Privacy-first browsers look to take the shine off Google’s Chrome

Before Google, Facebook and Amazon, tech dominance was known by a single name: Microsoft.

And no product was more dominant than Microsoft’s web browser, Internet Explorer. The company’s browser was the gateway to the internet for about 95 percent of users in the early 2000s, which helped land Microsoft at the center of a major government effort to break up the company.

Almost two decades later, Google’s Chrome now reigns as the biggest browser on the block, and the company is facing challenges similar to Microsoft’s from competitors, as well as government scrutiny.

But Google faces a new wrinkle — a growing realization among consumers that their every digital move is tracked.

“I think Cambridge Analytica acted as a catalyst to get people aware that their data could be used in ways they didn’t expect,” said Peter Dolanjski, the product lead for Mozilla’s Firefox web browser, referring to the scandal in which a political consulting firm obtained data on millions of Facebook users and their friends.

And in something of a poetic role reversal, Microsoft is positioning itself to pick up the slack from people who may be fed up with Google’s Chrome browser and its questionable privacy practices. Microsoft is expected to release an overhaul of its latest browser, called Edge, in the coming months.

“If you look at anybody who’s in a position to strike back and gain market share, it would be Microsoft,” said David Smith, a vice president at the market analysis firm Gartner.

Microsoft is just one of a number of companies and organizations looking to take a piece out of Google — some using the company’s own open-source software. One name that might be familiar to most consumers — Mozilla’s Firefox browser — is also a veteran of the “browser wars ” of two decades ago. The nonprofit Mozilla, which has been biting at the heels of leading browsers for most of its existence, is introducing more aggressive privacy settings to try to stand out and take advantage of the privacy…

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