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Google has chosen to release Chrome as Free and Open Source Software (FOSS) in order to achieve two goals.
Protect its businesses. FOSS is used to foster Chrome’s market penetration, which will in turn encourage the diffusion of innovation in the web value chain. It is in the firm’s interest to make the Internet grow: since it has been able to privatise the Internet, growth means increased audience, which will help Google sell advertisements (97% of its revenues) and gather information (via crowdsourcing and behavioural marketing).
Prepare an offensive in cloud computing. FOSS in Chrome shows that Google aims to be a leader in the cloud computing paradigm. It will be able to license its web-applications and diversify its revenues.
Chrome is FOSS because it will not generate value by itself. Its purpose is to serve as a launching platform for innovation in the Internet. These innovations will indirectly generate cash-flows.