Unless you have been living under a rock for the past couple of weeks you will have heard of Google’s new web-browser, Chrome. It might even be the most hyped web-browser release ever, but does it live up to the hype? You are about to find out.
The Google Chrome interface seems sleek and fast, the exact opposite of Internet Explorer 7. Chrome only has 6 buttons; compare that to the myriad of buttons in IE7 and Firefox (although the Google toolbar is a culprit in adding buttons). Chrome is easy to navigate even if this was your first encounter with a web-browser you will know your way around.
There are some smart enhancements in the interface compared to the competition. For example Google Chrome will display the websites you have visited frequently as a start page. Another neat thing is that the adress bar also searches, while you type it even gives suggestions.
However, if you like most users migrate from other browsers the most annoying difference is the placement of the different page-tabs. In every other web-browser (Opera, IE, Firefox) tabs are placed below the adress field, in Google Chrome they are above the adress field.
Google Chrome is said to be faster than the competition. In regular web-browsing it is probably close to Firefox, but it is hard to measure and depends on a number of factors (such as computer speed, web-server load, ISP and so on). Google has developed a new java-script engine for the Chrome browser, named V8. This gives a boost when using java-script or AJAX based web applications. Since the industry is moving into cloud computing the extra speed boost is welcome, and it will be even more needed in the future.
When using Firefox or Internet Explorer all web-pages are displayed within the same process. In Google Chrome each tab is its own process. This increase the stability of the web-pages you are visiting. Obviously it is not a big deal if your session of Yahoo Finance or something suddenly crashes, but imagine having a presentation in Google Docs crash or an important data transfer. Multiple processes eat more memory, but with a fairly recent computer you will probably be fine.
Google Chrome comes with Google Gears, which is an API for developers. Among other things Google Gears can provide offline access to data and it also helps syncing web-applications with your desktop. This isn’t a huge deal for users right now, but it might be interesting in the future.
Privacy is a main-concern when browsing the web, so Google created the Incognito mode. It is reached by pressing CTRL+Shift+N or clicking the new page icon selecting “New Incognito Window”. It is important not to confuse the Incognito mode with services that prevents websites from logging your information. What actually happens when you browse incognito is that Chrome does not save the websites you’ve visited or the files you have downloaded.
Chrome isn’t exactly feature rich compared to Firefox or Internet Explorer. There is no way to protect your saved passwords with a master password (as in Firefox), it is impossible to disable scripting or JAVA and there are few add-ons.
It is tough to see what Google Chrome actually brings to the table for users right now. However as a future application platform Chrome is interesting, and from a technology preview even more so. I can’t give any compelling reason to switch from Firefox or IE to Chrome, but if you are interested in where the web will be going in the next couple of years you should take a look at Chrome.