Everything Is Actually Google Chrome

Everything Is Actually Google Chrome
4 min read
03 February 2022

Google Chrome is the world's most popular browser by a wide margin. Well, let's just say you want to be a contrarian and use some alternative browser, maybe Vivaldi or Opera or Torch. Unfortunately, those browsers are all actually the same as Chrome under the hood. In fact, there are a lot of browsers and other apps that use Chromium, the open-source project that Chrome is based on. I mean, even Microsoft Edge originally built to compete with Chrome since, you know, nobody wanted to use Internet Explorer anymore has transitioned over to being based on Chromium. Even as Windows tries to shame you for using Chrome when you open it up. 

So, what's the deal with that? Well, it turns out that coding a web browser entirely from scratch, then bringing it to market, is harder than you might think.

Aside from trying to come up with features to set it apart from the competition, which can be a challenge because a web browser should just show you webpages and stay out of the way otherwise, every web browser also requires a rendering engine that turns a webpages underlying code into what you actually see on the screen. Building a rendering engine is difficult work. In fact, Microsoft developed a whole new one from scratch called Edge HTML for the original Edge browser. It was built as being more interoperable with current web standards than Chrome, and Microsoft spent a lot of effort and money both developing and promoting Edge. Still, nobody cared enough for it to really mount a challenge to Chrome. And this is Microsoft we're talking about.

Even with the resources at their disposal, they just couldn't make it work. So, it's no wonder that other developers have shied away from bothering to build their own browser. 

So the market for browsers isn't a level playing field because, well, most web developers optimize their sites for Chromium browsers, making it even harder to create something that's functionally better. It's much easier instead to use Chromium as a base and then tweak the browser according to what the developers want it to be.

For example, the aforementioned Torch browser includes features for more easily downloading audio and video. Vivaldi is known for being more customizable than Chrome. And even the new Chromium-based Microsoft Edge still steers users towards Microsoft services such as Bing, which makes Chromium viable for Microsoft.

Since Chromium is mostly just a code base and doesn't include Google services, the developer that wants to tie their Chromium-based browser into their own services can easily do so. Amazon does something similar with its Amazon Silk browser, which is also based on Chromium, but runs on Kindle and other Fire OS devices. And it's not just full-fledged browsers that are based on Chromium, either.

There are pieces of code such as Electron and the Chromium-embedded framework that provide a Chromium-based interface including web browsing inside other apps, including well-known tools like Slack and WhatsApp for desktop and also Discord too. Of course, there are a couple of notable exceptions to Chrome's market dominance. Firefox is based on its own engine called Quantum, making it the last major PC browser that isn't based on Chromium.

On the Apple side, of course, you've got Safari. And while Safari isn't entirely Chromium-based, there's an interesting connection in that. WebKit, the underlying code for Safari, is also open source. And Blink, Chromium's browser engine, is itself based on WebKit. So, bottom line, nearly every major web browser has a lot more in common than you might think. So hopefully Chromium's developers know what they're doing, and the world isn't brought to its knees by another Internet Explorer-like fiasco. 

Alex 10K
Joined: 4 years ago
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