Most people still don't know what Google Chrome is. Considering that Google released Chrome only a few months ago, and that most of us tend to take web browsers for granted, the lack of popular knowledge isn't all that surprising. Even Mozilla Firefox, which has been around for years and is considered superior to Microsoft Internet Explorer (IE) by many who have tried both, is still a big unknown to many people. The paradox is that, although the web browser is one of the single most important applications of our time—providing easy access to a massive virtual world—there's little expectation among users and even less desire to try new browsers. Such an apathetic environment isn't an ideal place for Chrome to make its debut, but let's not count Chrome out just yet.
If you're one of the many people unfamiliar with Chrome, let me give you a quick overview. Chrome sports a relatively plain interface, has a large Google search bar at the top, and is considered by most testers to be the fastest browser on the market. On the other hand, the browser is still in the infant stages (was only recently released from beta), has some pretty significant security holes, and currently lacks the plethora of add-ons that Firefox and IE boast.
Assuming we know Google as well as we think we do, this rags-to-riches Internet giant doesn't enter a market space to solidify a distant third, or even a close second. As such, we can only assume that Google hopes to eventually make Chrome a dominant web browser, most likely in conjunction with its pursuits in the cloud computing space. With these factors in mind, let's venture into a highly theoretical and consider what Google would need to do to crown Chrome the next IE.
Step 1: Attain Enterprise-Level Security
The single concern that dominated the bad press immediately following Chrome's release was the number of security problems that left Chrome open to malicious attacks. We all expect beta products to have some flaws, but these problems were so serious that they tarnished Chrome's reputation as a product that certainly wasn't ready for enterprise use, and probably not even ready for personal use.
Although Google quickly fixed the immediate vulnerabilities that arose, it will need to bring Chrome's security level on par with competing browsers if it ever wants to be a serious competitor.
Step 2: Pick Up Add-ons
Firefox and IE have dozens of add-ons. Not everyone uses add-ons, but many users find that add-ons significantly increase a browser's convenience and functionality. By implementing add-ons, you can simplify social networking between users; quickly manage search and downloading; and integrate the browser with relevant RSS, news, and stock tickers. If Google wants to create a full user experience with Chrome, it will need add-ons to do it.
Step 3: Get Pre-Installed
Pre-installation isn't only the most crucial step; it's also the most difficult. The single reason Firefox has failed to overtake IE is that IE comes conveniently pre-installed on every Windows machine. Most users never have an incentive to consider another browser. However, Google is apparently working with hardware manufacturers such as Dell to get Chrome pre-installed on new machines.
If Chrome is pre-installed on new, leading hardware, it will likely see a sudden and dramatic spike in popularity. Anyone who has ever had a problem with IE will feel the need to at least try Chrome, and I believe many of those people will like what they see, because Chrome does have some compelling advantages in terms of speed and functionality—assuming, of course, that Google corrects the previously mentioned flaws. Pre-installation would level the playing field so that people would start viewing IE as just one competitor in a market as opposed to the de facto portal to the Internet.
Step 4: Wait
Assuming Google can enhance Chrome to compete with IE and get it pre-installed on leading hardware, the final step will be time. It will take time for people to look beyond IE and to cross into the unknown and try something new. But, once they do, they'll see that there's nothing innately superior about IE—there's no reason why Chrome, or some other browser, couldn't become the next great Internet gateway.