The big IT news of the past few days is the beta release of the first ever web browser by Google, titled Chrome. This browser has been in the rumour mill for years, so it really doesn't come as a surprise to a many in the industry, but nevertheless this is still a pretty big announcement.
In my opinion, overall I don't think it is really a good idea, and after trying it out myself i'm not anywhere near sold on the browser (although you've got to keep in mind that this is still a beta release - but then again, Gmail is still in beta...).
What I like about Chrome:
- The security and application model: each tab runs in it's own process, so that a single tab crash won't bring down the whole browser, and a security attack on a single tab is only limited to that tab and not the whole browser or underlying operating system.
- Following on from the previous point, i love the built-in 'Task Manager' which allows you to see the resource usage of each individual tab. Very nice.
- The tabs in general: dragging tabs around is very friendly, especially dragging a tab away to create a new window.
- The 'Incognito' mode: pages that you view in this mode won't appear in your browser history or search history.
What i don't like about Chrome:
- It's waaay too minimalist. I know that that was their intention and aim (content not 'chrome'; where 'chrome' is the grey space in a program window), but i think they have cut out too much. I don't like the trend of Microsoft et al in cutting-out the menu-bar in programs, and it seems Google have taken this even further in permanently cutting the status-bar too.
- No persistent text size setting. Although this is the same as Firefox, Firefox has extensions that provide this functionality. Which leads me to:
- No extensions or add-ons, nor the ability to create them (yet). No doubt they will be coming, but to release this beta without providing developers the ability to immediately 'extend' or 'add-on' to it i think is a little strange.
- The name and the logo sucks. Superficial i know, but one of the major hooks that got me into Firefox in the first place was the cool name, and the very cool logo.
- Overall, it's not good for Firefox.
It's very strange that Google in-part helps fund and develop Firefox, but on the other hand is in the background developing their own browser. Although i've read the various Google and Mozilla explanations, it still doesn't make too much sense to me.
This is also probably going to be a royal pain in the butt for web-developers. Six years ago, web developers could pretty safely code something to work just in IE6, and if they had time and money, look at supporting and programming for other browsers. Now, you've pretty much got to develop for IE7 (and still IE6 too!), Firefox, and Safari, and if you've got time, Opera too.
Now that Google is in the mix, their publicity and marketing make it an almost certainty that it will garner a significant share (they're already promoting it on the Google homepage!) that probably won't be able to be ignored by developers. Hopefully, and I stress hopefully, because Chrome uses the same page rendering engine as Safari (Webkit), pages will render the same in both those browsers.
After using the Chrome beta myself, i'm still very much a Firefox user. But in saying that, i do acknowledge that Firefox isn't perfect: i have 3 absolutely essential extensions that make it perfect for me. I would also love to see some of the Chrome features implemented in Firefox, especially the security and application model of sandboxing tabs in their own processes, and also the Icognito mode (which Mozilla's already said will be in the next major update to Firefox 3).