Search and advertising giant Google will today launch a trial version of its own web browser in a clear attempt to break Microsoft's dominance over the way people access the web.
Google say their software, called Chrome, is designed to handle the latest web services such as video-rich pages and online office document editing faster and more securely.
A rethink of the browser is needed, says the firm, because existing programs have their roots in an age when the web offered only text and images.
A 38-page comic book sent to the blog – available to view online here – described Chrome and its creators' hopes for the product.
A trial version of Chrome for Windows users will be available from this site on tomorrow. Versions for Apple Mac and Linux users are planned.
Chrome's launch coincides with the introduction last month of Internet Explorer 8 by arch-rival Microsoft last month.
Google's engineers have used open-source code from a variety of projects including Apple's Web Kit used in Safari, and Firefox.
Chrome's code will itself be open source – available for other developers to enhance and expand.
Google stands to benefit from people using the new software. Google's Toolbar already collects information about the pages visited by users, which helps the company tune its search and advertising services. Chrome could collect information in a similar way.
Another feature is a privacy mode that lets users create an "incognito" window where "nothing that occurs in that window is ever logged on your computer".
A similar feature, dubbed "porn mode" by bloggers, was recently announced by Microsoft for Internet Explorer 8. Apple's Safari already features a private browsing mode.
John Lilly, chief executive of the non-profit company Mozilla Corp that promotes Firefox, said Google had recently renewed its arrangement to be the largest financial backer of his company until 2011.
Mozilla recently introduced its own upgraded browser, Firefox 3, and has collaborated with Google on technical issues in the past, such as how to make browsers more secure.
Lilly says that Mozilla and Google would continue to collaborate where it made sense for both organisations.
But he acknowledges things have changed: "With [Explorer], Firefox, Safari, Opera, etc – there's been competition for a while now, and this increases that."
Download: Google chrome Browser