share of web browsers with Chrome dominance.
From its beginning, Google Chrome won the user's sympathy by bringing a fast, free and customizable browser, while still following open web standards. Now that it has become an indisputable leader, Chrome has become the controller of setting these standards. That raises concerns that Google is using its Chromium open source browser and version to take down competitors and impose its intent on the entire market.
Most major browsers are now built on Chromium's base code maintained by Google. Opera, the indie browser that has been favored by technology for many years, also had to port its code base to Chromium in 2013. Even Microsoft had to take the same step for its Edge browser. in this year.
That will create a snowball effect, as more and more web developers build their own browser based on this platform, more and more browsers will have to switch to Chromium to avoid being left behind.
Chrome's market share in 2009: 2%.
Ironically, this will cause Chrome's competitors to rely on Google's own employees to keep Chromium's code up to date. Chromium is open source software, so anyone can suggest changes to it, but most developers who accept those contributions are Google employees, and any significant disagreements Which will be solved by a small group of senior Google employees.
Today Chrome has become such a powerful force that web developers are often not afraid to test their websites on rival browsers. Google services like YouTube, Docs and Gmail sometimes do not work on rival browsers, causing users to return to Chrome. Now instead of just being a ship in the middle of the web, Chrome is the ocean.
Andreas Gal, former Mozilla CTO, said: "Whatever Chrome does it will become standard, and everyone else will have to follow it. "
Scenes live in fear of rivals
Indeed, that dominance gives Google the ability to set standards for the internet. And with their vision, advertising and user data collection are the default features.
In early May, Google announced a long-awaited decision about how Chrome will handle cookies or online tracking software. While the default setting of other browsers is to block third-party cookies, Google gives users a choice – and due to their dominance, this is more likely to become the standard. Shares of Criteo SA, a digital advertising company based on cookies, skyrocketed 10% after getting this information – the biggest increase of the year.
For Brendan Eich, co-founder of Mozilla and currently CEO of Brave Software: "Chrome has become spyware. "
Brave Software makes Brave browser that automatically blocks ads and tracking software, and they are developing a payment system to pay users a small amount of money when they visit certain pages. This may open up new directions for internet advertising. The only problem is that Brave is built on Chromium.
According to Eich, that's a trade-off for what you're doing. Building a browser from scratch is a crazy task. But swimming in the ocean of Google is not entirely easy for Brave-like ships.
In August 2017, Netflix suddenly stopped operating on Brave browser. After a series of emails back and forth, Brave's CTO, Brian Bondy, discovered that Google's update changed the way Netflix uses Widevine. Brave is not notified of that change, so their browser fails when users access Netflix. They took 2 weeks to fix the error.
Numerous small browsers like Vivaldi, Opera, Brave are using Chromium platform.
Even if users choose to use Chrome's rival browsers, Google always has a way to entice users to come back. Vivaldi, a browser popular with people who are interested in privacy, has trouble running Google services like Docs or Gmail. According to CEO Jon von Tetzchner, when some users log into Google products on Vivaldi, they will be prompted that the browser is not optimized for them, or suggest they download Chrome for use.
Even Tetzchner talked with co-founder Sergey Brin about this issue, but he never received any commitment to stop that behavior.
Winning the browser war gives Google much more than being important to other web services. Now when Chrome users log into a Google account, the company can track them all over the web, knowing which sites they visit. All of this data helps Google improve its advertising products.
Will this relationship last long?
Fisher, Chrome's director, thinks the web needs advertising so that everyone can get access to it, as users may not have to pay publishers and website owners to access them.
Meanwhile, when asked about the decision of Edge browser to switch to Chromium platform, Microsoft vice president of experience and device, Joe Belfiore, said: "We have decided to use it with positive spirit and confidence in cooperation, and they will not disappoint us."So are you worried when that positive is gone?
"We will have to overcome that obstacle when we meet it. "Mr. Belfiore said."Let's see how this game will take place. "
Refer to Bloomberg