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Colin Devroe

Reverse Engineer. Blogger.

Dipped in Chrome

September 4, 2008

Google’s Chrome, the new Web browser by Google, has been getting a lot of attention because of its simple approach to browsing the Web.  But there is more here than meets the eye. It is all about the approach.

The new application has its flaws, for sure, but what it gets wrong it makes up for in what it gets right.  Google has long been an advocate of speed.  “Speed is a feature.”  Many other browser manufacturers, namely Apple, Microsoft, and Mozilla, have continuously strived to push the needle on speed, faster page loading time, and overall memory usage of their software products. They’ve done this while also trying to jam more features into the browser.  What they’ve ultimately failed to do though, is what Google succeeded at; removing the application from the application.

Google’s approach here is interesting.  This is the first real step towards making the Web the application, and the browser just the “thing” that loads it into view.  Over on Daring Fireball John Gruber quoted this bit, which I find really interesting:

“In the long term, we think of Chromium as a tabbed window manager or shell for the web rather than a browser application. We avoid putting things into our UI in the same way you would hope that Apple and Microsoft would avoid putting things into the standard window frames of applications on their operating systems.”

You know how the iPhone or iPod touch loads web applications with nearly no UI unless you scroll up?  That is sort of the approach that Google Chrome is taking.  Just render the page in an insanely fast and stable way – that is the goal.

Is Google Chrome a “Single Site Browser” the way the next version of Safari is going to be or the way that Fluid already is?  Sort of.  In the “Page control” menu (not sure I like that name either) there is an option to “Create application short cuts”.  You can install these shortcuts on your Desktop, Start Menu, and Quick Launch bar.  Personally I think it would have been neat if they automatically asked to setup Gmail, Google Reader, Calendar, etc. when I installed – but everyone knows that they would have caught some serious heat for that if they did.  For those of us liking the SSB experience, Google Chrome works.

It is tough to say what Google Chrome “gets wrong”.  I’ve seen reports of various rendering problems, but I don’t think that is something Chrome got wrong.  That is fairly easily fixed in the next version so long as they iron out their use of Webkit.

To sum up; the approach Google is taking here is refreshing.  Clean, simple, and fast. A feature for feature comparison of Google Chrome against any browser would not be a fair way to gauge its affect on the marketplace.  Time will tell.

Now, when they release a Macintosh version, then I’ll really kick the tires.