Google Chrome

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 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 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)

2 Responses to “Google Chrome”

  1. Anm says:

    Okay, I’ve heald back on commenting on this anywhere else, but since its you…

    I think this is a very wise move by Google. Browsers currently break a fundamental assumption of OS: application independence via processes. It’s not just about memory leaks. It about security (cross-site scripting), accountability (which web page is eating my CPU), and developer friendliness. The last one is key for Google for their own internal development in a dynamic wep-app driven world (same “app” for hosting app and coding documentation, tracking resource consumption, and identifying blame on the correct component).

    I’ve been griping about this for a while (years?), but nowhere public. In fact, I already use multiple process browser for these issues, albeit by switching by FireFox and Safari regularly. Yes, they are the number two and three icons after the immobile Finder.

    These current state of affairs is so bad it has grown past developer and security/administration issues. It is a user issue.

    Worse, none of the four main browser developers are addressing the issue. Microsoft, Mozilla, Apple, or Opera. The issue has bee ignored as unsolvable (by making invalid assumptions about what a browser is) or too complex for the current momentum.

    And while I strongly agree with (almost) all other “improvements” Google made to the browser, I view them as opportunistic fluff added because some things needed to be designed in the process of starting from (near) scratch. It also acts to differentiate the browser during the initial marketing drive (a comic by a well known artist?).

    I would argue the marketing is and new browser push are short term pokes to require the other four browser developers to respond. If that was not the case, they would not have done this open source (compare to Safari which is also based on the open-source WebKit). I fully expect one of two results: FireFox doesn’t adapt and Chrome _slowly_ becomes the new default open source alternative. Chrome is a considered a success. Or… FireFox and others do respond, also becoming multi-process based (regardless of other changes), and Google drops its marketing move, leaving the system to be a test bed of Google-specific browser technologies. Chrome is considered a failure. Either way, Google gets what it wants. The latter may even be cheaper, as Google gets to wash its hands of browser maintenance.

    Of course, this ignores Android, which needed a browser anyway. I’m actually happy to see both iPhone/Safari and Android/Chrome share a web renderer.

    As for Firefox market share: who cares? Yes, the audience for Google Chrome is the same as FireFox, but why should FireFox have this pedestal status among open source browsers as long as there are open source options (for learning, testing, experimentation, decomposition/recomposition/embedding, and deep level trust and authentication).

    I aplaud Google whole heartedly.

  2. Ian says:

    My take on this new browser was that it forced current browsers to focus on optimization a bit more than they have been. JavaScript, the foundation behind all these online apps that Google is pushing, needed a kick in the butt and Chrome did a good job there. Considering that most users use more than on app at any given time, and considering that Google wants those users to be using their online apps, it makes perfect sense to make each tab a separate process (With its’ own JavaScript engine) since users would not accept all their apps coming to a halt due to one faulty web page.

    If you really want to benchmark Chrome against the other browsers, throw some JavaScript at the browsers and compare that.

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