All hail Google Chrome?
All hail Google Chrome! Another venture from the megalopolis that is Google Corp.
Google Chrome is a new browser from Google. It has long been rumoured that they were getting closer to the browser space with each new service they offered, particularly with their alliance with Firefox. The thinking was that they'd re-badge Firefox, not bring out their own! But even Google didn't expect to launch it so soon, as the release is actually earlier than they had wanted due to a ***-up in an email by one of their senior staff.
I worry about this browser release. I see it as another way to add to their increasingly threatening hold on the corporate desktop with their below standard, half-functional and eternally-in-beta product line-up published direct from below an as yet to be discovered volcano at Mountain View. Okay, maybe I'm a little too cynical.
I have a number of issues with this browser.
Privacy is key for me, and while they may have a mantra "do no evil", that's not to say no evil is done. While they may or may not be tracking my search behaviour "to optimise and improve" my results (thanks, but I do know how to use Google operators myself to refine my searches), I am not confident that they won't be recording everything I do in their browser and aligning that with my Google Mail, my Google Search and my Google Docs to send me Google Adverts. My colleague quite rightly said that if it was open source, then such data "leaks" would be spotted by the community. But how "open source" is anything Google do? Certainly not their search engine algorithms, search appliances, etc. Android was billed as open source, but it turns out it has proprietary elements which will remain closed.
Chrome also adds to the browser fragmentation which I thought we were getting on top of. If the various browsers didn't quite agree on things, at least the number of hacks and tweaks required for consistent operation across browsers is significantly reduced from those Netscape/IE 4 and 5 days. The key browsers today are Microsoft's Internet Explorer, Mozilla's Firefox and Apple's Safari. Opera, Konquerer and a few others nibble at the edges but even Opera only accounts for less than 1% of browser users on any of the sites I manage. (Opera is very good on mobile phones, though) The top three browsers all sort of agree on things, though there is a lot of improvements that could be made to all three to bring them closer to web standards compliance. IE is probably beyond help as it is coded to deal with poorly written pages, so has now cornered itself to some extent for a good while to come. Firefox, by common consensus, is the closest of all three to web standards. Safari uses WebKit, which Chrome has also started to use. Is there any undertaking to leave the WebKit "as is" without tweaking for their own corporate behaviour, maybe to tweak how their applications work to the further cost of web standards compliance?
Firefox is getting too large, too corporate and too centralised to be truly open source, and is losing open source fans and followers due to their increasingly centrist and controlling attitude. Regular readers will know I'm no fan of open source in a commercial environment, where accountability and contracts are important when developing a reliable and maintainable platform from which to do business. Firefox, however, is a good example of where open source has succeeded. If Google's Chrome is going to be open source, don't they fall in to the same trap as Firefox finds itself with the increasingly centrist Mozilla Foundation?
Will Google respect XHTML in their browser (and finally in their code?) They certainly don't in most of their on-line "applications". On their home page at www.google.com, they still use the <FONT> tag. Companies of any self-respecting web presence have now at least started deprecating their use of these tags in favour of the XHTML standard - it being more accessible and search-engine friendly. If they would have kept their horrid HTML3/4 markup on their own sites it would be okay, but they do insist on pushing it to respectable web sites via their IFRAME Google Ads. Hopefully, the "community" will encourage them to clean up their act.
What I do like about it is that it will partition its tabs from each other. This is ideal for me, because as a web developer, I often end up with multiple IE windows open, with their own set of tabs and sometimes a Firefox or two open. As I run fairly demanding web applications through them (Google Mail, Facebook, Sitecore), they do tend to freeze or crash - which in the supposed on-line world where all my work is in the "cloud", is intensely annoying - as I would lose any work I have been doing in those browsers when I have to forcibly quit. Seems an obvious idea, to me, to be honest.
The dragging of tabs outside of the browser area is very neat. I am disappointed in Microsoft not implementing this, to be honest. You can drag Internet Explorer's tabs around, but not out of the browser to create a new window.
Chrome also comes with a neat little debugger, which every other browser lacks. You always have to install 3rd party add-ons or extensions on to others browsers. It's "in the box" with Chrome and so far, I'm quite impressed with it. It is a lot more responsive than Firebug.
Having just tried my GMail in it, I have to say I like the more passive prompts for remembering passwords, etc. These appear at the top of the window, and don't block your browsing experience as happens with IE and Firefox, which always annoys as I often move between machines and it takes me 5 minutes to configure my browsing profile (never remember passwords, don't remind about redirects to secure sites, etc.).
Funnily enough, I thought this was quite satisfying when I wanted to find out about the Crash Control feature: