Google Shines Up Chrome Web Browser
As America returns to work after the Labor Day holiday weekend, crusty eyes are abuzz about Google Chrome, the company’s own surprise open source Web browser in beta. Bloggers on the scene—European ones and those who apparently don’t take holidays—let the Chrome cat out of the bag a day early.
On the Google Blog, Sundar Pichai and Linus Upson acknowledge they pressed the “send” button a day early, tipping off Philipp Lenssen in Germany, who set the fuse on the worldwide blog bomb. At the same time, Google coined a new PR move: announcements in e-comic book form.
You can check that out for in-depth descriptions, explanations, and philosophy behind Google’s new browser—but fair warning it will take a while. Bloggers immediately labeled it an assault on Microsoft, both on the browser level and, in an interesting stretch, the OS level. They wonder, too, about how this will affect Google’s relationship with Mozilla.
It’ll launch at some point today at Google.com/chrome.
First the specs:
- Like Android, Google Chrome is based on, built from the ground up with, open source application framework WebKit; it is intended to be next-generation built for handling Web applications rather than Web pages. It includes Google Gears built-in.
- Browser tabs get their own process rather than tabs sharing processes to solve the ever-dreaded freeze-and-crash problem by freeing up memory and reducing memory fragmentation.
- Each tab has its own URL box, effectively making each tab a browser window
- No about:blank pages. Chrome defaults to a page featuring the four most used search engines and the user’s nine most visited Web pages.
- Similar to IE 8, Chrome has an “Incognito” mode to erase browser history when the browser is closed—something Firefox 3 didn’t include.
- Chrome can be “streamlined” so that the toolbar and URL box are hidden and only the webpage is shown on the screen.
- Chrome features browser extensions allowing it to make hybrid apps similar to Adobe AIR
- An Opera-like dashboard start page and auto-completion.
- It’s pretty strong on the security front. Chrome sandboxes Webpages, preventing drive-by downloads and installations. It continuously makes contact with Google to update a list of known malware sites in order to warn the user.
No word yet on how much the browser actually communicates with Google. Given Google’s history of watching everything its product users do, it wouldn’t be surprising if Google would gather browsing information to use for its search and ad-serving algorithms.
The browser will launch in more than 100 countries today. The company says the launch will add value for the user while driving innovation on the Web. Available only for Windows for now, Google plans to release versions for Mac and Linux as well.
Bloggers jumped on the announcement like a boxer pup on a meatloaf. The obvious angle was the ongoing war between our favorite pair of corporate juggernauts. The launch certainly takes aim at Internet Explorer, which has lost market share since the advent of Firefox and holding at 75 percent.
Not everyone’s convinced yet it will be an IE-killer—though kind of premature to judge that far since it’s not even live yet—as the world appears relatively content with what they have. Blogger Hank Williams, opining from the pessimism-guaranteed WhyDoesEverytingSuck? blog, reminds readers 25 percent haven’t yet abandoned even 2001’s IE 6.
“The bottom line is Microsoft has been fighting the browser wars with spitballs and plastic knives and they are still beating Firefox handily,” writes Williams. “So Chrome, from a business perspective, for the forseeable [sic] future, is totally irrelevant.”
Other bloggers, to understate it, disagree, and peg this expected launch as a precursor to the fabled Google OS. “But what this really tells us is that Google is dead serious about the distribution business, for one, and dead serious about the operating system business, for another,” writes John Battelle. “Reading through the book, I am struck by how similar the language is to traditional operating system overviews. Multithreading, stable development platforms, etc. etc.”
Nicholas Carr concurs by reminiscing about Apple’s addition of MultiFinder to Mac in 1988. Chrome is part of the coming shift to cloud computing. “[I]n this case I think Google is motivated by something much larger than its congenital hatred of Microsoft. It knows that its future, both as a business and as an idea (and Google’s always been both), hinges on the continued rapid expansion of the usefulness of the Internet, which in turn hinges on the continued rapid expansion of the capabilities of web apps, which in turn hinges on rapid improvements in the workings of web browsers.”
It will certainly be interesting to see if Microsoft is able to respond. Google has repeatedly dodged the idea of an operating system. Denials mean little at this point. Google CEO Eric Schmidt, as noted by Garett Rogers, denied plans for a Google browser back in 2006. Rogers expects that elusive G Drive online storage service any day now.
What It Means For Webmasters and SEO
Some have viewed Chrome as an answer to assuaging fears that Microsoft’s new MISE 8 browser has the capability of blocking the text ads Google relies on for revenues. It’s not that possible battle that has SEO experts buzzing; they took notice pretty quickly of a particular panel in the Chrome comic book regarding the OmniBox feature.
In it, the characters discuss how Chrome will test functionalities against webpages. The browser was built for apps, not pages, and with the billions or trillions of pages out there, not all can be tested directly. Google will test the top million or so instead. Google says OmniBox will bookmark sites for the user and remember them, but will also suggest searches and top pages the user hasn’t visited but are deemed popular. “If you found a good site for digital cameras yesterday,” reads the comic, “you don’t have to bookmark that page. Just type ‘digital camera’ and quickly get back to it.”
Or click on one of the popular destination suggestions in the drop-down menu. “If your site ranks for your keywords, Chrome will suggest it – IN the browser itself. No need to be using Google suggest [sic],” writes Christopher Penn.