Is there room for another browser in the marketplace, the right question to ask ourselves?
No, I don’t think it is.
The standard answer from any VC or investor in regard to the question, is that nobody can compete against Internet Explorer, Chrome, Safari or Firefox. On the surface I would agree, but if we peer a little beneath the surface things are different.
To illustrate this i’ll borrow a quote from Stalin;
- ‘I consider it completely unimportant who in the party will vote, or how; but what is extraordinarily important is this—who will count the votes, and how.’
Now let’s plagiarize Stalin’s quote just a little…
- I consider it completely unimportant who in the party will use whichever browser, or how; but what is extraordinarily important is this—who will use the features of that browser, and how.
Every modern browser now supports a new feature – the ability to turn on a Privacy setting called Do Not Track. It’s the single feature that EVERY OEM has agreed on that MUST be in place. They (the OEM’s) control that feature, nobody else can ADD it to ANY browser and compete with them.
So if you’re a company focused on Privacy on the Web and wanted to add a ‘differentiating feature’ via say a browser plugin, you have just been essentially shut out of that market place. (Not only can you not add a plugin to a mobile browser, doing so on the desktop adds no value to the already STANDARD feature).
Two other features like this come to mind. One is the ‘Embed’ tag and the other is real time disk compression. The embed tag inside HTML allows you invoke an external application from within the page. Real time disk compression keeps the hard drive contents compressed.
Both are ‘features’.
But here’s where it gets interesting (looking beneath the surface). Features are irrelevant until EVERYBODY decides they have to have them. Then they take on a completely different role. To effectively monetize a feature you need two things – everybody has to have it, AND it has to be deployed on a global scale, preferably as a standard. The embed tag fits that description and so does an operating system that contains real time disk compression. Both are global in nature and both are now standards.
So what is the latest ‘Standard feature’ inside EVERY modern browser?
It’s the ability to go to a Privacy menu in the browser and enable a check box that allows you to send a Do Not Track header to a Web server. Since the standard started to evolve (it’s still not a completely finished standard) there are now approaching 500 million browsers in the marketplace that support it.
What could be thought of as insignificant feature, now takes center stage as a MUST have feature for browser companies to remain competitive.
So maybe the real question to ask yourselves is this – who owns the idea behind adding the feature of a Do Not Track privacy header to the Internet which is activated from inside the browser? And for that you may wish to read up on US. Pat. 8,156,206
Footnote… to see how much a ‘standard feature is worth’ when it goes global.