Tuesday, 2 September 2008

Google Crome Goes Beta

Google Launched Chrome, their new browser in a slightly unusual way this morning (02 Sept 08), sending a cartoon strip (drawn by Scott McCloud) to google based blog site blogoscoped. They later said that this was an error and that the comic should not have been sent out prior to the launch. The 38 page comic explained how browsing the internet was changing, the technology behind their new browser, why they had built it from scratch and what it meant to the user. This was not only a very creative approach to explaining very complex technology, but a very effective one.

The Beta which is available for download now, is limited to the pc platform at this time (mac and linux versions promised to follow shortly).The Beta launched in 100 counties simultaneously, and is available to all users, rather than being invite only or users having to sign up to a waiting list.

Google's website states 'Chrome is a browser that combines a minimal design with sophisticated technology to make the web faster, safer, and easier' .

Sundar Pinchai, VP Product Management, and Linus Upson, Engineering Director say on their blog "all of us at Google spend much of our time working inside a browser. We search, chat, email and collaborate in a browser. And in our spare time, we shop, bank, read news and keep in touch with friends - all using a browser. Because we spend so much time online, we began seriously thinking about what kind of browser could exist if we 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."

Many google watchers have been speculating that google would introducing a browser for some time, building on their knowledge of the search engine industry and web aps. Initial response to the release has been good, with many key bloggers and technologists giving it great reviews already. My experience has been that the beta seems to be not only stable, but very fast.

Some of the key features are; the One box for everything, essentially the search bar and address bar have been combined so you can enter a url or a search term into the same box. They have managed to make this simple and intuitive, in a very elegant way, using colour and shade, so that while the whole url is displayed the root part of the url stands out, so you know exactly where you are.

Crash control, these days tabbed browsing is pretty much the norm, but the more tabs you have open the more chance that one tab will freeze, and usually when that happens the whole browser freezes, but chrome operates each process in its own memory, and offers a task manager like control over these processes.

Incognito Mode, sometimes you may not want to have your browsing saved in the browser history, or to have store cookies stored (for example if you have a family computer and want to purchase a surprise gift for your wife online without her knowing) but you may not want to delete your whole history or all your cookies. Incognito mode allows you to easily switch between privacy levels.

Open source, the code for chrome is available to developers, so they can write their own plug-ins and add-on, increasing the functionality of the platform.

So i guess the big question is will i be switching to chrome? While i would love to answer that with a simple yes, i'm going to have to answer with "its complicated!". For a start i do some of my work on a mac, so i can switch quite yet, also by favourite plug in's are not yet available for chrome, and it doesn't have the functionality of flock for social networking, or run some of the new microsoft products like live mesh or photosynth. So while i'll certainly be doing some of my browsing (especially when doing research online) i won't be using it for everything just yet!