Google made a...browser?

Based on WebKit, the same foundation for Apple’s Safari web browser - yesterday Google introduced Chrome, it’s own browser:

It’s been a while since we’ve had a brand new, completely unexpected Google launch and what better way to change that than by launching a damn web browser?

It's getting crowded in the browser market

Despite how often Google is viewed as competing with Microsoft, these days it’s acting very Apple-like. Android has the potential to bring to the masses much of what Apple did with the iPhone, and Apple’s MobileMe (albeit mismanaged and poorly launched) is one step away from being a costly Google Apps competitor. The browser step for Google is an interesting one, yet of all of the browser companies Google is the most natural fit - it’s almost surprising that Google hadn’t released a browser by now.

What follows are my thoughts on Chrome - be sure to chime in with your own in the comments.

Sometimes It Takes a Revolution

Google revamped a few basic things with Chrome, some of them with very deep implications.

Your home page is now a tiled list of your most visited websites. In the old days it used to be one site or one search engine, but now with sites like YouTube, Facebook, AnandTech (see how I snuck that one in there?), MySpace, Digg, etc... it’s tough to have just one single home page. Google’s change here makes sense and it is also quite altruistic. Google could’ve just as easily used its own browser platform to help promote its own websites and services.

If you’ve only got IE7 installed on your machine Chrome will even default to Microsoft’s Live Search as the default search engine, asking you if you’d like to change it. The assumption is that your computer is setup the way you want it to be and Google isn’t going to force its services on you - competition is best done based on merit, not by manipulating the market.

You can add direct links to web applications on your desktop, which will fire up Chrome in more of a thick-client view like this

The most visible change is that the tabs are now the topmost part of the browser window, in fact there’s no menu bar at all. Accessing typical menu items is done via two very simple buttons at the right of the OmniBar (what Google’s developers call the URL bar). There’s not even a menu item for opening a file/web page, although CTRL + O will bring up an open dialog box.

Removing the menu bar does something very interesting for Google Chrome: it makes it look very OS agnostic. It doesn’t quite fit in with Vista’s look and feel, nor does it look very Apple at all. In Google’s world, the OS doesn’t matter, so long as it has access to the Internet (see: Google docs, YouTube, Gmail, etc...). Given this view of the world, why should Chrome have an archaic remnant of conventional OSes? The missing menu bar is a very important statement.

There’s no search box in Chrome (not even a Google Search box), all searching/navigating is done through the OmniBar. Much like Spotlight under OS X, you get full text search through any webpage in your history. Remember reading something about panda bears a couple of days ago but can’t remember what site it was on? Just type in panda bears into the OmniBar and you’ll get a list of relevant results from your history.

Sites like Amazon can be searched from within the OmniBar as well, assuming you’ve performed a search on the site before. Just start typing Amazon into the OmniBar and hit tab to type in your search query. It’ll take you straight to the search results on Pretty cool.

Incognito mode

Private browsing is taken the next level by Chrome with its incognito mode. You can choose to open an individual window/tab in incognito mode, where no data is logged and nothing is added to your history. You even get a cool guy wearing a trench coat in the upper left hand corner of your incognito window to drive the feature home.

Downloads & History

Downloads are handled quite elegantly in Chrome, when something starts downloading it appears as an icon at the bottom of your browser window. There’s no external download manager window. I’m not sure if this is the most efficient approach, especially when managing tons of downloads, but I suspect that it works well for most users.

Downloads appear at the bottom of your browser

The status bar only appears when appropriate, otherwise it disappears - even when visible it only takes up as much space as it needs.

History is organized like a simple web page, it just makes sense:

More Efficient Memory Management
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  • Hanpei - Thursday, September 11, 2008 - link

    It seems alright for entry level browsing.

    But when using it with MS Silverlight, it took up all CPU resources on and AMD athlon system, which make the video laggy; compared to 40-60% cpu usage in Firefox3 or Maxthon (IE7).
  • William Gaatjes - Monday, September 8, 2008 - link

    When i am forced for any reason to use IE or firefox on another pc there is always a situation where i am missing some feature of Opera. Opera should definitely be included in browser reviews.
    Opera does not get the attention the Opera browser deserves.

    Use it with he metal blue skin , arrange the buttons as you personnaly feel best to use and it's great.

  • portokala1234 - Monday, September 8, 2008 - link

    In performance test you forgot to test JavaScript. I have some intense JavaScript web applications and in some cases Chrome runs up to 10 times faster than FF3. AJAX is running faster to.
    Overall in very impressed by this browser, if they make extensions like FireBug i will definitely switch to Chrome.

    Sorry for my bad english im from Bulgaria.
  • portokala1234 - Monday, September 8, 2008 - link"> if someone want to compile chrome for other OS.
  • kebab77 - Wednesday, February 8, 2012 - link

    These guys have run some benchmarks on a Galaxy S2 with ICS and Chrome browser:

    ... seems quite a lot faster than other browsers at the more intensive benchmarks.
  • bigboxes - Sunday, September 7, 2008 - link

    [URL=">]Google Chrome already beating Opera[/URL]
  • Anubis - Monday, September 8, 2008 - link

    thats because the sheep will use anything google puts out

    they could market a bag of dog crap and people would eat it up because it has the "google" name on it, google fanboys are almost as bad as apple fanboys
  • DasFox - Saturday, September 6, 2008 - link

    I'm not sure why many are lifting up Opera, and Firefox as great, and saying it's like the only browser I use, etc...

    Such statements like this make me think these people don't really surf much, because if they did they'd notice a few things about these two browsers in particular.

    Firefox is still a memory hog at times and then getting itself locked up and crashing when it starts going off really high, yep the memory leaks are still there in 3.

    Opera also uses quite a bit of memory and there are many sites out there that just don't work well with Opera at all, and Opera doesn't play nice when the memory starts creeping up too.

    Personally for small and light Kmeleon has been a pretty good browser and in regards to performance a much better browser then these two, it just lacks a bit of bells and whistles that people seem to be so drawn to.

    I hope that Chrome gives the others a run, but with the history of Google cookie spying, it makes me hesitant to be a Chrome fan, Google has made geeks feel in the past like there is some sort of MS domination going on here...
  • Anubis - Monday, September 8, 2008 - link

    Eh I’ve used Opera exclusively since I found in in 2001, back when you had to pay to remove the built in add

    there are very very few sites that don’t work right in opera, 99% of those sites i find that don’t work are random news sites linked off of the anandtech forums, which i would not visit anyway

    pretty much the only thing I use IE for anymore is windows updates and paying my bills online, because my bank wont let you use anything other then IE
  • William Gaatjes - Monday, September 8, 2008 - link

    I agree. I use opera since version 6.x and never looked back.
    Only bad written websites with activex do not work but that does not bother me since these websites will always be un safe.

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