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Google Chrome: Free Software as a launching platform

Charles-Axel Dein

I wrote this dissertation in May 2009, in order to fulfill my fourth university year at Sciences Po Rennes, France.

Executive summary

Google has chosen to release Chrome as Free and Open Source Software (FOSS) in order to achieve two goals.

Protect its businesses. FOSS is used to foster Chrome’s market penetration, which will in turn encourage the diffusion of innovation in the web value chain. It is in the firm’s interest to make the Internet grow: since it has been able to privatise the Internet, growth means increased audience, which will help Google sell advertisements (97% of its revenues) and gather information (via crowdsourcing and behavioural marketing).

Prepare an offensive in cloud computing. FOSS in Chrome shows that Google aims to be a leader in the cloud computing paradigm. It will be able to license its web-applications and diversify its revenues.

Chrome is FOSS because it will not generate value by itself. Its purpose is to serve as a launching platform for innovation in the Internet. These innovations will indirectly generate cash-flows.

Keywords: Google, Chrome, strategy, innovation, open web standards, free and open source software, Internet, browser, cloud computing.


Download the dissertation : (pdf) Google Chrome : Free Software as a launching platform (english pdf, 1mo). This work is released under license Creative Commons BY-SA.

Table of contents

This TOC may not be up-to-date. Please refer to the actual document.

A. Case Description: Google Chrome in the Browser War

I. A browser market still dominated by an ageing IE

II. Chrome: “a fresh take on the browser”

III. Chrome, a free and open source application

1. Explaining FOSS

1.1. Source code: a human-readable version of software

1.2. FS and OSS

2. The consequences for Google

B. Case Resolution: Google Chrome as a Launching Platform

I. The analysis of facts and symptoms

1. Free software at Google

1.1. An anamnesis: openness in the history of Internet

1.2. The practical advantages of FOSS for Google

2. The raison d’être of Chrome

2.1. Encouraging innovation in the Internet sector

2.2. Strengthening Google’s ecosystem

2.3. Google envisions a cloud computing paradigm

3. Understanding Chrome as FOSS: the six forces analysis

3.1. Suppliers: efficiency in the development process

3.2. Substitute products: increasing market penetration

3.3. Rivalry among existing competitors: defying Microsoft

3.4. Users: increasing their bargaining power

3.5. Entry of new competitors: increasing the competition

3.6. Public policies: building up a positive frame

3.7. Conclusion: Google increases the forces to foster competition

4. The dominant design model: understanding the links between competition, openness and innovation in the Internet sector

4.1. Stand-alone technological value: new standards for more powerful web applications

4.2. Increasing the user base to foster the diffusion of innovation

4.3. Complementary goods: the browser as a development tool

II. Strategic analysis

1. FOSS shows how Google is protecting itself

2. FOSS shows how Google will find new sources of monetisation

3. Diagnosis: Chrome as FOSS, a launching platform

C. Conclusion: Limits and Further Research

I. Scenarios for Chrome’s future

1. Baseline scenario: a strengthened position

2. Optimistic scenario: a new Google monopoly

3. Pessimistic scenario: an overambitious step revealing monopolistic behaviour

II. Limits of this work


A The Modified BSD License

B Google Chrome’s Dependencies and Their Licenses

I. Different types of licenses

II. Chrome’s dependencies

C What We Talk About When We Talk About Cloud Computing


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