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Opera boss: Imitation is flattering

But Chrome code isn't worth a look

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Google's new Chrome browser borrows so much from Opera's browser, we had to ask Jon von Tetzchner, Opera's CEO, an obvious question today - had Google hired any of his staff?

"No."

He didn't sound too upset, though, that Google has half-inched so many features from Opera in a smash-and-grab raid.

"Some things we recognise from Opera - putting tabs at the top [and the address bar in the tab], speed dial, and basically the search and find - but that shows we're doing something right."

You might think he's entitled to be - since these features will be new to 99 per cent of the world's PC-based web surfers, who may credit Google with the innovations. But von Tetzchner told us that Chrome's biggest innovation isn't one Opera is in a rush to emulate.

Because Chrome is designed for running web apps, he says, "the focus is on keeping different processes for different windows - that's a very heavy duty thing to do. It's an OS approach rather than a browser approach." And something not considered worth following.

Opera's message to developers is twofold: it will incorporate Google Gears, the runtime that allows Google web applications to run offline, and continue to promote widgets. Opera's widgets will run across all of its platforms, from the Nintendo Wii to mobile devices and set-top boxes.

The Opera CEO says Google's Chrome is good news for developers, ultimately, and for Opera:

"If they take some market share from Microsoft, then that's good for us - because their standards implementation is better than Internet Explorer's."

But while Gears is already slated for inclusion in Opera, von Tetzchner doesn't see much else in the code base he'd want to to take.

"Gears is something all the browsers are putting in - everyone has agreed to put in Gears. When it comes to other parts of Chrome, I would expect us not to take anything from it."

Why not?

"We want to control our own code, and not be dependent on others. We have had open source components in Opera, but we've taken then out because customers have been asking us to remove them."

Like?

"There's a JPEG decoder, and things like that, that every browser has used. We made some better code and replaced it with our own. We wouldn't have done it if customers didn't ask, but we did get the code down from 150kb to 5kb."

Everyone works for Google?

Doubts have been raised about the future of the Mozilla Foundation since the extent of Google's browser ambitions became apparent, yesterday.

While the two have signed an agreement to continue their relationship until 2011, almost 85 per cent of the "non profit" Foundation's income is derived from the deal, whereby Mozilla refers Firefox users to Google's search engine. We now know Google has been hiring the best Mozilla developers, and surely there's little it needs from the Foundation any more.

But then some of the same doubts may pertain to Opera, too. Not long ago, Opera was the only browser that charged money for a licence - which perhaps explains why it is such high quality, user-focused design - but struck a referral deal with Google that permitted it to be released as a free download.

Should Google attain a monopolistic share of the internet advertising market (it's already under such scrutiny in the US - and controls 81 per cent of the UK market), might these sweet deals not end?

"I don't think Google is going to take 100pc market share in advertising," said von Tetzchner. "We have deals with multiple parties. When it comes to advertising, there are different advertising companies. I think there will always be competition: Microsoft and Yahoo! are very big players, and we work with big regional companies like Baidu."

Then a dark cloud appeared on the distant horizon:

"If Google were to own both search and services, then that's another story."

Naturally. If there's only one great big computer in the world - why would you use a terminal made by anyone else? ®

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