Google has a new browser, called Chrome. That's now old news. The Wall Street Journal suggests that it's all about taking on Microsoft, and it's probably right. Glyn Moody cogently argues that this is not about browsers at all, but rather about shifting the ground under everyone's feet to the "Google operating system." He's probably right, too.
Chrome, however, lacks the very same thing that Android and every other Google product lacks, with the exception of its Search/Page Rank technology:
Mozilla Firefox has community in spades. Mozilla isn't the one developing killer extensions to Firefox like Adblock Plus, Forecastfox, etc. The community does.
Even Microsoft has community in spades, though on the operating system side of its business, not its browser. Look at the ecosystem around Windows and Office: pretty impressive.
Google, however, seems to want to go it alone, whatever the collateral damage. It is telling that Chrome was a secret leaked and then announced to the world, rather than a transparent, community effort. Google did the same thing with Android, creating a closed-door community that left would-be Android developers riled.
Does it matter? Or is Google powerful enough to take on Microsoft by itself, community or no community?
I'm not sure. Google seems to understand the source code aspect of open source, but has thus far failed at figuring out the open community aspect, yet this is precisely where I think it has the most to gain. It's not that "the community" is going to build Google's browser for it. Google has enough developers to rebuild Internet Explorer (or whatever product you wish) several times over, each of which believes he or she could do a better job than Microsoft, and each of which may be right.
But that's not the point. The point is that to take on Microsoft you have to do business differently. You have to disrupt. Putting the operating system in the browser, as it were, is a good start. Putting the community into the browser, and letting it distribute and evangelize it for Google, is arguably better.
The first is a technical problem. The second is a people problem. People are harder to "solve" than technical issues.