Normally important news on IT subjects comes to me via IT media – blogs, discussion forums, newsletters and rumors & gossip. This morning, my newspaper carried the story on Google’s browser initiative: Google Chrome. A web-browser – "that aims to push forward Internet innovation and elevate user expectations". Just what we needed – in a landscape of browers, browser versions and browser ports to various platforms – Google does not choose to put all its weight behind one of the existing open source browser initiatives. Instead, if launches a new browser altogether. However, even though it is a browser, should we consider Chrome as merely a browser initiative?
Google states "What we really needed was not just a browser, but also a modern
platform for web pages and applications, and that’s what we set out to
build." And what this means is that Google takes its efforts to move people from fat client Windows applications to web-based applications (for example Google Docs, Google Maps, etc.). Chrome is not so much about browser marketshare, it is much more about getting the environment to run SaaS style applications. To really break away from Windows.
Google writes in the User Experience – where Chrome is called Chromium? – "In the long term, we think of Chromium as a tabbed window manager or
shell for the web rather than a browser application. We avoid putting
things into our UI in the same way you would hope that Apple and
Microsoft would avoid putting things into the standard window frames of
applications on their operating systems." The intent is clear, the comparison with Apple and Microsoft obvious: this is not about browsers, this is about the ‘environment for running applications’ . What used to the operating system and today is frequently called the virtual machine.
As John Siracusa puts it: "Microsoft’s worst nightmare laid bare. Google has grown tired of the
web browser ghetto, all its applications crowded together into a
single, often unreliable container. "Real" applications don’t have to
put up with this. They live and die on their own terms. Their chrome is
elegant, sleek. They are not mere content presented within another
application. They are prime actors, first-class citizens.
That’s what Google wants for its products, and it’s decided that the
only way to get itâ€”the only way to escape the ghetto of the browserâ€”is
to make a web browser of its own."
The rendering engine in Chrome – essential but not what Chrome is about – is WebKit from Apple, proven, light weight & fast and – not to forget – standards compliant. Google pays hommage to both Apple and Firefox communities, thanking them for technology components and the (open source) spirit and pledging to also provide Chrome as an open source product.
Of course it is nice when open source initiatives benefit from each other. However, when Google Chrome picks some cherries from Firefox and continues to develop and deliver a better product – where is the future for Firefox? Googles says:"We hope to collaborate with the entire community to help drive the web forward." I wonder where exactly Firefox (or Opera for that matter) fits in.
One interesting piece on the implementation: " By keeping each tab in an isolated "sandbox", we were able to prevent
one tab from crashing another and provide improved protection from
rogue sites. We improved speed and responsiveness across the board. We
generation of web applications that aren’t even possible in today’s
Of course a new browser with interesting new features and even more (modern) standards compliant than previous browsers is an important event. Chrome is not yet ready (it is beta right now) and we will have to see how the adoption outside the real of technology professionals progresses. However, we as web developers will have to take Chrome into our consideration in the near future- or probably starting right now.
The Chrome site contains a series of cartoons that describe the story of how Chrome came to existence and what technology as used. It starts with this picture:
Straight out of Compton – John Siracusa
Andrej’s first impressions of Chrome