Thoughts on Google Chrome

Posted by at 4:45PM

chromelarge.jpg adapted from ICanHasCheezBurger
My good friend Anuraag had some excellent observations about Google Chrome which he shared with me via gChat while I was in jury duty today (don’t get me started). Since I have gotten home and found time to play with Chrome, I wanted to share with you our (combined) opinions on the new browser.
The bottom line: it’s worth your time. Here is some of what I took away from our conversation after revisiting my chat history in GMail, in no particular order.
1) Pro: Chrome is light (memory), fast (speed) and clean (UI).
It is in this way the quintessential Google product (like GMail when it first launched way back in 2004). It was well-engineered, with efficiency and simplicity in mind. Just start it up and you’ll see what I mean.
2) Con: there is very little customization (so far).
With the above-mentioned simplicity comes with what is for an end-user, a lack of sophistication. (Chrome under the hood, might I add, appears to be anything but “simple” as it has a brand-new JavaScript engine and a novel memory allocation system which allows each tab to be treated as an individual process– and let’s you see them in a Chrome task manager). This is only the beta release so I expect much more from future releases. In fact, this is hardly a “con,” since even where there is room to improve, we see the seeds for growth– such as tight Google Gears integration. However, so far as customization goes, the bigger problem is the lack of Firefox-y about:config fun or toolbar personalization. Again, I’m confident that will change in the future but at this point (“launch early and iterate“), that’s a disappointment.
3) Pro: Omnibox, “Speed Dial,” download manager are good.
The Omnibox behaves similarly to Firefox 3’s “Awesome Bar,” looking through your browsing history and bookmarks to suggest as you type; Chrome also does Google search through this bar. The default start page, which looks something like Opera‘s Speed Dial (which you can mimic in the ‘Fox with this add-on) is intelligent, useful and good-looking. The download manager by default is large enough to read descriptions easily on one line.
4) Con: Ugly icon.
chrome1.jpg
Anuraag thought the icon was ugly. I agree. I don’t get what exactly it is…a compass…a robot eye…a stylized Noogler hat with propeller…?
5) Pro (and this is a biggie for me): Chrome is respectful.
Much has been wondered about Google’s distribution for Chrome. Sure, Google doesn’t need to do much to get the blogosphere in a tizzy about its release of any product (let alone a web browser) but some have suggested that Google may use the Google homepage to promote Chrome, or package it with updates to Google Toolbar or some such thing a la Safari and iTunes. I hope not. And the way Google has acted so far with regards to the product has been respectful. When asked to import preferences from other browsers or whether to add desktop shortcuts, Chrome was respectful and made it easy for me to deselect any or all of it. It didn’t step on anyone’s toes to make itself the default browser on my machine, it delicately– even graciously– asked me at each step what I wanted to do with it, and when. Even upon starting up, Chrome asked me if I wanted to leave Google as the default search engine. Search! The one thing you’d think Google can get away with pushing hardest with the least resistance, is search with its 60% market share.
The ultimate question is, of course, how many people will use it. How many people, perhaps not over the next few months, but over the next 2 or 4 or 6 quarters will switch from IE or Safari (or even Firefox) for day-to-day browsing?
Right now, Chrome is Windows-only but Googlers are “actively working” on Mac and (more importantly, at least for me) a Linux version. I’ll expect them soon. There are many arguments that can (and have been) made about Chrome as it pertains to Google’s advertising arm– where I worked this summer— but for a moment, I just wanted to comment on the pure fun of playing around with and getting to know a piece of software which, without a doubt, will become verryyy important to an increasing number of consumers in the near future.

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4 Responses to “Thoughts on Google Chrome”

  1. Kenneth says:

    I downloaded the Chrome beta yesterday and had disappointingly poor performance on a Vista box with 2GB of RAM. Whenever there was a Flash app (YouTube video, game, anything with constant motion) going, the motion would sputter and stop throughout the production, making the videos annoying to watch and the games impossible to play. Anyone have similar problems or find a good workaround?

  2. ilia says:

    everything I was missing from all of my 3 browsers (IE, FF, Opera) and then some.
    Just switch to it and forget it.
    Kenneth: blame Vista, not Chrome.

  3. Matt Miles says:

    I want to say something about the icon of google chrome. everybody is wondering what is it ? I was reading an article on http://www.computersake.com/2008/09/simon-says-and-pokemon-make-google-chrome-logo/ and in there they made a comparison about some other logos. Like Pokemon and Simon Says. Once you look those icons you will see that google chrome’s icon is the mixture of Simon Says and Pokemon logo. I was expecting a unique icon from google chrome.. :(

  4. Kenneth says:

    Tried the latest build of Chrome today, and it works fine now on the same Vista box. Woot.

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