Excursions by Amit Gawande

Sorry, Chrome is Not a Google Service

I read this interesting perspective from Bálint where he argues that Chrome is a Google Service that happens to include a Browser Engine”. I understand where he is coming from, but I believe the thought process needs to be dealt with and curbed before it gets commonly accepted.

Sure, Google would want to believe that Chrome is just one of their many services — it suits their business model. When they can move their trackers (and eventually ads) right to the tool that people access the internet with, they would know what everyone’s doing on the internet. But Google should not be allowed to get away by dumping the idea down its user’s throat. Sure, normal people may not be able to differentiate how logging in to a service and to Chrome is different. Or how login/session cookies for Google may screw up the security model on a shared computer.

But that exactly is the reason why people who understand better need to voice their disapproval. It is easy to say that it’s not a big deal as I am already better informed to not use Chrome. But it is also reckless — Chrome has already become a de facto browser for mainstream users. It’s a wrong precedent then to let people who cannot fully grasp (or aren’t inclined to out of sheer neglect) the basic underpinnings of the open web to drive what’s acceptable for a browser, and on the web. If that was allowed, Net neutrality would already have been a lost battle worldwide. Such decisions tend to be uninformed and harm the community in the longer run.

An internet service is a different entity, it serves a specific purpose. It solves a specific problem that an end user has. Gmail is an email client. YouTube is a video sharing service. Google Search is… well, it has long since stopped being just a search engine. But, one gets the idea. You access a URL and it brings you to the service.

Chrome is not that. Chrome is a tool that allows users access these different services. And it is better if it stays that way. It’s already bad that all browsers come with an incognito mode by default. It would be important that we do not introduce another mode just to go incognito from the owners of the browsers.

I am sure Bálint will agree and his final thought kind of sums it well.

Part of me feels that this Chrome shared computer issue that Googlers mentioned is real, but it’s also just too convenient to solve this by tieing Chrome closer to Google, you know?

opinion google