Tuesday, 2 September 2008

Google announces new open source browser: Chrome

To quote Mark Pesce over on Twitter, "Jeeze. I go off-line (mostly) for 24 hours and Google announces a plot to take over the (online) world? WTF???"

Yes, today Google announces that it wants to take enter the browser market with what they are calling a "streamlined and simple" browser that promises to be "clean and fast. The official blog claims that the web has changed and so has the way we use
our browsers to interact with it, so a new tool is needed - built from ground up in the best open source traditions. Watch out Firefox, Flock, Opera, etc - it looks like they have already used Apple's WebKit and Mozilla's Firefox development tools to build Chrome.

It looks like the recent developments of the Google Gears (launched last May) project has played some part in this new development . Gears is an open source project that enables more powerful web applications, by adding new features to your web browser and enables offline work in online environments

One of the proposed benefits of the new browser is it's multithreaded approach to task management. We've all suffered at the hands of Javascript causing browsers to freeze - this is mainly because most browsers work process by process. Once Javascript is executed it's going to keep on going until it does what it needs to do, and the browser tends to be unable to do anything until it completes, hence the slowdown or freezing as the browser waits for the Javascript to complete. When this happens the entire browser locks up, and if you are tabbed browsing then you lose everything. Chrome aims to isolate these kind of processes so that if one tab fails you can still continue on with your others.

Of course, it will only be a Windows-only beta-release for now, with plenty more development to come but I am quite excited by this news, and not just for what it means in the world of computing, but for what it might mean about the future of mobile browsing. It's been a while since Google first talked about their (Linux-based) Android operating system for mobile telephones and I can't help feel that there may be the potential for some interesting developments just waiting to be announced in coming months.

I am currently using Google Desktop 5 (with its useful applications/gadgets/widgets) at the minute and I can see a day when I can we can synchronize those tools and data across more than computers (like we can do now), but across mobile devices. Imagine the benefits of being able to browse your home computer with your mobile phone whilst away to find that important .doc/.ppt/.xls file which you can then open up on Google Docs on your Android powered phone? Very promising. Functionality like that would have saved my bacon on more than one occasion.

You can see a Google produced web comic detailing the browser functionality here.

Update (20:43):
First impressions - well there's not much to see or do now that it's here. There's not much in the way of customization but this is just a matter of time. It won't be long before someone goes all Grease-monkey on it, or something similar. One thing worth noting is the Incognito mode which hides your browsing history - useful for public browsing. Now, can someone make it portable?

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