Chrome: Google’s Shiny New Browser

After years of rumor and speculation, Google finally released a web browser. Google Chrome is the company’s attempt to make a web browser that fits the times better than the others.

Since we spend so much time online, we began seriously thinking about what kind of browser could exist if you started from scratch and built on the best elements out there. We realized that the web had evolved from mainly simple text pages to rich, interactive applications and that we needed to completely rethink the browser. What we really needed was not just a browser, but also a modern platform for web pages and applications, and that’s what we set out to build.

Thus Chrome came about. Chrome is a clean and easy to use browser, designed to be clutter-free, and to use less system resources than other browsers. I installed it on a Gateway machine with 1.25GB of RAM and a Pentium D (there’s no Mac or Linux version yet). After clicking the desktop shortcut, the browser opened in less than a second, and used significantly less resources than Firefox 3 when left idle with one tab open.

The interface is very clean and simple. There are no toolbars to speak of, and no menus, save for a couple of icons (that trigger menus) on the line with the URL bar (called the OmniBar). There’s just the line with the icons and OmniBar, and a row of tabs. Here’s a screenshot, though my example page probably wasn’t the best choice, since the top of the page (blaring “Welcome to the all-new CNET!”) blends in with Chrome’s window chrome. (Oh, and that pun was only half intended :D )

Pages are rendered with Apple’s WebKit rendering engine, and JavaScript is processed with Google’s new V8 JavaScript engine; and V8 is fast. V8 is one of the browser’s biggest architectural advantages, making Firefox 3’s speed improvements over Firefox 2 look tiny. If the future truly does lie with web apps, Chrome is ready, and not just in the JavaScript department. Gears support is built-in to the browser, and stability is improved by giving each tab it’s own process, so a flawed page that would crash an ordinary browser will only kill the tab it lies in, leaving your other tabs untouched.

Back to the interface, there are plenty of things worth noting there. The OmniBar is more than just a place to type URLs. It’s also the search box, like Firefox’s mini search box. And when you’re typing a URL into the OmniBar, it doesn’t just autocomplete based off your history, it leverages the Google Suggest system to guess what you want. Type “tw,” and will be suggested to you nearly instantly. You can easily browse via URL, enter search queries, and call-up bookmarks all via the one input field.

Speaking of bookmarks, Chrome has them. Of course, what modern browser wouldn’t? They work in a very similar manner to Firefox 3’s bookmarks. Click a star icon and a box appears where you can edit the name and folder to be stored in (the box even looks like Firefox’s, only it’s blue instead of black). There’s no apparent bookmarks toolbar in Chrome by default, though it exists. When you add a bookark to the toolbar folder, it will start putting the bookmark toolbar on the New Tab Page (more on that later). If that’s not good enough for you, there is an option to dock it under the OmniBar line, like in other browsers.

When you open a new tab, Chrome shows a page quite similar to Opera’s Speed Dial, only not quite. It shows thumbnails of the nine pages you use the most, a few recent bookmarks, recently closed tabs, and a box to search your history. This is also your default home page, though you can change that if you prefer something else.

Chrome is a really good browser, and an interesting concept. It’s not something I’d use everyday though, because I’m a Firefox maniac, and I can’t blog/design/code without the extensions I’m accululated (MeasureThis, ColorZilla, CoLT, Web Developer, for example). I think it could put a big dent in Internet Explorer’s market share if Google struck deals with computer manufacturers to bundle the browser with new PCs.

Chrome is fast, easy to use, and pretty much idiot-proof. It’s open source too.

  • Gobala Krishnan

    Sigh… just when I;m perfectly happy with the new Firefox :)

  • arcanist

    chrome sucks

  • Penny

    PC World released a list of the top 10 Google Chrome Add-ons.