Would you pay me if I built a web browser?

Google recently announced their Q4 results, and it seems almost everyone is having a great Q4 from Facebook, to Amazon to Google.

I know most of us hate ads, but it’s this ad money that powers Googles free services, including Gmail and their popular browser Google Chrome.

Like many I have mixed feelings about Chrome, but Chrome is the most used web browser, and their browser engine now powers many of the popular alternative browsers like Microsoft Edge, Brave, Opera and Vivaldi.

Developing a browser engine has become an expensive thing to do, that requires millions of dollars, and requires lot of developers. Browsers has become technologically advance and powerful, even to a point where it can power a whole computer (Chrome-books).

So it’s not like back in the day where a small group of people can get together and hack a web browser (Netscape days) and release it for everyone to use.

So yes, whether we like it or not, for a foreseeable time the access to the internet will be held on by few selected companies. Companies that have the financial power and the manpower to build the browsers of the future, AKA FAANG companies.

Apple is another example, they have trillions of dollars at their disposal, talent, and also they have an operating system, and hardware and there is no wonder they will put the money and effort to develop a web browser to work on their devices.

Even the Chrome forks that I mentioned above are at the mercy of Google, without Google developing the Blink engine, and if Google decides not to share their development with the Chromium project, then all those companies will also be just like Firefox, companies running on life-support.

One might suggest that open source approach can work, but Firefox and other Firefox forks are the best example, that even with open source support and even getting millions of dollars in donations, they are still unable to keep up with the development of a commercially backed browser, and time and time again they have shown to fail in competing with Chrome.

Yes, Firefox has improved a lot in the recent times, but still they haven’t fixed some crucial bugs, or fixed their UI, and also win their users back to Firefox, except for niche set of developers like us.

The alternative, a paid browser

The only viable alternative I can come up with is a paid browser, a team developing a good browser engine, even forking Chromium or Firefox, but with no privacy innovation.

But the browser will have a price tag, for development and for not collecting your data in exchange, the money will fund the development of the browser engine.

But how many people will be willing to pay a good hundreds of dollars of yearly subscription fee for the development of the browser?

It’s an idea that is doomed from the beginning.

People will use the currently freely available browsers like Chrome instead of a paid browser. People don’t care about their privacy, they only care about getting their work done.

If not people will have to settle for a web experience they had a decade back, no fancy tech or features, a plain browser engine that can render HTML and javascript.

Sadly I feel like we have tried all other options, an open source browser that is on life support, companies like Microsoft tried to take on Chrome with their own proprietary browser but failed to do so. So people will have to rely on companies like Google, Apple to make sure they spend part of their money for the continued development of internet browsers.

But what if Google didn’t make enough money, and decided to cut down on the development of their browser engine?

What will happen to the development of browsers and the internet? Yes, people still be able to use the internet, and the internet will continue to develop, but that development and implementation will definitely slow down.

It’s funny how people had to rely on advertising money, and on selected few companies to access the internet that once meant to be used by everyone for free.

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