Google launches internet browser

Google is to release its own internet browser in what amounts to its most direct attack yet on Microsoft's dominance of PC software.

The launch of the browser, known as Google Chrome, will pit the internet company against Microsoft's dominant Internet Explorer browser, which is used by an estimated three-quarters of all internet users. Google said a test version of the browser would be released in 100 countries on Tuesday.

The direct challenge echoes the so-called Browser Wars of the late-1990s, when Microsoft used its Windows operating system monopoly to win users for its own software and defeat the internet pioneer Netscape. That battle triggered a US anti-trust case against the software company.

When his company's dominance of internet search first triggered rivalry with Microsoft, Eric Schmidt, Google's chief executive, insisted that it did not need to create its own browser, dismissing that as "the last war" which had already been lost by Netscape.

However, Google has become increasingly dependent on the state of browser technology as it has expanded its own range of internet-based applications, which rely on the PC software. At a recent conference, Google executives stressed the need for more advanced PC software to enhance the value of internet-based applications - a stance that highlights a growing convergence with the technology vision of Microsoft, which is also moving to a blend of internet and PC-based software.

The decision by Google to create its browser also reflects a persistent concern on the part of the internet company that Microsoft would find ways to use its dominance of the PC software to favour its own internet applications, or at least hamper those of rivals. In the latest example, Microsoft last week released a version of IE that makes it easier for users to block information about their browsing habits, a move that could hamper Google's move into display advertising.

Microsoft's near-monopoly of the browser market has been broken in recent years by Firefox, an open-source browser based on code developed by Netscape that has won nearly 20 per cent of the market. Google has maintained close ties with Mozilla, the organisation behind Netscape.

News of the browser leaked on Monday after a comic book by cartoonist Scott McCloud, commissioned by Google to explain the technicalities of the software, was uploaded on to the internet.

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