Google this week launched an open source web browser to compete with Internet Explorer and Firefox.
The browser is designed to be fast, and to cope with the next generation of web applications that rely on graphics and multimedia.
Called Chrome, it will launch as a beta for Windows machines in 100 countries, with Mac and Linux versions to come.
Using Google on Wednesday this week, I noticed that Chrome was available for immediate download, and managed to do just that.
Chrome is designed to handle not just text and graphics, but more complex computer programmes.
Chrome, which Google made available in 43 languages in 100 countries at http://www.google.com/chrome , has been designed to download software and render Web pages faster than existing browsers.
And it allows users to keep working even when one of its open windows crashes.
This is Google's long-anticipated bid to compete with Microsoft Corp, whose rival Internet Explorer dominates three-quarters of the Web browsing market.
Google has backed Mozilla Corp's Firefox browser, which holds about 18 percent of the market.
"We realised... we needed to completely rethink the browser,” Google’s vice-president of product marketing Sundar Pichai said in a blog post.
The new browser will help Google take advantage of developments it is pushing online in rich web applications that are challenging traditional desktop programs.
It's certainly the biggest news in the browser space since Firefox started to dent Internet Explorer's lead and many people see this as a re-ignition of the browser wars
Google has a suite of web apps, such as documents, Picasa and maps which offer functionality that is beginning to replace offline software.
“At Google, we spend much of our time working inside a browser,” according to Google.
“We search, chat, email and collaborate in a browser.
“And like all of you, in our spare time, we shop, bank, read news and keep in touch with friends - all using a browser.
“People are spending an increasing amount of time online, and they're doing things never imagined when the web first appeared about 15 years ago.
“Since we spend so much time online, we began seriously thinking about what kind of browser could exist if you started from scratch and built on the best elements out there.
“We realised that the web had evolved from mainly simple text pages to rich, interactive applications and that we needed to completely rethink the browser.
“What we really needed was not just a browser, but also a modern platform for web pages and applications, and that's what we set out to build.
“So today we're releasing the beta version of a new open source browser: Google Chrome.
“On the surface, we designed a browser window that is streamlined and simple.
“To most people, it isn't the browser that matters.
“It's only a tool to run the important stuff - the pages, sites and applications that make up the web.
“Like the classic Google homepage, Google Chrome is clean and fast.
“It gets out of your way and gets you where you want to go.
“Under the hood, we were able to build the foundation of a browser that runs today's complex web applications much better.
“By keeping each tab in an isolated ‘sandbox’, we were able to prevent one tab from crashing another and provide improved protection from rogue sites.
“We improved speed and responsiveness across the board.
“This is just the beginning - Google Chrome is far from done.
“We've released this beta for Windows to start the broader discussion and hear from you as quickly as possible.
“We're hard at work building versions for Mac and Linux too, and we'll continue to make it even faster and more robust.
“We owe a great debt to many open source projects, and we're committed to continuing on their path.
“We've used components from Apple's WebKit and Mozilla's Firefox, among others - and in that spirit, we are making all of our code open source as well.
“We hope to collaborate with the entire community to help drive the web forward.
“The web gets better with more options and innovation.
“Google Chrome is another option, and we hope it contributes to making the web even better.”
I found out that the range of software available on ‘Google Pack Software’ includes Google Earth, Google Toolbar for Internet Explorer, Norton Security Scan, Spyware Doctor Starter Edition, Google Desktop, Picasa, Mozilla Firefox with Google Toolbar, Google Photos Screensaver, Adobe Reader, Google Talk, Skype, RealPlayer and StarOffice.
The launch of a beta version of Chrome on Tuesday, September 2, 2008, will be Google's latest assault on Microsoft's dominance of the PC business.
The firm's Internet Explorer program dominates the browser landscape, with 80% of the market.