Google Chrome: Steal this browser

Google Chrome: Steal this browser

Summary: Google announced a new web browser today called Chrome. Analysts who wonder if this spells "doom" for Firefox, or if it's an "IE killer" are missing the point.

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TOPICS: Google, Browser
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chrome200.pngGoogle announced a new web browser today called Chrome. Analysts who wonder if this spells "doom" for Firefox, or if it's an "IE killer" are missing the point. Like Gears, Chrome is Google's latest attempt to lead by example, and push the envelope of the web experience.

[ Read: Google bets future on improving Client, Connectivity, and Cloud ]

First of all, Chrome is a new browser but not a new rendering engine. What's the difference? A rendering engine just draws words and graphics to a rectangle on the screen. A web browser is all the stuff around that rectangle including menus, tabs, favorites, searching, and so forth. Rendering engines are hard, quirky, and tedious, so for Chrome Google picked the WebKit engine used by Safari, Adobe AIR, iPhone, and Android instead of writing their own. Web developers will be relieved to know that they don't have to worry about yet another engine to target.

So what is Chrome and why should you care? Chrome puts together a number of new and old ideas for browser usability, stability, and performance under one open source roof. By giving away the code, Google is practically begging other browser makers (including the top two--Microsoft and Mozilla) to take pieces from their browser and incorporate them into their own wares.

contribution.png

As the cute comic book introduction to Chrome says, Google's goal is to "Keep moving the web forward". Like Gears, I expect Chrome to be a platform for experimentation. I don't expect it to gain any significant market share on its own. That's not its goal. However I do hope that others will take Google up on the offer to use some of the ideas it demonstrates.

There are two advances in particular that make Chrome interesting:

  1. Multi-process browsing. Most browsers up to now have run as one process containing multiple threads, but Chrome is a bunch of cooperating processes. Think of threads as people and processes as houses the people can live in. If you put a bunch of people in one house, and one of them gets sick then everybody else in the house might catch it too. But if everybody gets their own house, that's much less likely to happen. One thing operating systems are really good at is keeping processes separated. So the hope is that tabs and windows in Chrome will be unable to affect each other negatively.
  2. First class tabs. Unlike Firefox or IE7, Chrome puts the tabs on top of the browser window above the address bar that shows the page URL. In fact some apps may not need an address bar. Tim Burners Lee always envisioned the URL as something that would be hidden from the user, so I think we'll see more of that. As part of this behavior, you'll be able to drag a tab out of one window and into another. I've been looking forward to that feature for a long time, as I tend to open up so many tabs I can't read their titles any more.

Unless you're a web developer or like living on the bleeding edge, I don't recommend you rush out and download Chrome yourself. The initial version will have plenty of rough edges that will send you running back to your old standbys. But if you want a glimpse of what webtops might look like in a few years, check out Google's Chrome-plated vision.

Topics: Google, Browser

Ed Burnette

About Ed Burnette

Ed Burnette is a software industry veteran with more than 25 years of experience as a programmer, author, and speaker. He has written numerous technical articles and books, most recently "Hello, Android: Introducing Google's Mobile Development Platform" from the Pragmatic Programmers.

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15 comments
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  • Memory Usage not commendable

    Firefox 3 uses lesser memory than Google Chrome. The
    base browser itself uses about 75MB and with 5 tabs
    opened, the total memory usage is around 200MB.
    Firefox with the same number of tabs is less than
    100MB. Makes me wonder how efficient Chrome is.
    saichand
    • I think you missed the point...

      The excessive memory usage is by design. If you read the comic guide that they have posted on the site you
      will see that every tab is technically it's own
      browser... So with every tab you open, you use a lot
      more memory. BUT the garbage collection is superior in
      that when you close the tab ALL of the memory is
      free'd back up.

      RTFM My friend. :)

      Cheers.
      aseitz
      • Great! Give me that browser! I want to consume all my RAM

        browsing sites than in no way should crash the entire browser (google.com?), just because Gmail is a CPU hog.

        I could not ask for more!
        markbn
  • RE: Google Chrome: Steal this browser

    oo
    JGNR
  • RE: Google Chrome: Steal this browser

    Over a year ago I wrote an article (http://allvoipsearch.com/gvoip.html) titled "Will Google Develop a Computer Operating System With VoIP?" It is good to see that our vision is finally maturing. For years I've used Avant Browser, but it still runs on the IE engine. Perhaps Google will present all of us with a nice option.
    timothyblake
  • RE: Google Chrome: Steal this browser

    Regarding dragging a link out of one window and into another (part of "interesting feature 2"), this feature is already in Firefox 3 -- drag any link to the tab bar and it opens in that window (or in a new tab if you drag to an unused portion of the bar.)
    sevenless
  • RE: Google Chrome: Steal this browser

    Chrome will mean different things depending on who/what you are. The one thing it does mean to everyone though is that the Internet is the operating system, and the clouds are moving closer to earh.

    You are Apple;

    This means that if it were not enough of a conflict of interest (Iphone VS Google's Android) to have Google CEO Eric Schmidt sit on your board - It is now. Look for Schmidt to resign sometime in the next six months.

    If you are Microsoft;

    This means that if you ever considered making Internet Explorer open source in the past, now is the time... You can not afford to wait, not even another minute. Expect Microsoft to make Vaporware like noise over the next few months about cloud widgets to give IE closer ties to cloud based initiatives.

    If you are Yahoo;

    you need to buy Mozilla.

    If you are Firefox;

    Keep your friends close, and your enemies closer...yes continue with your Google revenue deal, but learn how to monetize your Browser outside of a paid search deal. Leverage your large user base to form "spin-off" type "power of the crowd" businesses. Note to Firefox, hey you guys ARE a social network...you just haven't figured that out yet.

    If you are Sun;

    Realize that Java is even less relevant every day. First we kicked you out of client side computing because you were a resource hog. Realize that Java will now continue to be less and less relevant on the Server. What a waste of a good company... McNealy must have got hit in the head with one to many hockey pucks.

    If you are a social network;

    "social networks" would follow along with users in the browser. Truth be told, we thought it would be Facebook, or even more likely Firefox that would lead in this initiative. So if you are a social network, you need to know now Chrome is the first step in a series of moves that will make it unnecessary for your peeeps to ever visit your site (directly) again.

    If you are an application developer;

    Life used to be simple, eh? You knew that you should be developing applications for Windows, because that is where the 100's of millions of users were. Fast forward, and now you need to choose what platforms to support, and when. Of course it makes sense to develop for Windows still, but Apple now has a mass of millions of Mac OSx users, and if it a browser based app, write once for Safari, and it should work without much adaptation on the Iphone. There are over a billion cell phones in use world wide, however every phone requires writing to separately (yes even all those different flavors of Java are different phone to phone. Suddenly with Android coming, and a matching desktop browser you need to be here.

    Lastly if you are a consumer;

    There is always a bottleneck somewhere ... Think back 5-10 years ago, before what we now refer to broadband... Dial up was painffulllllyy slow, and when you tried to browse, the bottleneck was in your "last mile" connectivity. Once you got broadband, the lag time in reaching a site was likely in your PC (not enough ram, slow processor, etc). Before either of those issues though it was the software that was not "smart" enough to keep up with the ever faster CPU's being created.

    Look for Chrome to optimize all these new "cloud" based application initiatives like Google Gears, etc. This is just another nail in the coffin for desktop based computing. In 10 years, likely 90%+ of your applications will reside somewhere outside of your home or workplace - but certainly not on your desktop.

    www.twitter.com/A_F
    AndyFinkle
  • RE: Google Chrome: Steal this browser

    Some functionality I haven't found for Chrome yet:
    Roboform, Java (chatrooms)

    I look forward to someone correcting me with how to
    get these. I'd love to test and compare to other
    browsers I'm using now.

    Yes, I'm running Chrome right now to read this story
    and comment on it.
    jcd-zdnet
    • Java for Chrome browser

      Update:
      Java issue is solved. I had to go to
      http://java.sun.com/javase/downloads/ea.jsp (?Early
      Access?) and get the SE6 Update 10 RC version of Java;
      earlier versions of Java (e.g. the current release
      version) don't work with Chrome. Some help is
      available at
      http://www.google.com/support/chrome/bin/topic.py?
      topic=14683
      jcd-zdnet
  • Yup there's a real market out there.

    Not.

    The vast majority of people using the global OS (Windows) have no need for a new browser and most of them don't even know what a browser is.

    Sure the fanbois, hobbyists and OCD sufferers are desperate for another redesigned wheel, but where is the market crying out for another browser - FF is lucky to make 20% usage, while IE still sits around 70%.

    So the same fanatical MS haters will go out and get Google Chrome - essentially cutting into FF's market. Of course, none of these people ever seem to want to pay for software so it's a market MS can well do without.

    Anyway Google is used to failing with its apps before.
    tonymcs1
  • Running under WINE?

    Anyone running this under WINE yet?
    daboochmeister
  • Google Chrome? NEVER!

    How soon we've forgotten that it was GOOGLE who conspired with communist China to spy on and report to the Chinese government on the Internet activities of Chinese citizens!

    So we would embrace this Obaminable behavior with a browser capable of tracing every Internet activity we ever make?

    No amount of "Chrome" will ever "spif-up" this outright anti-freedom voluntary behavior, EVER!

    They can stick their search engine AND Chrome malware right up their Ivy college "Revolution"! That would be spelled "C-H-A-N-G-E" for those from the south side of Chicago...
    RS9
    • I'm sure the Chinese people are most thankful

      for your tender concern, RS9. I don't know where you live, but it may just possibly be the case that even your government is taking an close interest in the internet activities of its citizens. I know that my government here in Sweden certainly does, cf the new FRA law, which gives the military the legal right to inspect all cable traffic crossing Swedish borders. Some, of course, claim that this is really a great advance with regard to our civil rights, as previously the military spied on this traffic despite the fact that doing so was not permitted by law. But of course, the thief who cries ?Stop thief !? does have a better chance of getting away with his or her crime, so by all means let us keep pointing the finger at China, while ignoring what goes on in our own countries....

      Henri
      mhenriday
  • RE: Google Chrome: Steal this browser

    "Tim Burners Lee always envisioned the URL as
    something that would be hidden from the user, so I
    think we???ll see more of that."

    Thanks...I really needed that piece of wisdom...since
    TBL said so. This kind of tripe really keeps me away
    from blogs.

    Sir Tim had a different context in mind...the reality
    is that with all the phishing attacks, address bars
    are an important visual reminder for some readers.

    BTW, am I the only one who's laughing at this hysteria
    over swapping the position of the tabs and the address
    bar in Chrome?
    sma_97
  • RE: Google Chrome: Steal this browser

    I installed it, used it for about 1 hour and removed it urgently.
    I have serious doubts about privacy matters!!!
    watermana