Google Chrome

Sep 4, 2008

There's an incredibly insightful comic (hat tip to Dustin) on the new Google Chrome web browser. It explains a number of the design decisions that the Chrome team has made, and the ramifications behind them. There are some very interesting ideas in this new web browser:

  • Instead of taking the pure multi-threaded route, Google has instead opted for a multi-process route. According to their explanation, this requires a larger up-front memory quota, but reduces memory fragmentation over time (the cause of the much misunderstood 'memory leak' in Firefox).
  • The user interface is quite clever, with tabs appearing above all of the other browser chrome. This groups the controls more logically, and reinforces the separate processes model (you can drag tabs from one window to another, for example).
  • Chrome's security model is clever, again thanks to the multi-process model.

As can be expected with this kind of thing, the media is buzzing about this new entry into the browser space. Some people are heralding its arrival, while others are brushing it off. There are several problems I foresee with Chrome that I believe will prevent it from becoming the new defacto web browser:

This is the biggest potential flaw with this web browser. According to one report, Chrome is far from accessible. No matter how good Chrome turns out to be from a functionality point-of-view, if it's not accessible, it won't be accepted by major corporations or government entities. Given Google's very poor track record, I don't have high hopes on improvements in this area.
No Add-ons
As far as I know, Chrome does not support add-ons like Firefox. That means no Adblock Plus, CoLT, or Firebug. That's a deal breaker for me.
Security Concerns
Google's security model for Chrome is clever, but as security problems are found, how quickly will they be patched? Google has never been prompt on releases (the last Google Talk update was in 2006), so I'm leery of how readily they will respond.
Stupid Name
Chrome is a ridiculous name. How many millions of other stuff out there has the word 'chrome' in it? It doesn't stand out, and seems a little bland, in my opinion.

I haven't yet downloaded the browser to try it out, but I plan on doing so soon. Have you tried it out? If so, what do you think?



1:39 AM on Sep 4, 2008
Jonah, since Chrome's open source anyways (unlike pretty much all their other products), do you think they intend to push for market share or to even do another release? Something about Chrome (and its "Create application shortcuts...") makes me feel like they just wanted to put out a different JS implementation and shake things up a bit so that their other apps can show better performance, and be more interesting to users who aren't yet interested in moving away from thicker/conventional apps.


1:49 AM on Sep 4, 2008
That's an interesting take, Michael. Google does seem to push ideas more than they do products (given their abysmal release cycles for their various projects). Perhaps they're trying to sow some seeds in the browser community like you say. That would definitely be a good thing. I really like their UI decisions.


3:46 AM on Sep 4, 2008
The whole idea of separate processes is good, and it would make ideal use of modern multi-core CPUs (I'm surprised they didn't even mention that in the comic). I also like the page that discusses private browsing, and then says it's so that you can shop for a gift without leaving a trail. Yeah, that's going to account for about zero percent of the reasons private browsing is used. As for Michael's comments- the last few pages of the comic basically say that they're just trying to push things forward, and that other browser developers can take their code without asking permission, because it is to their benefit that the web is better regardless of who is making the browser. What I'm waiting to see is how many of the familiar keyboard shortcuts are retained. Part of why I liked initially Firefox was that the keyboard shortcuts and locations of menu items was basically copied from IE, so I didn't need to learn anything new. Some simple things--like Ctrl+Enter in the address bar adds "http://www." and ".com" to whatever you've typed, or Alt+D moves focus to the address bar, or Alt+Left and Alt+Right move to next/previous page--aren't there in Safari or Opera and it makes the browsing experience feel much more cumbersome. Also, I hate the way the comic is displayed using JavaScript to load the next image. So the "Next" link takes me to the top of the page and I see the same page I'm already looking at for about a second--long enough to say "wait, didn't I already read this?" before it flashes to the next page. It also means you can't link directly to one page of the comic (and maybe that was the intent). I mean, is it really that hard for Google to host 35 individual pages? If I type much more my comment will be longer than your post. I have a bad habit of doing that. So I'm going to stop typing now. :)


4:05 AM on Sep 4, 2008
I guess I should have just tried it before I commented. All four keyboard shortcuts I mentioned (as well as Ctrl+T for new tab) seem to work. A few immediate things that jump out after four minutes of use: no feed icon in the status bar for subscribing to feeds, page zoom is old-fashioned text resize instead of FF3/IE7/Opera page zoom, the font in the tag cloud on my site is nearly unreadable (no idea what's going on there).

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