Google Chrome Web Browser – First Impressions

I got an e-mail in work first thing about Google’s new web browser…Google Chrome and my first thought was… “Why Why Why???” Why bother… We have Firefox, and we have Internet Explorer… and we have Safari all perfectly good, mature, major-usage web browsers that meet pretty much everybody’s needs already – and we haven’t even begun to mention the plethora (sheer plethora of other browsers out there) – least to say the browser market is already pretty crowded.

As a web developer who knows the difficulties of developing and supporting across multiple browsers with all their different features and nuances… I did not welcome this announcement at all – just another web browser to slow down development and create more expensive system support – thanks Google!

My second thought on this was… this is just Google being completely self-centred… this development is purely to give them much tighter control over the future direction of Google Gears… and from that angle… fair play to them!

Anyway… went to download this on my Suse Linux box… followed the link from Google’s home page and then got sent around in circles across infomation pages with no Download link…. why?… because Google Chrome Beta isn’t available for Linux… but their web site doesn’t tell you that! Logged onto one of my Windows Vista machines and have downloaded and installed there.

So first impressions…

  • Speed – page rendering speed is unbelievable… leaves Microsoft Internet Explorer and even the new speedy Firefox 3 sitting on the starting lines… only comment here is that rendering engine is obviously different enough in places to necessitate substantial additional web developer testing. I logged into my Windows Live / Hotmail account and there were icons displayed on the wrong part of the screen and problems with javascript… all of which currently works OK in both IE and Firefox… not good!
  • Very simple looking interface. Nice! The look and feel is, by and far, the cleanest looking browser I’ve ever seen. Looks really cool with Windows Vista transparency behind the tabs at the top… again…. just nice!
  • Tabbed web pages… nothing particularly new there… although apparently behind the scenes this is much improved over Microsoft Internet Explorer and Firefix – especially around multi-threading and error handling… haven’t been able to test this yet.
  • Dynamic Tabs – nothing blindingly innovative here… this is a clear rip-off of Safari functionality. It would seem that Google are taking a leaf out of Microsoft’s rule of thumb on copying cool features from other products instead of coming up with ideas of your own.
  • Crash Control – idea being that if one application in one tab crashes, then the whole browser doesn’t mess up – all other applications in other tabs keep working OK. Wasn’t able to get anything to crash on an individual tab page so can’t really comment on this one at the minute. Sounds like a cool feature though. Did manage to get the whole browser to crash and shut down completely though… the address bar is really, really screwy!
  • Incognito Mode – essentially private browsing – for times when you want to browse in “stealth mode”. Again a much touted feature of the up-and-coming Internet Explorer 8 this feature has been dubbed “porn mode” for the new generation of browsers.
  • Safe Browsing – Google Chrome warns you if you’re about to visit a suspected unsafe web site. Nothing new or innovative there either – all features that are present in all major browsers.
  • Instant Bookmarks – Where you just click on the star in the Firefox address bar to add a favourite… er I mean Google Chrome Address bar… I’d be very, very surprised if Firefox doesn’t sue over this blatant copyright infringement… again
  • Google Apps – All work blindingly, blindingly fast – with each application opening in a separate tab.
  • Google Gears Support – I tested this with my Google Apps -> Google Docs… works amazingly fast! Amazingly fast! Also was able to get my Application shortcuts added OK to desktop, start menu, quicklaunch bar etc no problems. Very, Very impressed.
  • Extensions Support like those available for Firefox… seemingly non-existent – although I haven’t investigated fully.
  • Comparison to Internet Explorer 8 Beta – think they are going to need to come up with something better. We are really starting to see the Google strategy come together for tight integration between the browser and web-based applications… Microsoft needs to get much much better on its Windows Live Services being integrated together and with their browser moving forward… it would seem that it’s really game on now moving forward with everything to play for – The OS, The Browser, The Applications are all up for grabs…
  • Stability – not bad at all. Noticed a few glitchy little delays as I was typing into the address bar… but nothing I’m going to runaway screaming from.

Was a bit dissappointed with the lack of Linux support so far on this Beta… would have thought Google would have had that in there as a minimum in their ever escalating war against Microsoft.

If Google released a free operating system to go alongside and integrate really tightly with their free browser, and their free applications, and their free Android phone, then Microsoft would have a real problem on their hands.

All in all… still a beta… still a bit glitchy – I wouldn’t be rushing to put my credit card details through it just yet! Not hugely innovative in regards to new features that you can see with the naked eye end-user experience – they’ve really ripped off good features of other browsers which, when brought together like this, make it quite compelling. Is clearly oriented towards the usage of Google’s own applications.

The potential of this browser taking a huge chunk of browser market share from Microsoft… given Google’s notoriety, and extensive deployment channels…absolutely huge!

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2 Responses to Google Chrome Web Browser – First Impressions

  1. Pingback: Aaaargh… The Hidden Cost of Google Chrome « Andy Poots’s Weblog

  2. Dan says:

    My website looks fine in Internet Explorer and Firefox but in the Google Chrome browser my site links on the left of the page are thrown out of line. What is with that? Anyone know?

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