Daily Archives: September 3, 2008

On the Chrome bandwagon

Well Twitter and the interwebs sparked up with discussion of Google’s new browser, Chrome, late last night (UK time) and I thought I’d add some ill-formed thoughts of my own. Don’t expect reasoned, complete analysis at this point: the morning coffee is sitting beside me unsipped…

First thing to say is that I enjoyed the web comic that leaked out a day before the formal announcement, although I did wonder at some of the logic at the time.

  • Chrome installed very smoothly on Vista. For a beta, it’s remarkably stable and well-featured. It has been no real secret that Google have been at least tinkering with browser technology for a while, but they’ve made a very credible entry to the space by coming along with something so (relatively) complete and solid as a first release.
  • I didn’t quite get the reasoning behind the inversion of current UI paradigms with the tabs along the top of the window. I’ll be interested to see how this looks across the major OS platforms. Phil mentions that it’s probably easier when each tab represents a separate process, and Phani points out that it lets them associate the address bar and tools with a tab rather than the window. I guess I’m more used to a platform-native look-and-feel now.
  • Some of the touches in chome-bad-httpsthe UI are quite nice – sites with insecure SSL certificates appear with a crossed-out line through the https, and in common with Firefox 3 it initially warns with a big red page when the site is not trusted.
  • It seems fast, but I typically browse with a lot of tabs open in Firefox so I could just be “used” to a slower browsing experience brought on by bad habits.
  • On that note, the concept that a “bad tab” won’t kill my browser really, really appeals to me. The design of this feature leaves me wondering whether we are going in another technology loop (processes good, threads bad) but I’m willing to be convinced.
  • I like the idea of the start page with thumbnails of favourite pages. I’ll be the other browsers adopt that soon.
  • I like the idea of “application shortcuts” which can go straight onto the desktop. It makes sense. Lots of applications are webapps now.
  • Flash “just works”. Java does not.
  • On the subject of plugins… I’ve come to depend on a lot of the plugins that I can get for Firefox. Given the heritage of the Chrome development team, and the model that the comic describes for isolating plugins / scoping them to a tab, I assume that it will be possible to extend Chrome… but the user-visible extension points are currently limited (no menu bar, no status bar) so it will be interesting to see how they approach this and what the take-up is likely to be.
  • The developer tools that are built-in are very impressive… nice source viewer, element inspector, and the “task manager” with “stats for nerds” gives an interesting glimpse into the way the browser and task isolation is working.
  • RSS feeds don’t appear to display. I half-expected an RSS link to whisk me off to Google Reader – I have no doubt that all my base WILL belong to Google here. Maybe that’s a “todo” feature.
  • Another technical thought – are images in Chrome rendered with colour profiles? I assume so since it uses WebKit, but I’m not sure.

I’ve been saying to people for a while now that Apple has been worth watching… using WebKit as the basis of Safari, Dashboard widgets for OS X, and the iPhone. With this (re)use of the same techology by Google, I’m intrigued to see where all of this will take the browser. With Google’s brand recognition and reach, this has the potential to be a very disruptive move.

Update: WOAH, major licensing issues. And Mark Cathcart brings some interesting perspectives, too. For now, I’m removing Chrome.

Update: as Mark and Justin note below, the EULA has been fixed. Chrome gets a reprieve and can come back to my system, for experimentation purposes at least.