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10/6/2009
06:59 PM
Thomas Claburn
Thomas Claburn
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Google Tries Making People Care About Chrome

Google's plan for world domination via its Chrome browser slammed headlong into reality when the company's technical elite realized that the average Joe doesn't know what a Web browser is.

Google's plan for world domination via its Chrome browser slammed headlong into reality when the company's technical elite realized that the average Joe doesn't know what a Web browser is.When I first saw this YouTube video in which New York residents are asked what a browser is, I was reminded just how nerdy the Web world is. Less than 8% of the people interviewed could accurately describe the purpose of a Web browser.

That may explain at least partially why Internet Explorer still has such a large market share. Switching isn't an issue when you're not even aware there's an alternative.

It's easy to forget that more people don't care about what, to them, is technical esoterica. They just want their computers to work. To those not obsessed with technology, worrying about one's browser is about like worrying who makes the integrated circuits in one's phone.

So Google finds itself in the position of having to make people care. "Lots of our time each day is spent online, and every page on the Web is experienced through the browser," laments Google associate product marketing manager Jason Toff in a blog post. "Unfortunately, most people don't realize that there are many browsers out there, which differ on features like speed, security and extensibility."

You've perhaps heard, "If you build it, they will come," an expansion of "If you build it, he will come," from the movie Field of Dreams. Well, a more realistic version of that statement would be, "If you built it and market it, they will come, maybe."

It's not enough for Google to make a very fast, secure Web browser. The company is going to have to make people aware that Chrome exists and give them a reason to switch.

Thus, Google has created a Web site called WhatBrowser.org, which displays the browser being used to view the site -- in case you didn't know -- and the date the browser was released, as if to suggest to Internet Explorer 6 users that their browser has long since passed its sell-by date and might cause indigestion.

The site's childlike color scheme and design appears to be aimed at the non-technical crowd. And to Google's credit, the site presents visitors with the option to try any or all of the five major browsers -- Chrome, Firefox, Internet Explorer, Opera, and Safari.

The video begins, "The most important program on your computer is your Web browser."

If Google keeps repeating that, it might even come true for the 92% in Google's video who don't know what a browser is.

Perhaps the easier solution would just be to pay millions to Dell, HP, Sony, and any other PC maker willing to betray Microsoft, just to get Chrome pre-installed and set as the default browser.

Chances are no one would notice.

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