Google Chrome Is Not What You Think

The web design world let out a collective cry yesterday.  To some, it was a squeal of delight.  To others, it was a groan of despair.  At issue was Google’s new brainchild (and latest step towards WORLD DOMINATION), Chrome.  If you have been hiding in a hole since Labor Day, Chrome is Google’s attempt to enter the web browser market by dropping a “lightweight,” WebKit based browser designed to function more efficiently in an increasingly modern web environment (while at the same time trying to drag us kicking and screaming back into the browser wars that defined the late 90s).  They made a bit of a goof in their release cycle, and let the cat out of the bag a bit early the other day (it could have just as easily been planned to stir the pot for the couple days leading up to the Beta release on the 2nd).  Like many things Google related, the idea is quite idealistic, and has a ton of potential.  But just the same, new browsers always pose a number of issues.

First, I can’t count the number of times I heard “Oh great, another browser I have to bug check layouts in,” today.  Luckily, Chrome is using WebKit as its rendering engine.  WebKit, if you aren’t familiar with it, is becoming hugely popular for mobile browsers due to its footprint, efficiency, and accuracy.  It’s also the backbone for Safari and Konquerer, and currently passes Acid2 and aces Acid3 in the latest builds.  So, this is good news for designers, as we shouldn’t be pulling our hair out with display quirks.  “Shouldn’t,” always the operative word.  Secondly, Google (so far) has no intention of unseating Firefox, let alone IE.  Google just extended their sponsorship deal with Firefox until 2011, which will provide the Mozilla folks with better than 80% of their operating dollars.  And IE simply has market penetration on their side.  Since Chrome is open source, I do expect to see a lot of cross pollination of features in upcoming FF releases.  If they don’t, there’s a serious chance it could spell trouble for the future of our favorite flaming dog-cousin.  After playing with Chrome though, you can quickly tell it is not the web browser to end all web browsers.  It’s more of a rebirth, and new beginning, for a web where the web application rules supreme, rather than the web page.

Instead, Google is simply trying to produce an environment that is more conducive to using the web as a sort of ambiguous operating system, rather than a place where we read stuff and watch videos of people hitting each other in the crotch.  The idea is to treat browsing sessions as discrete processes just like how an operating system addressing different programs, so if a poorly crafted Javascript crashes one page you’re viewing, it won’t kill the document you’re writing in Google Apps on another tab.  My big question is, why not throw this effort into Firefox wholesale?  I know they have an interest in WebKit since they are using it for Android, but when I think of multipurpose environments, Firefox kicks all, and a Firefox/Google partnership could easily be as powerful as Google flying solo, if not moreso.  I know people will complain until the end of time about Firefox’s memory management, and I won’t defend it.  But, Google could have taken their multithreaded approach to them to fix that.  To me, Firefox is an IRC client, FTP client, layout debugger, social networking engine, and more.  And all the plugins that make that happen, in all fairness, are what cause a lot of that memory bloat in Firefox 3.  However, the browser itself is good.  Chrome does feel a tad snappier, but not by any degree that would make or break user experience.

What Google is banking on here is a tool that addresses the potential of the Internet as an operating system-like interface.  They want you to use Chrome to interface with all your most important web applications (especially if those start with the name “Google”) where stability and security are important considerations.  But in lacking any kind of plugin interface, they really have made a tool that best serves people hell bent on living in Google Apps.  In that sense, it is very self serving.  Not that that’s bad.  To the contrary, it knows very well what it is and what it’s for, and they did a pretty kick ass job of executing that goal.  Their little comic explains fairly clearly what they were going for with garbage collection and multithreading around pages 6-7.  Those of you familiar with Java will catch on pretty quickly to what they are explaining.

Don’t get me wrong.  I used it, and I rather liked it.  The interface is clean, and collapsing the tabs into the title bar when maximized really tops out the viewable browsing area (why not just do that full time?). The built in Java debugger and task manager are handy for tackling misbehaving tabs/processes.  Javascript runs faster thanks to the multithreaded JVM compiler, V8, which allows Javascript to be ran as compiled code instead of interpreted code (this has been a long time coming).  Incognito mode readily answers IE8′s InPrivacy for you privacy minded folks.  Likewise, it’s also fast to clearly announce when it encounters a mismatched or self-signed SSL certificate.  FF3 does this, but the page can be easily mistaken for a standard error page.  No risk of that in Chrome.

On the other hand, I think they could have built in a nice print preview mode, and using the text-zooming method instead of the cleaner and, in my opinion, far superior page-zooming method was a big whiff on their part.  Also, on the topic of V8, running compiled Javascript code is fast and awesome… when you’re working in applications that constantly run Javascript.  Odds are most pages you visit don’t.  And with respect to garbage collection, consider times when you have 25+ tabs open.  Instead of a pool of memory and resources, each tab is now a defined, idle process, holding on to all its own resources and threads.  Seems a little wasteful and reinforces the “this isn’t really a web browser, per se” argument.

Here’s the bottom line: I don’t plan on looking at Chrome as a web browser.  It is, but it isn’t.  The way it has been developed, the purpose, target, and reason for its being is to serve as an interface portal for increasingly complex and robust web applications.  Chrome, as I mentioned, is a very selfish and self serving application (not that that’s a bad thing!).  It’s made to run Google Apps, Google Video, Google Calendar, GMail, your web apps, and whatever else you want to throw at it where stability, security, and reliability are musts.  They’ll run faster and be more trustworthy than in “traditional” browsers.  If GMail crashes, oh well, everything else is safe, just like in a real operating system environment.

Keep an eye on Google Chrome.  There’s a lot of opportunity here, and a certain gamble taking place in just which direction the web will evolve.  Reserve judgment, because if you’re like me, there’s not quite enough here to beat out Firefox.  Yet.  And even if Google’s gamble pays off, I suspect you’ll see Firefox quickly moving to integrate a lot of Chrome’s smarter features, the main one being multithreaded processing and garbage collection.  There’s no need to start sweating bullets over whether or not web pages will work perfectly in it (though I would test web apps pretty heavily in it).  Plus there’s huge opportunities here if there’s ever Java integration and a plugin architecture added.


Tweet
Share StumbleUpon It! Del.icio.us reddit

Like this post? Be sure you've subscribed to the .eduGuru RSS feed or email to get all the latest news and articles.


browserwars, chrome, firefox, google, ie, v8, webkit

Read Related Posts on .eduGuru:

  1. Getting a Grasp on Google
  2. Tracking outgoing clicks with Google Analytics
  3. Is Google Analytics Installed Properly?

This post was written by:

Michael Fienen

Michael Fienen - who has written 65 posts on .eduGuru

Michael joined Pittsburg State University in Pittsburg, KS (NOT Pennsylvania, they spell it wrong anyway) in 2006 and is currently the Director of Web Marketing.  He is also CTO for the interactive map provider nuCloud. Web development's role in interpersonal communication is a principle focus of his efforts to improve and enhance higher ed web commodities.  He is an active supporter of the dotCMS community, accessibility advocate, freelance consultant, frequent speaker at web events, and general purpose geek who wears many hats.  Read his complete bio.


25 Responses to “Google Chrome Is Not What You Think”

  1. Avatar image
    Mike R. Says:

    I read today that Chrome uses Webkit 3.1, which is vulnerable to several attacks. Apple patched WebKit up to 3.1.2 but Google hasn’t updated as of yet. Info here: https://blogs.zdnet.com/security/?p=1843

    Also, be sure to read the EULA. Just visiting a page gives Google the OK to use that however they want in terms of promotion or other things. More here: https://news.cnet.com/8301-17939_109-10030522-2.html

    Reply

    • Avatar image
      Substance 01 Says:

      It was interesting to browse trough :-) keep up the good work and thanks for sharing. I will be checking regulary now as the stuff here on your site looks to be very helpful. Good myspace stuff.

      Reply

  2. Avatar image
    Andy DeSoto Says:

    Michael, this is one of the best pieces I’ve read on Chrome yet. Excellent analysis and very fair review. Thanks for writing!

    Reply

  3. Avatar image
    Rob S. Says:

    “Incognito mode readily answers IE8’s InPrivacy for you privacy minded folks.”

    From what I’ve read IE8 is more advanced in this regard.

    Google Chrome: “Browsing in incognito mode only keeps Google Chrome from storing information about the websites you’ve visited. The websites you visit may still have records of your visit. Any files saved to your computer will still remain on your computer.” https://www.google.com/support/chrome/bin/answer.py?answer=95464&hl=en

    IE8: “While InPrivate Browsing is active, the following takes place:
    * New cookies are not stored
    o All new cookies become “session” cookies
    o Existing cookies can still be read
    o The new DOM storage feature behaves the same way
    * New history entries will not be recorded
    * New temporary Internet files will be deleted after the Private Browsing window is closed
    * Form data is not stored
    * Passwords are not stored
    * Addresses typed into the address bar are not stored
    * Queries entered into the search box are not stored
    * Visited links will not be stored”
    (Microsoft has even tossed around the idea of blocking tracking pixels.)
    https://blogs.msdn.com/ie/archive/2008/08/25/ie8-and-privacy.aspx

    IE8 also allows one tab to crash without bringing down the whole browser, a feature that exists in Chrome (and hopefully makes it to Firefox and other browsers soon - we’ve all gone through that frustration).

    I definitely applaud the release. Aside from Chrome’s power under the hood (definitely noteworthy), it exposes features already existing in some browsers.

    Opera’s Speed Dial is an incredible feature. Chrome incorporates something similar in new tabs, showing “a visual sampling of your most visited sites, most used search engines, and recently bookmarked pages and closed tabs.” It seems to be dynamic, though, and not something you can set statically.

    There is a Speed Dial add-on for Firefox which offers similar functionality to Opera’s Speed Dial. It’s a great add-on, though the “trick” to make it load quickly (slow loading is a common complaint for the add-on) is to set most/all Speed Dial pages to never refresh (which simply makes the Speed Dial add-on use static images for Web sites, generally good enough).

    Overall I’m excited about Chrome because visible and under-the-hood features tend to get shared between browsers. The no extension/add-ons is a dealbreaker for me, but I could see recommending Chrome to some friends and family members who would benefit from the streamlined GUI.

    Reply

  4. Avatar image
    Jim Gaudet Says:

    Excellent article. The very first reason I used Google as my search engine was for speed. And I think I will use Chrome for the same reason.

    Reply

  5. Avatar image
    media kingdom Says:

    despite the rumors, i’m finding Chrome’s speed to be inconsistent; it seems to alternate between going lightning fast and then hanging for no apparent reason…

    Reply

  6. Avatar image
    Jim Gaudet Says:

    I agree. I am having the same issue. But, on a different computer I restarted after the install and it is working better. Going to try on this machine and see if it is better.

    Reply

  7. Avatar image
    Michael Fienen (author) Says:

    @1 - I just had a discussion with someone about the EULA of Chrome, and I’ll pass on the same thing I said there. This kind of stuff is normal wording, in cases where content will be reused, even in very basic ways like making a thumbnail of an image. If you look, it’s actually taken directly from Google’s TOS (part 11.1), possibly just as a generic place holder until a more permanent, Chrome specific EULA can be written closer to a non-Beta launch.

    This kind of language is actually very common, and if you recall, everyone from MySpace, to Flickr, to DeviantArt, and others have come under fire for the same thing. So far, none of them have done anything to particularly shake my confidence, but I’ll lay down dollars to dimes the Chrome EULA is rewritten long before it comes out of beta (assuming it ever does, the way Google loves beta phases).

    Reply

  8. Avatar image
    Eric Hobart Says:

    Chrome accessibility?:
    https://www.paciellogroup.com/blog/?p=92

    link courtesy of Laura Calrson’s excellent Web Design Update email newsletter:

    https://www.d.umn.edu/goto/webdevlist

    Reply

  9. Avatar image
    Jason Rinne Says:

    “Favorite flaming dog-cousin”
    Classic.

    Reply

  10. Avatar image
    Rob S. Says:

    @Michael, it is a pretty standard EULA. And they amended it after public outcry.

    But what should we make of this?

    From cnet:

    “The auto-suggest feature of Google’s new Chrome browser does more than just help users get where they are going. It will also give Google a wealth of information on what people are doing on the Internet besides searching.

    Provided that users leave Chrome’s auto-suggest feature on and have Google as their default search provider, Google will have access to any keystrokes that are typed into the browser’s Omnibox, even before a user hits enter.

    What’s more, Google has every intention of retaining some of that data even after it provides the promised suggestions. A Google representative told CNET News that the company plans to store about 2 percent of that data-and plans to store it along with the Internet Protocol address of the computer that typed it.

    In theory, that means that if one were to type the address of a site-even if they decide not to hit enter-they could leave incriminating evidence on Google’s servers.”

    https://news.cnet.com/8301-13860_3-10031661-56.html

    You could simply be typing in a url and not doing a search, and they might still be recording it. To me that is even more creepy than the part about “even before a user hits enter.”

    (And, yes, I am aware that Web sites record referring URLs, that my ISP/employer can record my surfing habits, etc. But that is less creepy to me than Google’s servers associating a huge range of information with my IP address. Internet does not equal privacy, obviously, but there are degrees of privacy.)

    I’d be more inclined to use Chrome if a place like M.I.T. or University of Illinois took the code, which is open source, removed the tracking features, and re-released the browser. (And given the financial ties between Google and Mozilla, I intentionally didn’t mention Mozilla as the repackager.)

    Reply

  11. Avatar image
    Lenovo Coupons Says:

    I design for the web for a living and I’m concerned about this as well. I really do not need to write another conditional comment for ie6, 7 and now CHROME.

    I have been using it for a week now and seems to be pretty standard when rendering web pages.

    The first thing that I have done with Chrome is to look over all previous web site to make sure they render properly.

    Chrome so far so good… :-)

    Reply

  12. Avatar image
    Michael Fienen (author) Says:

    Just wanted to point out that Google updated the TOS yesterday, just as predicted: https://googleblog.blogspot.com/2008/09/update-to-google-chromes-terms-of.html

    Reply

  13. Avatar image
    Eric Says:

    Google chrome is a decent browser for just a beta, and although it isn’t up to par with the other more prominant browsers, it has a long way to go. However, at the moment it really isn’t all that great.

    Speaking of which here is a review of google chrome with firefox 3.

    Google Chrome vs Firefox 3

    Reply

  14. Avatar image
    Eric Says:

    Disregard the link in my last comment this is the correct link to the article.

    Google Chrome vs Firefox 3

    Reply

  15. Avatar image
    incognito Says:

    To Rob S, I did some study with a forensics expert on Incognito mode and he was fairly impressed that nothing seems to get written to disk.

    Reply

  16. Avatar image
    Alvina Says:

    Despite the rumors, i’m finding Chrome’s speed to be inconsistent; it seems to alternate between going lightning fast and then hanging for no apparent reason…

    Reply

  17. Avatar image
    incognito mode Says:

    alvina, i too have noticed similar behavior on my vista machine. but that machine behaves similarly in IE too with sluggish performance so i think i need to rebuild it. on two other XP machines it works just perfect.

    Reply

  18. Avatar image
    Dom Says:

    Thanks for sharing.
    I believe that although at the moment google chrome is a little glitchy and does not have too many features, with a little time to develope it may compete with or maybe even pass firefox to become the number 1 web browser.

    Reply

  19. Avatar image
    Vuze Says:

    Thanks for the post, google chrome is getting better every day, however it is still not up to par with the other major browsers.

    Reply

  20. Avatar image
    The Agra Indian Says:

    I have installed it on my computer but unfortunately I had to uninstall it because it was asking plug in for every thing. I thing there is no better browser the Internet Explorer.

    Reply

  21. Avatar image
    Walters Says:

    Hi! Michael I agree with you because when you click through on a search result on Live Search, Yahoo, Google, Amazon, Wikia, etc., the Web site you click through gets recorded on their servers by using the Google Chrome.

    Reply

  22. Avatar image
    Ruri Says:

    Many people use Chrome because of brand. The feature itself still cannot beat Firefox. However, I got your point when say ‘Chrome made for Google apps’. It look similar like Microsoft strategy to Monopolize the market.

    Reply

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Getting My Guru On » Blog Post » SuperSatellite says:

    [...] Google Chrome Is Not What You Think The web design world let out a collective cry yesterday.  To some, it was a squeal of delight.  To others, it was a groan of despair.  At issue was Google’s new brainchild (and latest step towards WORLD DOMINATION), Chrome.  If you have been hiding in a hole since Labor Day, Chrome is Google’s attempt to enter the web browser market by dropping a “lightweight,” WebKit based browser designed to function more efficiently in an increasingly modern web environment (while at the same time trying to drag us kicking and screaming back into the browser wars that defined the late 90s).  They made a bit of a goof in their release cycle, and let the cat out of the bag a bit early the other day (it could have just as easily been planned to stir the pot for the couple days leading up to the Beta release on the 2nd).  Like many things Google related, the idea is quite idealistic, and has a ton of potential.  But just the same, new browsers always pose a number of issues. [...]

  2. [...] already created about this browser, but I’ll try and keep it short.  I would definitely read Michael Fienen’s post he wrote on this blog earlier in the week if you haven’t already.  He nailed it especially with this [...]

Leave a Reply

Spam protection by WP Captcha-Free