September 22, 2008


Let the browser wars begin, again! That's the message that came out of Google last week when they launched a new Google browser, called Chrome.

The name Chrome (in recognition of the chrome borders that adorn a standard browser window) is somewhat ironic, given that the emphasis of Chrome is to get out of the way of the user. It's minimalist interface (there's no top menu, status bar, search box or bookmark window) means that users see more of the web, and less of the application.

Chrome is based on the WebKit rendering engine that powers Apple's Safari browser which means it loads pages quickly, very quickly. Google also added a new Javascript engine called V8 which processes code (the programming language behind many web 2.0 sites) 10 times faster than Firefox and Safari, and a staggering fifty-six times faster that Microsoft's Internet Explorer 7.

Tabs play a big part in Chrome - but unlike other browsers, each tab that you open in Chrome runs as a separate process meaning that if one tab stalls your others remain open and active.

Navigation has also been revamped in Chrome. Common elements like the back and forward buttons remain, but Chrome does away with a standard address bar, for something Google are calling the Omnibox, a combination search and address box that you use to access bookmarks, search engines and websites. It's similar to the smart location bar found in Firefox 3.
I've been testing Chrome since its release and have been very impressed. It's the fastest browser I've used, especially with web-applications like Google Docs, Gmail and sites rich with Javascript. For a first release it's stable too.

However, Chrome comes with some early caveats. Firstly, Mac and Linux users are left in the dark for the moment . Google won't be pinned down on a launch date, but expect them by the end of the year. Those who like plug-ins and extensions will also be disappointed by their exclusion, however Google promise to remedy this in the short term too. Other issues like a rudimentary spellchecker and only basic bookmark management may disappoint.

Chrome's introduction means that all browser developers, including Apple Microsoft and Mozilla will need to step up their effort and improve their offerings. And with more focus on performance, next generation web-based applications will run better, faster and more securely. Whether you like Chrome or not, it's great for the industry.

visit >