So Google is going where angels fear to tread, and has released a browser of their own: Chrome. This is a very interesting move; I can think of a few reasons why Google might think a custom browser might be a good idea:
- although everyone thinks of Google as a search engine they are really in the cryto-marketing field. Firefox plugins that remove ads must be a worrying development for them.
- anything that helps people view more web pages is a win for Google, since more pages viewed equals more ad impressions.
- having their own browser gets them a seat at the table when new web-standards are being created.
- Google has a vested interest in promoting internet commerce, releasing a secure browser with safety features built in supports that goal.
- most browsers have a search box that redirects to Google or another search engine. Chrome has a search/location bar that only redirects to Google - AdWords ahoy!
- perhaps even sneakier, the search bar widget uses Google Suggest, so it is sending back information to Google as you type. I am sure Google can think of useful things to do with this information.
- the search/location widget is a very interesting idea in its own right, effectively minimising the utility of domain names (which can be spoofed or camped.) Expect to see lawsuits fly when people work that their expensive .com domain name is not worth as much as they thought if this idea catches on.
I used Chrome for a couple of hours today at work (luckily I am in a line of work were this is not considered goofing off.) The interface is very clean and slick, even better than Safari. Having the location bar as part of the tab rather than above it make a lot of sense, and Chrome does it much better than IE, which I have always found visually confusing. I also like the way that Chrome uses the window title bar when full screen, giving you an extra few pixels of vertical height.
Chrome uses the infamous WebKit HTML layout engine, as seen in Safari and various Linux browsers. It is very fast at complex pages and supports all the fancy -webkit extensions to CSS. Sadly it does not include the excellent graphics renderer that comes with Safari, so fonts and images still look jaggy. Also, no support for @font-face - come on!
The network code seems pretty tight. Browsing through proxies worked well (a lot better than Safari) although it never seemed to do automatic NTLM authentication like IE.
There are a few omissions. Weirdly, Java applets do not seem to be supported. I am not sure if that is deliberate, or just something they haven't gotten around to yet. No Mac version as yet, although it is apparently on the way.
Finally I must observe that commissioning a comic book for announce a product launch is one of the weirdly cool things I have ever seen.