My Impressions of Google’s Chrome

Google Inc.)
Pictures of Google's Chrome. (Credit: Google Inc.)

Unless you have been living under rock, you already know that Google launched its own Web browser last Tuesday and chose to name it Chrome. Why Chrome? The answer is ironic. In computer jargon, chrome are all those menus, buttons, toolbars and boxes that surround the main window of a computer program which diminishes the area to place content. In Chrome there is almost no chrome. The browser’s name hints that the most ambitious elements of the browser are invisible.

With no status bar, no menu bar and only a single toolbar (for bookmarks), Chrome is a minimalist Web browser in the extreme. Some may call it stripped-down or bare-bone browser. This is the first thing you’ll notice when you download and install Chrome. Even the “Home” button is missing by default. You can add it later on after digging the Page Menu, which I immediately did.

I have a passion with browsers. I have Opera, SeaMonkey, Firefox, Internet Explorer, Flock, Avant, Enigma, and Safari installed; all of which I use actively for different blogging activities. So when Google released their new browser Google Chrome, I decided to take it for an immdiate spin around the corner.

I started my download and installing process at 2:37 p.m. (-5 GMT) on Tuesday, September 2, 2008. The process was as smooth as a baby’s butt. I was surprised, since most of the time, servers are red hot and slow to a crawl when an anticipated software is announced. Not this time. I understand that on Chrome’s opening day, free downloads reached an astonishing 2 percent of the Web browser’s market. Not bad.

Chrome auto-imported all my bookmarks, history and even my stored passwords from my old Internet Explorer 7. I would have preferred to have my updated Flock or Firefox’s information, but what the heck. It’s no big deal.

As your start-up page, Chrome displays pictures of nine mini-Web pages, representing your most frequently visited pages, something very similar to Norwegian Opera’s browser Speed Dial feature. To the side, you will also see a couple of your recent searches and your recently bookmarked pages, as well as recently closed tabs. I changed my Home Page to my own personalized My Yahoo Home Page which I feel very confortable with. I would feel naked without it.

One of the first things you’ll notice in Chrome, is that the Bookmarks Toolbar is located at the very top of the browser. Individual tabs in the browser are designed to work independently, so if a Web page crashes one of them, the rest of the program continues to run. Pretty cool, isn’t it?

After using Chrome for almost a week, I would say that the overall speed is head and shoulders above the competition due to two factors. First, it uses a fast rendering engine known as WebKit. This is an open-source project for the process of interpreting the HTML code that makes a Web page and rendering it on a screen. As a matter of fact, Apple Safari uses this same rendering engine. Google is also using WebKit for all web browser related operations of Android, its mobile devices platform.

The second speed factor, is that Chrome uses a custom-built JavaScript virtual machine dubbed V8. This engine, built from scratch by a team in Denmark, makes JavaScript-written compuer programs fly. I would also like to add that “JavaScript” is a trademark of Sun Microsystems. It was used under license for technology invented and implemented by Netscape Communications and current entities such as the Mozilla Foundation.

It was Chrome’s developers main goal, to introduce their own Web browser, because they were interested in speed browsing and the richer Web applications that speed will unlock. In my opinion, Chrome meets this main criteria successfully.

Another detail that caught my eye in Chrome, is that it lacks a Search Box. Google decided to combine the Address Box and the Search Box in one; something very similar to Mozilla SeaMonkey. This single box is called the Omnibox, which hints that it includes everything. (“Omni” is a prefix meaning “all”, as in “omniscient”“all-knowing”)

The Omnibox merges suggestions, most visited pages, full text search history, in a way very similar to the Firefox’s Awesome Bar, but with no visual distraction such as flickering or flashing, and defaults to previously typed items. However, I miss my traditional Search Box; maybe because of habit rather than productivity. With time I could get used to it, though.

A feature that I really liked, was creating Web applications that could be launched in their own browser window without address bar and tool bar; something sumilar to Mozilla’s Prism. Since I use Yahoo Mail continuously, I used Chrome to create a quick launch icon located on my desktop. It works very well.

Chrome is not a perfect software. On three different occasions it froze while downloading Photobucket. I have a feeling there’s a problem with Adobe Flash, but I can’t absolutely confirm it. I wrote a couple of e-mails to Google, but haven’t received an answer yet. I understand Chrome is still a BETA software, so a few rough edges are expected.

Below are some of the features I missed in Chrome:

  • English Spell checker (Spanish is my native language and I hate spelling errors).
  • A better way to manage bookmarks.
  • A pop-up blocker.
  • Add-ins, plug-ins, and themes (skins).
  • A commnad for e-mailing links and pages directly from the browser.
  • A progress bar to show how much of a Web page has been loaded.
  • Warning messages when closing multiple tabs.

In a nutshell, Chrome is a browser that combines a stripped-down design with complex technology to make the Web surfing faster, safer and easier. Having said that, I feel that Chrome is really more than a simple Web browser, but rather a platform for running complex Web applications, some of them which are not even produced yet. Others have been with us for quite a while, like GMail and Google Docs, for example.

Whenever I need raw speed I’ll use Google Chrome; otherwise, I’ll keep using Flock and Firefox which are the best Web browsers around. That’s it guys. Good Day!

Related Video:  Google Chrome Press Event – TechCrunch

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