In another boost for Firefox, Google has created a tool that lets users synchronise the settings of their Firefox browsers across multiple computers.
With Google Browser Sync, users will maintain the same bookmarks, website visits log, saved passwords and persistent cookies in all their copies of the Mozilla open-source browser.
To enable this continuous synchronisation to happen, users have to install copies of the Google Browser Sync on every computer where they have Firefox, Google has announced in its official blog.
This free tool also "remembers" the tabs and windows users had open the last time they used Firefox and gives users the option to open them. One downside is that the tool updates settings every time Firefox is launched, which will increase the time it takes a browser to open, Google warns.
Google Browser Sync works with Firefox 1.5 and newer versions on any operating system that supports the browser, the company said. It doesn't support any other browser.
Microsoft v Google
It's not surprising to see Google developing tools for Firefox that don't work with Interner Explorer. Google has a close relationship with Mozilla that involves technology collaborations and cross-promotion efforts. Meanwhile, the relationship between Microsoft and Google is at best adversarial and often acrimonious. They compete in search, online services and, increasingly, in desktop and hosted software.
Browsers in particular are a contentious area between Google and Microsoft because they are an entry point to web search activity. Recently, Google has complained about the new IE version 7, which is now in beta and contains an embedded search box with a drop-down menu set by default to use Microsoft's search engine, but which includes other options.
However, some have criticised Google for being inconsistent on this point because its search engine is the default choice in the embedded Firefox search box. Firefox is a thorn in Microsoft's side, because it is the most credible competitor to IE in years, now holding an estimated 10 per cent market share.
Set the fox free
In April, Google caused a stir when it promoted Firefox on its home page, a rare move and one clearly intended to help Firefox grow its market share. Google also includes Firefox in its Google Pack, a free, downloadable software suite it distributes and that includes products from Google and other vendors, including Adobe Systems and Symantec, but not Microsoft.
Sundar Pichai, Google's product management director, declined to comment on the Google-Microsoft rivalry but said several factors played into the decision to develop this tool for Firefox. Because the product is in an early test version, Google didn't want to expose it to the wider IE audience, he said. Also, developers involved in this project use Firefox heavily and feel comfortable with its platform.
Still, Pichai didn't commit to making an IE version, saying the future of Google Browser Sync will depend on user feedback. The tool's product manager, Brian Rakowski, said the chance exists to significantly expand the number of synchronisable Firefox settings in future versions.
More information and download instructions for Google Browser Sync are available here.