MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif. - Google announced today the unveiling of "Chrome," an open-source Web browser designed to compete with Microsoft's Internet Explorer.

Google apparently inadvertently sent a comic-book-style message about the release of Chrome a little too early to bloggers over the long holiday weekend, but eventually posted the publication online. The document describes Google's effort to make a browser that doesn't crash much, if fast and is secure.

A beta version of Chrome was released Tuesday at Google.com/chrome, but is available only to Windows users for now. The company said versions for Mac and Linux will be released "in the coming months."

It's unclear so far, though, what the development of Chrome might mean for the agreement between the Mozilla Foundation, developer of the Firefox browser, and Google. Firefox currently has Google as the default search engine in the upper right corner, and Google used bits of Firefox in Chrome. The deal between Mozilla and Google was recently extended through 2011.

Steve Johnson, a technology columnist for the Chicago Tribune, postured that "browsers are the operating systems of the future. And ceding that control to Microsoft (Internet Explorer) or even the not-for-profit Mozilla (Firefox) isn't a smart move for a Google, which makes its money by feeding ads to people in browser windows."

Johnson did caution, however, that it won't be easy for Google to find the same success Firefox has, even if they are Google.

"Most people are mostly satisfied with whichever browser they use, and there's nothing in the Chrome comic that screams, 'Average Web user, download me!'" he wrote.