Archive for September, 2008

Google Chrome

Tuesday, September 2nd, 2008

Google has a new product… a browser? Really? Oh ya, I forgot, Google wants to eliminate the OS. Or more accurately, make the OS *be* the browser.

I decided to try this out right away, given my mood for trying new things.

It’s sleek, it’s smooth. Let’s start with the things I like:

- The technology. Multi-threaded this, Multi-process that. It’s explained in the comic, so read that first. But there’s a lot to like under the hood. A virtual machine for JavaScript. A task manager to see which pages are using the most resources. Sandboxing pages for security. Neat stuff.

- Performance. Like I mentioned in the Firefox “review” (Is it still a review when you first run it years after release?), Firefox just “feels” faster. And the same is with Chrome. I could care less which one launches a few milliseconds faster than the other. But just open up cnn.com and watch it load. Does it incrementally load like it’s supposed to? Or does it sit there for a few seconds and then display the whole thing at once. Incremental is better.

- Smooth. Again, load cnn.com and move the window all over while it loads. Does it stutter all over the place? Or does it smoothly scroll? Then, take the upper left corner and resize the window. Does it smoothly resize? Or does it flicker all over the place? Chrome is surpringly smooth.

- The opening page. Nice idea. I’m one of those guys mentioned in the comic who keeps new pages as about:blank for performance reasons. If the opening page opens quick *and* gives me access to pages I’m going to go to, great.

- Screen real estate. Excellent. User interface. Just the right amount of feedback. Keyboard shortcuts. Seems to be all in tact.

Now, on to what I don’t like.

- Tabs. This is probably the deal-breaker for me. You can’t turn them off! And it appears Google wants to keep it that way (perhaps as a sort of “running apps bar” to compete with the OS?). From the comic: “In Google Chrome, the primary piece of the user interface is the Tab.” Well, I don’t like them! I’ve said my piece on why I dislike them, so making them a first-class citizen in your product doesn’t win any points in my book. And all of the talk about making each tab it’s own separate process doesn’t affect me either, since every browser window I open is already it’s own process. So that kind of disappointed me.

- Searching in the same bar as url. Microsoft has tried this before (not as slick mind you), and I just don’t like it. I prefer search to be it’s own page. I like intellisense on the url bar, and always use that, so it’s good to see it here. But leave the search out of it.

- Non-native UI. Minor gripe. The URL bar also does not act like a Windows edit line. Better than Firefox, but still not native.

- Too early. It’s a beta, so a lot of *stuff* is missing. Probably on purpose, to create a more stable platform. So that will turn a lot of people off initially. However, I’m certain that if the browser becomes popular, the *stuff* will show up.

Speculation. Why did Google create its own browser? It already pours millions of dollars into Firefox development. Did they not see enough of their ideas get put into motion? Was it too hard to change a browser that already has a sizable following? Is Chrome going to be used as a testbed for future changes, essentially a Firefox research platform? Or did they just have a whole bunch of smart programmers that they recruited from Microsoft who didn’t have anything better to do?

I don’t know. My initial reaction is that it will just water down the Firefox brand, diluting its numbers slightly. People (including me) are already more than content with whatever’s included with the OS. Once it’s in the OS, people don’t care. Look at the disk defrag market. Or the email program market. Or… the browser market. So, most machines with more than one browser will have either IE and FF, or IE and Chrome. Not all three… Except for the die-hards who install things like Opera… or Safari. (eyes rolling)