Google Chrome

Right on the heels of Microsoft’s release of IE8 Beta 2 comes Google’s introduction into the browser market Google Chrome.

I’ve only had an hour or so to play with it and thought I’d share my first impressions.

The first thing I looked at was the engine. Is it new or is it based off something we’re already familiar with? Luckily, it’s based off an existing engine, basically it’s an Apple-tweaked version of KHTML, in other words it’s a lean, mean version of Safari.

So it should be good on standards compliance.

The UI is minimalistic. The address bar also serves as the search bar and has features similar to the “awesome bar” in Firefox in that it’ll show you bookmarks and pages in your history as you type in a name or URL.

One thing I don’t like is that it assumes I want to search Google when I type into the address/search bar. I prefer it assume I’m typing a URL in first.

One feature I found by accident is the ability to resize text boxes on the fly. I’m not sure how I feel about that. As a user I like the ability to change the size to fit my needs, but as a developer I don’t want people going in and playing with my layout.

Tabs across the top of the window instead of below the address bar. A space saver when you go full-screen, although the visual feel of it takes a little getting used to.

Not a lot of granularity in the settings. I like the finer security controls Firefox gives me.

Google Chrome has two windows. By default it opens the regular browser window, but you can also open up the “incognito” window, which is just another browser window which run with very strict privacy rules (doesn’t save history, cookies, etc).

Each tab runs inside its own sandbox. This means if the content of a given web page triggers a crash, only the tab crashes, not the whole browser. This comes at the cost of increased memory and CPU usage, however I really like this feature. I haven’t had many browsers crash on me in the last couple years, but that one time it does you inevitably loose some very significant and NOT SAVED things in the process. It’s a nice security blanket.

The all-new Javascript engine is certainly fast. Google Mail is especially faster than a similar experience in both Firefox and IE8, but of course it better be since it’s a Google web app inside a Google web browser.

I think, ultimately, Chrome will prove to not be for everyone. I think the subtle UI changes will confound the less technical users. I think Chrome plays to the Opera/Firefox crowd more than the IE crowd, but perhaps the brand name will get Chrome into areas Firefox and Opera have so far been unable to penetrate.

The important thing here is the current state of the browser market. We’ve got several GOOD browsers that are all very good (not great, but good) at standards compliance. This can only help us in the long run. It means the user experience you are trying to create WILL be exactly what’s experienced by the vast majority of users. It means we’re not far from being freed of the hassle that is hacking CSS to support IE6.

It’s a better time to be a web developer then it was a couple years ago.

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