There have been rumors on and off for some time now about the possibility of Google getting into the browser game. For years Microsoft’s Internet Explorer has had a virtual lock on the browser market. Recently Mozilla released FirFox which has since gained in popularity, not the second largest browser market at a whopping 5% of total browser users.
The entrance of Firfox and its gaining popularity are proof that Microsoft is subject to vulnerability in the browser “wars”. But for what reason would others have to sign up for a full-scale browser war? Unlike in the early Netscape days, downloading and using a browser is free, so there is no monetary benefit to be had. Or is there?
I believe that search engines should, if they are not already, be actively working toward building their own integrated browsers, for the simple reason of harvesting the bookmarks or “favorites”. Think about it, since the invention of PageRank search engines have relied heavily on links to determine a site’s popularity and relevance for any particular search. Links are analyzed on a variety of levels to determine how sites should perform in the SERPs, and not in any small way.
This has also lead to large scale link spamming, creation of junk “directories”, link buying as well as legitimate (read: quality) link building efforts as a means to help websites perform better in the search results. Google and other engines are continuing fine tuning their analysis of links to weed out the spam and the junk and make sure links are being valued properly.
But what is possibly a better indicator of popularity and relevance than a site being bookmarked in someone’s browser? If a search engine had access to those bookmarks and was able to analyze them by looking at organizational structure of the bookmarks, the title of the bookmarks (usually the title of the page) and perhaps even how often that bookmarked is accessed, this would provide an incredible amount of data to be analyzed for ranking positions.
Of course, this would be subject to spam, just as links were, I can see it now, “I’ll bookmark you if you bookmark me!”, but I also think bookmark spam would be easier to analyze and control than link spam. If search engines owned the browsers then manually added bookmarks could be given more relevance over those that are “automatically” added via the web site being accessed or other similar tricks. It would also be harder to manage “bookmark exchange” requests because there is currently (that I know of) no way to verify a returned bookmark.
There are some considerable drawbacks in analyzing bookmarks, much the same with analyzing links–it tends to favor the big guys over the little guys–and maybe some even too large to overcome. The most obvious I see is that a Google browser would only be able to analyze bookmarks for those who use their browser, same for MSN, Yahoo, etc.. This alone considerably limits the pool of available information. Installation of desktop search could assist in analyzing bookmarks in a competitor’s browser, but again, this pool is also limited.
Are we going to see a whole new phase in the browser wars, or is the war finished before it even began. Time will tell, but this is very possibly a preview of what is to come.