Philipp Lensen of Google Blogoscope shares a comic about Google’s open source web browser called Chrome. TechCrunch has posted leaked screenshots too. I suggest you read all those links as they explain very nicely the many, many features Google Chrome has, then try it out for yourself.
With all the revolutionary new features planned for this web browser, do the rest of the factions of the more-than-a-decade-long Browser Wars stand a chance? Let me run through several points that may or may not convince you that the ‘Wars are over:
Reworking web browser concepts
“Chrome”. Google Chrome is so named because the developers wanted to weed out all the unnecessary interface elements that get in the way of an optimal user experience. Google is pretty good at this—see Gmail.
Omnibox. I’ve complained about this before. We have too many blank bars in our browsers, why not stick to just one? Combining the ambitiousness of Firefox 3’s “AwesomeBar”, search keyword shortcuts, and Google’s mighty search engine, users might not need any other button in the toolbar.
Independent tabs and sandboxing. Chrome runs tabs as separate processes to isolate any unruly behavior, whether it’s a memory leak or malicious code.
Using Google’s assets
Webpage testing. Google will use its large—an understatement—collection of crawled websites to test if their browser is working properly on them. It will prioritize by popularity to be efficient in testing the millions, billions, and trillions of pages, of course.
Search and anti-phishing. I’ve mentioned the Omnibox. Google will incorporate its search into the singular browser bar to make finding websites a breeze. (I think AwesomeBar sounds better though.) And since Google is a pretty good keeper of blacklisted sites, Chrome also detects when a website is potentially harmful.
Google Gears. Another obvious move. Google Gears was created to make web browsing more responsive and efficient by linking together the online and offline, so it’s mandatory for Chrome to incorporate this feature.
Inspired by the best of other worlds
WebKit. WebKit is possibly the fastest and smartest browser rendering engine out there. It powers Safari and several Mac OS X applications, as well as Google Android and now Google Chrome.
Privacy Mode. Microsoft is set to introduce a history-free, cookie-free browsing feature in Internet Explorer 8 called InPrivate (though everyone else calls it “porn mode”). Now Google follows suit with “incognito browsing”.
Speed Dial. Opera has sported this feature since version 9.2.
On to the questions…
Why? My answer? Because they can. Google’s answer? Watch it here. Google is the epitome of a Web 2.0 company, having revolutionized search, then e-mail, then every other activity that can be done online. It rehashed old elements of the Internet, and doing so on a browser feels like a natural extension of their work.
Does Google Chrome comply with Web Standards? Since Chrome is going to run on WebKit, can we trust that we won’t have to debug for yet another browser? Unfortunately, it failed the ACID3 test (which, on the other hand, Safari passed in version 3.2.1).
Will Google end its “search bar relationship” with Firefox and other browsers? Now that Google has its own browser, does it still need to push for the search bar feature in browsers like Firefox, IE, and Safari? Probably not. But most users will still use Google—the search engine—one way or the other. And if you’ve watched the video linked above, Sergey Brin says the general goal is to get people to use “alternative” browsers such as Firefox. (Of course, assuming that Firefox and Chrome remain minor players in the game.)
Is this a milestone in web browser history? Put another way, is this the best thing since tabbed browsing? I can’t really answer a resounding yes. Web browsers must pay attention to detail and reduce bloat—it’s a difficult balance. Google Chrome is a lean browser that contains only a few notable features. We’ll have to wait for a few more releases to see where they’re going with this.
Do you trust Google to browse in its browser? Between a proof-of-concept security flaw discovered hours after the browser’s release and a questionable (but recently modified) license agreement, are you confident in using yet another Google product? This is perhaps the biggest question of all.
Originally posted on September 4, 2008 @ 12:07 pm