It's interesting to speculate why. Of course, one possibility is that someone in the hydra-headed Googleplex just started this as their 20% project and it got released.
Or maybe it's just a defensive move to protect web-standards (a Google "complement") against the possible encroachment by proprietory RIA front-ends like Flash and Silverlight? But why not just invest in Firefox or Webkit? Is this just Google's way of doing that? Are they trying to disuade too much fragmentation between these other open-source contenders?
I still believe Internet Explorer is a total waste of time, money, energy and focus for Microsoft. Why wouldn't an "own brand" browser be similarly one for Google?
Not sure ... let's see if they do anything clever with it.
Update : Dare Obasanjo nails an important point :
Will ship with Google Gears built-in
This pushes the Gears offline caching standard (against Mozilla's own rival) and is therefore an indirect attack on the desktop as offline application platform.
Dare's bonus question :
Am I the only one that thinks that Google is beginning to fight too many wars on too many fronts.
I half agree. To me, the most interesting question about Google today is whether, through their 20% time, and their ready engagement of open internet culture, and having pots of money to spare, they've created a genuinely new, decentralized type of company structure, one which is capable of innovating more products and fighting on more fronts at the same time, than a traditional, more top-down, organization.
I'm not wholly convinced they have. But then I'm not wholly convinced they haven't, either. I'm keeping an open mind. But if we see a few more of these bets become successful and profitable, that may signal a Google which is almost unbeatable by more conventional software companies.
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