Google takes aim squarely at Microsoft with the release of its new Web browser, Chrome. And Microsoft should be very afraid: Chrome lives up to its hype by rethinking the Web browser in clever and convenient ways that make using the Web a more organic experience than you'd get with either Microsoft's Internet Explorer 8 or Mozilla's Firefox 3.
Initially available for download for Windows Vista and XP, Google plans to expand its Chrome offerings to the Mac and Linux platforms as well. The company doesn't offer any timeline for these versions, though..
Chrome automatically detects the Web browser you're using and prompts you through the process of installation (right down to telling you how to access downloaded files within Firefox, for example). When you first run the application, Chrome imports your bookmarks, passwords, and settings from Firefox or Internet Explorer. It even can grab username and password data, and it automatically populates those fields for you when you use Chrome for the first time to visit a particular siterunning through a quick import checklist, Chrome opens on your desktop--and right away you begin to experience the Web in a new way. Chrome's layout is very simple: You'll see a row of tabs running along the top, a Web address bar, and a bookmarks bar that runs beneath the address bar. A separate recent bookmarks box appears at the right of the screen, as does a history search field.
Like its Google stablemates, Chrome has a remarkably minimalist interface. There is no full-scale menu bar and no title bar--and few distractions. All controls are buried beneath two icons to the right of the Omnibar (as Google refers to its address bar): a page icon for managing tabs and using Google Gears to create application-like shortcuts from your desktop to a Web site; and a wrench for history, downloads, and other browser options.
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.
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.
Google has produced an excellent browser that is friendly enough to handle average browsing activities without complicating the tasks, but at the same time it's powerful enough to meet the needs of more-advanced users. The search functionality of the Omnibar is one of many innovations that caught my attention. PC World has chosen to rate this beta version of Chrome because of Google's history of leaving products and services in long-term beta and in an ongoing state of evolution. In the past there has been some speculation that Google would develop their own operating system, but I think Chrome's launch makes one thing is clear: The Web browser is Google's operating system.