Even though Google's slogan is "don't be evil" I am not entirely sure whether this also applies to their newest development: the Google Chrome browser.
The announcement over at the Official Google Blog tells us that Google is about to release a Free Software-based browser. When I first read the announcement I wasn't too impressed reading that Google has actually built a browser, this was logical and I have been expecting this move for years. Also, reading that they based their browser on Free Software didn't impress me too much either, but then I found the comic.
The comic contains a lot of information about the browser's architecture and I like the design. It makes perfectly sense, even though it could create some memory and processing overhead, but don't all major browsers consume "quite some" ressources? So, from a technical point of view, the browser sounds great, but there is a huge downside too.
The product announcement says that the browser is not only built upon Free Software, but is Free Software itself. Now, this sounds good, but then I had to read this:
This is just the beginning -- Google Chrome is far from done. We're releasing this beta for Windows to start the broader discussion and hear from you as quickly as possible. We're hard at work building versions for Mac and Linux too, and will continue to make it even faster and more robust.
I don't want to start nit-picking on the use of the term "Linux" for describing the GNU/Linux operating system there, even though I have to mention this fact.
What really bothers me is that it seems as if a binary-only release for Windows is being prepared, and only this binary version. In my opinion this is bad. I would rather have liked reading "a binary beta version for Windows will be made available along with the source code licensed under the terms of the <insert your favourite Free Software license here>".
Why? Because this way people could start tinkering with the code and thus help making a GNU/Linux version available sooner. Not seeing the code released makes the "Free Software" promise sound void.
Though nothing has happened yet. Google has merely announced the upcoming release of Google Chrome. No details have been made available whether the code will be released along with the Windows binary, but I fear we won't be getting hold of the code for a while.
This leads me to the title of this article: Is Google Chrome good or evil?
Well, if Google keeps the promise to release Chrome under a Free Software license and does so rather sooner than later I believe Google Chrome should not only be called "good". It would then qualify as a real alternative to Mozilla Firefox and could even be superior to Firefox.
On the other hand, if Google does not release the code timely, releases the code under a proprietary license or does not release the code at all Chrome could and possibly should be tagged "evil".
Personally I am awaiting the release of Google Chrome. I would like to test it, see the code, maybe dig a bit into it and possibly make it my browser-of-choice. The reason for this is quite simple: I am tech-savvy and the technology used in Google Chrome sounds more than just interesting, but could actually be a step forward for the web. Both in increased usability for the user and the use of Free Software and Free Standards as a way to help the web evolve. If Google doesn't keep the Free Software promise though, expect me not to ever though that evil beast.
UPDATE (September 3, 2008 at 7:44am CET):
Now that Chrome has been released Google apparently did also release the source code to Chrome, Chromium. The chromium project page can be found here, the Google Chrome home page here.
Now it seems as if Google did make Chromium a Free Software browser (seems because I have not yet come around to downloading the tarball and checking the contents, but I do believe it actually is Free Software and for me there is no reason not to believe that anymore).
I am more than just happy with this because, as I pointed out in this article already, Google Chrome or Chromium does have an interesting architecture and should, in my opinion, be embraced by the Free Software community. The reason I am happy is not only the fact that it is Free Software, but rather that a company like Google does release a lot Free Software these days and personally I hope other companies will start following this example soon. Thanks Google for taking this step!
So to make it short: Google Chrome? Not evil, good!
Now a short word to the commenters of this article: Most comments have been helpful and I really appreciated them. Sorry that an update to this article took so long, but I'm living in Europe and was asleep while all the things you mentioned have happened.