Chrome for Linux may shake up Firefox

Linux users can now get an early taste of Google’s Chrome browser through the Chromium project. Although not an official Chrome release Chromium is an open source project on which the official Chrome browser is based. In this form it gives uses a good, although still rough, insight into what Linux users can expect when a final official Chrome release is made.

Officially Google has already released Chrome 2.0 for the Windows platform but has not released a version for Mac OS X or Linux, although the company has been promising to do so for some time now.

The Chromium alpha release now available for Linux users is still mostly incomplete with many users reporting an overly common tendency to crash. Nevertheless, industry commentators are taking the release of the Chromium alpha quite seriously, with many predicting that it could be the start of a long downhill slide for Firefox.

Browser wars again

It is an interesting time for Web browsers right now with old and new players battling out for their slice of the market pie. Last week Microsoft released its Internet Explorer 8 browser which it hopes is going to aid its flagging popularity in the market and Apple has a new Safari browser on show. The one browser that is looking a little shaky right now is Firefox, which looks a little like it is losing the edge that made it so popular originally.

Firefox is a fantastic browser and most users that use it, swear by it. But over the past six months there is a feeling that the browser that shook up the market a few years ago is now about to be given a bit of a shake itself.

For a start there have been a series of Firefox development problems that have set back its next release a number of times and additional test releases added to the development schedule. Then there is the Fennec mobile browser, which is meant to be a mobile version of Firefox. It too suffered setbacks with a disastrous Windows Mobile release and its current release only supporting Nokia N810, which is truly a niche market.

But, more than these problems, there is the sense that Firefox has lost its way a little. Originally a lean, stripped down browser it was the antithesis of what everyone else was doing: including every possible feature in their browsers. Firefox was fast and nimble. But of late it feels like it is bogged down with problems and features. Google’s Chromium alpha on Linux may not be complete and still lack many features but it is quick and with Google’s growing portfolio of web applications, a fast Chrome browser will be a real competitor to the likes of Firefox.

Firefox’s obvious strength is its extensions, many of which are enough to convince many users to stick with Firefox rather than move. Re-creating the extensions that Firefox has will be a hard task but not impossible, and already IE8 has accelerators and slices, which are not the same as extensions but have similar potential. And Chrome developers are already working on an extension framework for that.

I’m certainly not about to ditch Firefox after many happy years of using it but the truth is, I believe, the value offered by Firefox is slowly diminishing, which is not good for Mozilla.

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Chrome for Linux may shake up Firefox