It used to be that a website was nothing more than a blank page peppered with English text. Today, however, the web has evolved into a powerful multilingual and global platform that enables users to connect and collaborate with friends and colleagues through social networking sites, e-mail and a host of innovative and highly interactive applications.

At the forefront of Internet innovation is Google, whose name has all but eliminated the word “search”, the very function that propelled the company to Internet superstardom.

Nowadays, Google keeps busy with enhancing its web browser, Google Chrome, by introducing a suite of local features that make the browsing experience more personalized and powerful.

“The browser is becoming the most important piece of software in your PC,” says Derek Callow, Head of Marketing, Google Southeast Asia. “Because more and more of what you’re doing is online, the need for an effective and powerful browser has never been more
pronounced. Just like the classic Google homepage, Google Chrome has a simple user interface with a sophisticated core to enable a speedy browsing experience.”

The Five-Window Phenomenon

At the core of Google is intensive market research and analysis. With the number of user groups that include average Internet users and advertisers, the company invests heavily on research to understand what people do online. “We do it in a lot of different ways, like ‘Search’,” shares Callow. “One of the things we find with ‘Search’ is that when people hear something new about someone famous, they’ll go to Google and they’ll look for it. It’s almost like a litmus test for society. It’s like the Internet’s little Petri dish and we learn a lot from there.”

One of the more interesting things that Google is finding about Internet users is that “there is this thing called the ‘Five Window Phenomenon’,” shares Callow. “I talked to a local research company and they said that the average person is now opening five window tabs on Google Chrome. True enough, when I went to an Internet café in Quezon City, I saw kids come in and immediately open up five windows—Facebook, You-Tube, Google, Yahoo and a couple other sites. That completely changed my perception of the basic Internet user. We’re constantly looking at how behavior is changing.”

Consumer behavior has also changed the way advertisers do business in the Internet. Businesses and advertisers are finding that the user is now more informed. “They’re going online, looking at forums and product comparison sites, and they’re getting a lot of feedback from social networking sites,” shares Callow. “The web used to be this emerging technology, but now that everyone is there, advertisers are realizing that they should be there, too.”

Localizing Google Chrome

Just over two years old, the Google Chrome web browser is quickly evolving and turning into a lean, mean, potentially IE-killing machine. When it released the third version of Chrome in 2009, with it came the official debut of Chrome Themes, which offered users an alternative look for their Chrome browser. Today, Chrome has introduced a truckload of features that address the speed, simplicity, stability and search needs of its growing users.

Part of its efforts to keep up with the dynamic Internet landscape is localizing Google Chrome to cater to its regional users. Here in the Philippines, it has debuted new local features: 11 Chrome browser extensions and 13 artist themes—all created in partnership with local artists and organizations.

Extensions are small programs that add informative, fun or useful functionality to the browser, making the browsing experience more personalized. Filipino users can now access the latest news from ABS-CBN and GMA, search for flights on Philippine Airlines and Cebu Pacific, look up foreign exchange rates through BDO, among others, all with a click of a button on the Google Chrome browser. They can also express their personal style on Chrome by installing themes created by local artists, designers and institutions in the Philippines.

“When Google built Chrome, it wasn’t about how the web used to be; we built it around how the web could be,” ends Callow.

Published in the Business Agenda section of the Manila Bulletin,  October 11, 2010.