01.Google Chrome review
Please note: this information was current as of October 2008 but is still a useful guide to today's market.
The latest addition to the Google empire is Google Chrome, which pits the goliath of web searching against the goliath of web browsing — Microsoft’s Windows Internet Explorer (IE) 8, which at time of writing was itself also in beta (public test) version.
Do we need another web browser, especially when we have not only IE but also Firefox, Safari, Opera and others to choose from? The people at Google believe we do, and have tried to make Chrome a ‘best of’ browser by borrowing the hottest features of other browsers and building in some unique ideas of their own. Their aim was to make Chrome fast, safe and simple to use.
All of which is explained in Google’s funky online comic book released to explain all about the new browser. Go to www.google.com/chrome and click on ‘Learn about Google Chrome’. What they don’t point out is that since all Google’s other programs run in a web browser, it makes sense for Google to make the browser as well, to provide a total web solution.
Having its own browser also gives Google the foothold it needs to strengthen its position against the dominance of Microsoft’s IE and Office suite. IE has around three-quarters of the web browser market and Office is even more dominant in desktop productivity software, with over 90% market share. Its Office Live Workspace online service unveiled last year points the way to the future of Office on the web.
Google’s not taking on Microsoft in big business though, for now at least, it’s just looking to get its browser into the hands of personal users.
Google has given Chrome a stripped-down look and feel, with an emphasis on speed and stability. New features it brings to browsing include better handling of multiple tasks. Closing a tab immediately frees up memory for other uses, and if one tab ‘crashes’ it shouldn’t crash the whole browser.
Also, the address bar now doubles as a search box for simplicity and ease of use (Google calls it the Omnibox), and you can create desktop icons for Web-only programs such as Google Calendar or Gmail.
Rather than ‘reinvent the wheel’ Chrome includes parts of other Open Source projects including Mozilla’s Firefox and Apple’s Webkit technology (used in Safari). But Google is sharing Chrome’s code as well, so others can incorporate its features in their own browsers.
Chrome has webpage thumbnail previews of recently visited pages similar to Opera’s speed-dial feature, but lacks Opera’s best-in-category print features. It also lacks a management system for bookmarks. Chrome also misses out on one of Firefox’s biggest advantages — plug-ins called ‘extensions’ which give it extra features. No doubt they’re on Google’s to-do list.
One feature sure to be popular is Chrome’s stealth mode, called ‘Incognito ’. This enhanced privacy mode opens up a special browser window, which can hold multiple tabs, and lets you surf the net without leaving a trace. Cookies, passwords and browsing history are not saved to your computer. This is similar to Safari’s ‘private browsing’ feature and IE 8’s ‘InPrivate’ feature.
Chrome is currently only available for Windows, but Google is working on Mac OS X and Linux versions also.
Google Chrome (beta) profile
Website: www.google.com/chrome (Click ‘Download Google Chrome’ to begin)
- Simple, uncluttered design.
- Excellent speed and stability.
- Independent tabs improve stability.
- Address bar includes search capability.
- PC-only. No Mac or Linux version yet.
- Lacks standard features such as print preview and bookmark management.
- No plug-in support for extra features.
Google has taken the best of other browsers, then added a few features of its own. It’s a very promising start and with the Google internet behemoth behind it, Chrome could be a strong challenger for the web browser crown of Internet Explorer, at least for personal users.
But remember that it’s still early days and the software is a beta version. Some web pages and effects may not work properly and Chrome may have as yet unknown flaws. Use it with caution for now, but expect improvements to come thick and fast.