Mozilla and Google’s open source browsers are amongst the most popular browsers on the planet. They’re even making inroads into enterprises seeking alternatives to Microsoft’s Internet Explorer. Mozilla and Google are however engaged in different paths to grow usage of their products.

Google Chrome optimized for speed
The marketing slogan headlining the Google Chrome download page reads: “Browse the web, Chrome Fast”. The rest of the sparse marketing text on the page highlight “Fast start-up”, “Fast loading” and “Fast search”. Not surprisingly, Google’s engineering driving culture are focused on the “speeds/feeds” category of features.

A recent ComputerWorld bechmark found that Google Chrome 6 to be 17 percent faster than Chrome 5. According to ComputerWorld’s benchmark tests, Chrome is now only slightly slower than Opera and Apple’s Safari, with less than 12 milliseconds between each other.

Mozilla on the other hand had limited itself to reaching “near or even to” Chrome 5 with respect to JavaScript performance for its next version of Firefox. While still in beta, Firefox 4 is within the 20 percent target performance of Chrome 5. However, Firefox 4 beta would be much more than 20 percent slower than the new Chrome 6.

Should that worry Mozilla or users of Firefox? Well, only if speed is the key metric for selecting a browser. Luckily for Mozilla, it’s not.

Mozilla Firefox looks beyond speed
Mozilla has always taken a broader approach to innovations in Firefox beyond speed alone. User productivity comes to mind as a key area of focus.

For instance, Mozilla Labs is working on a feature that could vastly improve productivity for knowledge workers, or anyone who surfs with tens of tabs open.

Mozilla engineer Aza Raskin explains Tab Candy:

It’s hard to keep everything straight with dozens of tabs all crammed into a little strip along the top of your browser. Your tab with a search to find a pizza parlor gets mixed up with your tabs on your favorite band. Often, it’s easier to open a new tab than to try to find the open tab you already have. Worse, how many of us keep tabs open as reminders of something we want to do or read later?
Enter: Tab Candy.

With one keystroke Tab Candy shows an overview of all tabs to allow you to quickly locate and switch between them. Tab Candy also lets you group tabs to organize your work flow. You can create a group for your vacation, work, recipes, games and social sites, however it makes sense to you to group tabs. When you switch to a grouped tab only the relevant tabs are shown in the tab bar, which helps you focus on what you want.

Not surprisingly, the Google Chrome ecosystem is attempting to copy Tab Candy in the Tab Sugar open source plug-in project. That Google isn’t tackling this type of user productivity feature themselves, like Mozilla is doing, can be traced back to Google’s apparent priority for speed versus productivity.

Google & Mozilla jointly growing browser footprints
While Google & Mozilla may differ in their approach to building browser make share, they both share a vision of the browser taking on a much larger role in computing.

For instance, Mozilla recently launched the Mozilla Labs Gaming division which is “committed to providing the game developer community with the platform and tools they need to make innovative games on the Open Web”.

The power of HTML 5 allows developers to create browser-based games that were previously constrained to native PC applications or game consoles.

According to Mashable, Google is also interested in the browser becoming the gaming platform of choice on PC devices.

Google has gone as far as creating an operating system that centers on the browser as the application runtime container and an application store for HTML 5 applications.

It will be interesting to watch Mozilla and Google’s browser investment areas in the future, particularly as Firefox and Chrome continue taking share of the enterprise browser market.

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