Mozilla, bless its heart, keeps trying to make Firefox relevant again with its speedy update schedule, but it just hasn't been working out. Google, on the other hand, with its new Chrome sweet 16 release keeps getting better than ever.
No, there's nothing new in capital letters in this release. It's still fast, but not as fast as it once was, and it includes a couple of nice, useful improvements. Under the hood, as always, there are several important security improvements.
If you haven't tried Chrome yet, here are the basics. The Chrome Web browser has a minimalist interface. Instead of a tool-bar, the basic interface has a combination address and search bar, the Omnibox, at the top with tabs above that. The handful of visible control buttons consist of Back, Forward, a combined Stop/Reload button, and a preferences wrench icon. That's it.
If you add extensions, they'll appear as icons on the right of the Omnibox. If you like having lots of tool-bars and endless interface tweaking power, Chrome is not for you. If you want a clean, fast Web browser Chrome is for you.
That's not to say you can't add a lot of extra stuff to Chrome. The whole point of a Chromebook, for example, is that you can do pretty much anything you need to do on a computer with just a Web browser and a bunch of cloud-based applications and extensions. To find these with Chrome, head over to the Chrome Web Store.
Chrome 16 does come with two new features that you might like. The first is you can now print any Web page to any Google Cloud Print printer you're allowed to use. Cloud Print is a Google service you can use that enables you to turn any printer into an Internet-connected printer. You control who can print to your Cloud Print-connected printers.
The second, and this one at this point I don't see as being that useful, is you can sync multiple users to one copy of Chrome. So, for example, you can have multiple people via their Gmail accounts, running their own Chrome settings. So, for example, when I log into my Google account on my laptop's copy of Chrome, I get my applications, bookmarks, and settings. When my buddy logs in, she'll get her settings.
So far, so good, but, there's no security between logins. She can see all my settings and I can see hers. You may be OK with that, but I'm not and I can't see it in a work environment where people share PCs. Once they have some rudimentary security between sessions I'll find this feature much more useful. You may find it useful now.
To use this multi-user function, go to the wrench icon, Personal Stuff, and you'll see a new option: Users. Once there, slect the add a new user and your friend or co-worker be up and running in a minute.
Thinking of security, besides the usual array of security fixes that any browser gets with a new release, Chrome now won't let you run any out of date plug-ins unless you explicitly agree to let it run. So, for example, if you try to run an old copy of Flash, you must, on every page, agree to let it run. Considering how many security problems can be laid to the door of browser plug-ins these days, I think this is a good move. I'd like to see other Web browser developers adopt this policy.
When it comes to performance, I ran Chrome against latest releases of Firefox, 8.01, and Internet Explorer, 9.08, on a Gateway DX4710 Windows 7 SP1 test box. This PC is powered by a 2.5-GHz Intel Core 2 Quad processor and has 6GBs of RAM and an Intel GMA (Graphics Media Accelerator) 3100 for graphics. It's hooked to the Internet via a Netgear Gigabit Ethernet switch, which, in turn, is hooked up to a 60Mbps (Megabit per second) cable Internet connection.
What it all means in the final number-crunching is that Chrome 16 is actually slightly slower than Chrome 15. Still, generally speaking it's still faster than the other major Web browsers, experts agree that it's the most secure Web browsers, and its features make it the best of the current Web browsers. Put it all-together and Chrome at its sweet 16th release is still the Web browser to beat.