Review: Google Chrome Browser

  Overview Google launched their first attempt at a browser today with the beta of Chrome. You can see from the screen shots below, the interface is very refined...

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Overview
Google launched their first attempt at a browser today with the beta of Chrome. You can see from the screen shots below, the interface is very refined and minimalist. That may also be related to the limited feature set of the browser, representative of a first version.

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The Good
While new, and inevitably in beta for some time to come, Chrome gets a lot of things right. Ultimate control of tabs is a feature I’ve wanted since the introduction of tabs. Simply drag a tab out of the window to launch it in a new window. To snap it back just drag it back to the tab bar, very simple, slick, effective.

For Multi-monitor users, this gets even more interesting. Often you’ll have 2 tabs open and want to display them side-by-side, Chrome recognises this needs and allows you to drag tabs between browser windows, a small, but incredibly useful feature.

InPrivate modes seems like the flavour of the day in all modern browsers, Chrome continues this trend by providing their own no-tracking browsing experience.

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When I first heard of Chrome, like many I immediately thought of the potential integration with the many web services that Google offers. Expecting to see those services pushed down your throat, it’s a welcome surprise to see that not be the case. In fact, Google’s presence is so subtle it’d be easy to miss, the only UI reference – a small Google logo in the top-right of a window. When viewing Full screen in Vista, the title bar turns black and hides the logo altogether.

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Opening a new tab opens a page with your browser history, search history, recent bookmarks and even your recently closed tabs. An interesting idea, however a mashup between this offering from Chrome and a customisable links page in Opera could just be the best home screen available. There should also be a option to carry a common experience across multiple machines.

The same 4 sites were opened in both Internet Explorer 8 beta 2 and Google Chrome beta. You can see both use separate processes for each tab, however Google Chrome has 2 additional processes. Despite that, the total memory usage by Google Chrome beta is only 96,616 K, compared to that of IE8’s 140,300 K.

Many tech blogs today are reporting ‘amazing speed’ from Chrome. In my experience, it’s not any slower or faster than IE, Firefox or even Safari. That said I don’t find myself waiting for browsers to web pages anymore. The waiting time is related to downloads, not general browsing, so if your on a decent connection, all the AJAX rendering benchmarks in the world, don’t mean jack.

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The Bad
A lack of any kind of RSS reader or even notification that a feed exists on a page has to be my single biggest complain about Chrome. When linking to a feed, users are presented with the XML data, not structured, just raw text. There’s clearly work to be done here and given Google make a web service – Google Reader, this seems like a natural inclusion.

Apparently Google developers thought the status bar was unnecessary and skipped on including one. To remind you what’s included in the status bar for most browsers is the progress of page loads, page zooming functionality, fortunately displaying URL’s when placing your mouse over links brings up an temporary information bar that displays the required information. This is important to ensure your being linked to the site your think you are.

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Chrome has VERY basic options and lacks support for plugins, given it’s architecture stems from a Firefox and webkit codebase, I doubt this will last long.

The Breakdown

Whilst I support competition in any market, that competition should ultimately result in changes that benefit consumers. Chrome offers a new take on the evolving web browser scene which is not revolutionary by any stretch of the imagination, not really offering anything that will threaten the giants. That said when a giant like Google tries their hand at anything, the world sits up and listens.

With Google’s development of so many web services, the browser they run in could form a crucial part of their strategy, but like in the search market, if they want to be king, they MUST have the best product. Right now that’s not the case, but with their first beta, no-one really expected it to be.

Chrome is one to watch over time, as the initial rush to try it out will inevitably trail off as users return to their comfortable familiar experiences offered by their current favourites.

Worth a try, not worth a switch.

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InternetMisc

Creator of techAU, Jason has spent the dozen+ years covering technology in Australia and around the world. Bringing a background in multimedia and passion for technology to the job, Cartwright delivers detailed product reviews, event coverage and industry news on a daily basis.