Wednesday, September 3, 2008

What I think of "Google Chrome"

The new Google browser has everyone atwitter, of course. Most sites give it a passing grade, welcome added competition, and believe Chrome is a good way for Google to get a foothold on the desktop. 
The mainstream business press continues to misunderstand what is going on at Google. Forbes wonders if it will be a Google product that "finally sticks" and lives up to the "hype." The hype, of course, being non-existent. Google released the browser, and the world talked about it for them. Get over the fact that the internet lets it seem like something is being hyped when it is merely extant, and being discussed. Just because Google has bought less than ten pages of print advertising in its entire existence does not mean when people talk about it, they must be the ones getting paid, or why would they? Google is not your father's GM, and intensity of orchestration does not equal volume anymore.

I did click a Google text ad to get to Chrome, just for fun. When I searched Google for "chrome" and did not find their browser in the top ten results (at the time), the enclosed, yellow shaded paid slot at the top was bought by Google itself. It is nice to see the index is still doing no evil, even if the company and/or public have messily conflated that with the will of the corporation.

Other shreds of "hype" included an oddly-leaked comic book theoretically intended to explain Chrome "for everyone." Like all Google attempts at marketing, it was prosumer-ish. Too technical and long-winded (40 pages!), but effective as a framing device. For the people who fix the PCs Microsoft's "Knowledge Workers" use and read Slashdot, the dot-com 2.0 crowd, and other avid browsers, it was a compelling thought piece. 

Of course the near-monopoly of Internet Explorer is detrimental to web app performance. Welcome to 1999, blogosphere. (Adobe and) Microsoft want to lock people into plugins, drive up hardware sales, and freeze out non-commercial web standards bodies. This has been true forever. (Flash and) IE were ubiquitous, I argue possibly even helpful, in an era of slower connections and processors, to popularize the internet with dynamic content. (I am a lifelong Mac user and truly shudder at the thought of that paradigm, don't get me wrong.)

As I said, I'm a Mac user, so I don't even have Chrome. I could run it in Parallels but I don't want to. It uses WebKit and has an anti-interface that defers to the content. I prefer a less obsequious browser, and Apple Safari, also WebKit-based, has a consistent user interface, and almost every feature of Chrome. The nightly build of Safari is often spectacularly fast. 

I like two things about Chrome and only Chrome, though: V8, because Apple hasn't shipped their equivalent yet, and the full text search of the history. The latter is vaguely possible with Spotlight, but Google's version is better.


Austin said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Austin said...

Cloud OS! CLOUD OS!!!!

How could you write about chrome and not do some navel gazing about the death of the operating system?!

Man, people get worked up when they have even the slightest opening to talk about cloud computing. Henry Blodget is slobbering over this like the only thing standing between Microsoft and obsolescence was a browser with more stable tabs.

It is a big deal that Google shipped a product that is actually compelling in its beta form. When was the last time that happened? Gmail?

I've been using Chrome at work. It is pretty nice. Nice minimal design, good history search, WebKit speed.

But seriously people, don't get short of breath about how the OS is dying out before the battle for the mobile space has even begun. (Not that you did that Abe, insightful as usual.)