At about 12:45 pm on Tuesday, Google released its own web browser: Chrome. You may have seen a link to information about it on Google’s home page. In one day, the Windows-XP-and-Vista-only browser commanded 1% of browser market share (compared to 70% for Internet Explorer and 22% for Firefox), according to StatCounter (http://blog.statcounter.com/2008/09/chrome-grabs-1-in-one-day/), a web stats app that I use on a few of my websites. Here’s a rundown of the features that make it cool:

  • Wicked-fast browsing due to a new, Google-powered JavaScript renderer (most sites use some JavaScript) and being based on Webkit, the same engine that Apple’s Safari uses
  • Stability due to each tab and plugin (like Flash or QuickTime) being in its own separate process; so if one badly-coded or malicious website crashes, the only thing that dies is that particular tab. You can even specifically kill tabs and plugins through the browser’s own task manager.
  • The Omnibar: like Firefox’s “Awesome Bar”, it searches your history for websites as you type, based on both the web address and the title of the page. Unlike Firefox, it indexes search boxes from websites you visit so that if you go to Amazon.com and search for a product, when you search for another product later, the option to search from Amazon comes up.
  • Bookmarks that are really easy to use: click the star to the left of the Onmibar and there you are.
  • New tab behavior: when you open one, your bookmarks, other most-viewed websites and other such information is right there, a much better use of space than, say, a blank tab.
  • The ability to save a website to the desktop so that, when you open it, the site shows up as a regular application, devoid of all the vestiges of a typical web browser.

This last feature is important for Google, who will be porting Chrome to both Linux and the Mac OS in the near future, because Google’s forte is web pages of all sorts and web apps. I’m typing this blog entry in Google Docs right now. If they can make the apparatus to get to those apps minimal and, through their Google Gears system that’s included in Chrome, and available for other browsers, make their web apps available offline, you have contention with Microsoft right there. Google believes cloud computing is the future, they’re betting their whole, ad-supported, business model on it, and Chrome is the natural manifestation of it.

Personally, I can’t wait until other-platform versions of Chrome come out, so don’t have to run the world’s newest, most awesome web browser in VMWare on my Mac.

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