12 Oct 2008

Has Google Chrome really been built with the user in mind?

This month Google’s shiny new browser – Google Chrome – hit the e-shelves. It promises to make the web “faster, safer and easier” and has been “designed with the user in mind”. Google has taken into account our love of media-rich content and web-based applications and created a browser that is altogether better equipped to meet the needs of the Web 3.0 user.

But is it any good, we hear you cry. Well, it loads quickly; it offers extra protection against spyware and malware; it offers a privacy mode; it can stream video without slowing down other windows, and it does all of this much faster than the competition. So far, so good.

But surely the good folks at Google aren’t so selfless as to have created this little beauty for the good of their health? What’s in it for them? Advertising is how Google makes its money, so let’s take a closer look at how they have designed a browser with profit as much as the user in mind.

1.Chrome doesn’t enable you to block advertising and will not make life easy for those wanting to browse the internet without bumping into Google’s ads everywhere. MediaCom rating: 5Star Neat!

2.Google’s privacy mode “Incognito” removes all evidence a user visited this or that site and, more importantly, viewed this or that ad. Advertisers will likely pay more simply because they will be showing the same ads to the same users, where otherwise frequency caps could prevent this from happening. And as middleman between advertisers and publishers, Google will profit. MediaCom rating: 1Star Cheeky!

3.Studying the detail of the EULA (End User Licence Agreement), it would appear that the browser itself will likely be used as an advertising platform in the future, pushing ads at you right in your browser. MediaCom rating: 5Star Nice opportunity!

4.Chrome ‘conceals’ pop-ups, it doesn’t block them. Pop-ups are actually loaded but minimised. This is typically a billable event, even though the ads won't be seen unless users choose to maximize the pop-up. Consequently, using Chrome may result in billings to advertisers for pop-ups that were never viewed. MediaCom rating: 1Star Ouch!

5.Chrome’s combined URL address and search boxes will allow Google to skew searches towards the links and terms Google suggests, thereby making popular keywords more expensive. MediaCom rating: 3Star Tighter targeting?

If widely adopted, Chrome is likely to have a significant impact on Internet advertising (some beneficial to advertisers, some not) and of course make Google even more profitable. But built with the user in mind? We're not so sure.