Don’t let the cutesy comic about Google’s browser, Chrome, lull you into feeling all warm and fuzzy. This is not that old little company of Sergey and Larry we are talking about now. Google is now a multi-billion dollar mothership which rules the search and internet advertising markets, and is aggressive in a pile of others.
The question to ask is, does this mean world domination is around the corner!
Okay, let me wind it down a bit. Surely not that. But dominating Internet Explorer with its myriad security problems, and the current favorite Mozilla Firefox 3 – of course. That is the intention.
There are those who say that this was Google backstabbing Firefox. Nope. The Google browser was rumored about for a couple of years or more, nothing surprising here – and I am sure Mozilla expected it at some point.
Tech commentators all over say that this is the time to wait and watch, and till we see the Chrome Beta and get an idea of how the market takes to it, there is no point in getting our Firefox brand panties in a knot. Sure, sure.
Quickly let’s bring the Chrome virgins up to date here. Those who know all about Chrome, skip all the way down.
After its foray into the world of mobile phones with the Android, Google has now shifted its sights to web browsers.Rumors were flying for a couple of years, and just when we thought that’s all it was – just a rumor -Google sent out a comic book to the Blogoscoped blog about its new open source browser project, “Chrome”.
According to the 38-page comic with sketches by Scott McCloud, Google has started from scratch, using nothing other than an existing web rendering engine called Webkit. It says that all the browsers in existence today were made back in the time when the internet was an innocent, safe and uncomplicated place, without any evil websites. So whatever the changes and improvements, and whichever the new browsers, they have made to them, these browsers still apparently have some fundamental flaws in them. Chrome aims to get rid of these flaws by starting from scratch.
Some of the key features of Chrome are
A tab will be the smallest unit of the application. Each tab will be an independent, restricted process, which runs by itself and also crashes by itself in case it does crash. This also reduces memory fragmentation, and leads to much better use of memory resources. The tab list will take the place of the traditional title bar of the window.
An address bar named “Omnibox” which will functions a bit likes Windows Vista’s search box in the start menu. This means that it will find out any info relevant to whatever you are typing in, and show it below. So if you visited, say, a great website on amateur astronomy yesterday, you only have to type in amateur astronomy in the omnibox and you will instantly get the site listed below the box. Additionally, the omnibox lets you search a website of which it captured the search box; So you can type “ebay”, press Tab, and then type in the keywords you want to search on Ebay.
A homepage with 9 thumbnails, a bit like the “Speed Dial” in Opera. The only difference here being that these thumbnails will consist of the sites you visit most frequently, so that you don’t have to type in the address every time.
A task manager, which shows which sites/plugins are consuming most memory and resources. This will help you determine which sites to close if things start to slow down.
Each tab will have restricted rights. Scripts running in a tab will be running in a sandbox. Then will have very limited access to resources and virtually no write access to files on the disk.
An “incognito”/privacy mode for browsing all that NSFW sites/pr0n or for something more innocent, like keeping a surprise gift a secret. No history, cache or cookies gets saved in this mode.
Downloads will be shown in the task bar. Google has apparently been inspired by the success of the Download Status Bar extension for Firefox.
You can also run web apps like GMail and Google Calendar in separate windows without any address bars, and even create shortcuts to them to put on the Desktop or the Start Menu.
More phishing and malware resistance. Chrome will keep a list of blacklisted sites which will be constantly updated by Google.
Now, the big question, is Chrome going to be a threat to IE and Firefox?
Google’s current audience
Google has a large audience, and even small incentives like “Faster Gmail” or “Faster access to Youtube” can fetch a lot of downloads from loyal users. If Google can deliver on its promise, make it a lean and mean browsing machine, easy to use, crash-free, reliable and secure product, they will have something that can take the battle to Firefox and Internet Explorer for sure.
Google’s existing web search, GMail, Google Reader and Blogger audience will be the first ones who will see a lot of the Chrome, and are most likely to adopt it too.
Chrome vs Internet Explorer
Internet Explorer still has the largest market share, and will be the final target, of course. But the desktop for new computers is Microsoft territory, and they will continue to enjoy the default browser status for some time to come. The upcoming Internet Explorer 8 is not pathbreaking the way Chrome is, and nerds who already love Firefox would gravitate towards Chrome.
Chrome vs Mozilla Firefox
As Google trains its sights on Internet Explorer, the first shots are likely to hit Mozilla Firefox where it hurts.
Some of the big complaints about Firefox has been its tendency to crash, and sucking up obscene amounts of memory. If Chrome fares better than Firefox in that department, Mozilla better have a response handy.
Google has invested a lot in the Mozilla Foundation, and has said that it will keep supporting them. As we know, the default start page for Firefox is Google. But Chrome will be separate, and so far there is no indication from Google how long they will continue their support for Mozilla and Firefox.
Just the fact that they didn’t attempt to just plaster a Google logo on Firefox and release it, shows that they are serious about the Chrome project.
Is there a silver lining somewhere there for Firefox?
Well, Google would like it if Mozilla adopts the best features – whatever their browser architecture allows – into Firefox. After all, Chrome is open-source and so is Firefox. What would be interesting to see will be ther next version of Firefox.
Microsoft Internet Explorer and Google Chrome
Microsoft has made it clear that Chrome can’t do much. Nobody believes them. Internet Explorer 8 is not a paradigm shifting browser like the Chrome
Is Chrome more than a browser?
It is. The browser wars are really OS-wars – Microsoft’s vision of a desktop-centric OS with applications, and Google’s vision of a web OS. The Chrome with its innovative architecture and approach (especially with processes) can be a precursor to a full-blown Web OS which it will slowly grow up into.
How bug-free will Chrome be on day One?
Google promises to make sure Chrome will work properly with the most popular sites on the web. Of course massive testing would be underway, and it should work as well as a Firefox Beta, I guess. Initial tests of the Chrome are being done at a feverish pace by thousands, and we will know in a few weeks’ time where everyone stands.