Google goes Chrome

Last week's news on Internet Explorer 8 didn't exactly set the browser wars a-raging, but today's sudden announcement that Google is getting into the browser business most certainly did

Tags: BrowserGoogle ChromeGoogle IncorporatedMicrosoft Corporation
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By  Mark Sutton Published  September 2, 2008

Last week's news on Internet Explorer 8 didn't exactly set the browser wars a-raging, but today's sudden announcement that Google is getting into the browser business most certainly did.

Although Google seems to have slipped up and been forced to announce the product a little early - the beta version isn't available yet - its certainly got a lot of attention and its initial description of what its cooked up with the browser known as Chrome seems very interesting.

In the absence of the beta, which should surface sometime today, all we have to go on is the rather smart web comic that goes into detail on what's going to be in Chrome, and why Google have put it there - which is a lot easier to digest than the usual engineer's blog post.

The overwhelming approach is set out as wanting to make a secure, stable and simple browser that can manage the sort of tasks that we all do through browsers now, such as chat, email, games and work. The current crop of browsers weren't built with this many tasks in mind originally, says Google, so now we need a purpose built browser that can provide performance for these sorts of tasks.

Features wise, Google is putting tabs on top of the browser bar, and each tab will be handled as a separate process, to make tabbed browsing more stable, especially for users that like to have lots of tabs open all day long. Each tab will also operate as a 'sand box' which will separate processes from other tabs, so that malware will be contained to each box, with no rights to the overall browser processes.

The URL box - dubbed the 'Omnibox' will have the same sort of search functions and ability to suggest sites that we already see in Firefox 3 and that's promised for IE 8. Google promises that the auto-complete and suggestion function won't be intrusive, although I suspect its an ideal delivery route for Google sponsored ads.

Also like IE 8's InPrivate browser mode, Chrome will have an 'Incognito' mode, which will allow browsing in a separate window that won't keep any history and other details for increased privacy. That said, the default home page for Chrome will be the user's nine favorite sites, which will be automatically displayed in a menu at launch.

Other security features include better management and tracking of third party plug-ins, to keep track of what they are doing, and automatic alerts for bogus sites containing malware.

Google is also developing 'Gears' which are intended to improve browser performance of native applications, and, like the rest of Chrome, will be open source, as part of Google's proclaimed mission to make browsing better for all.

Google's promising intensive testing, particularly on pages that Google knows are popular, although when the product might reach a full release is anyone's guess - as has been pointed out elsewhere, Google Gmail is four years old and it's still in beta!

Overall though, Chrome looks well worth a look once the beta becomes available. Google has the know-how and the engineering depth to produce a good product, and the outline so far sounds promising. Down the line there are probably monopoly concerns about Google getting into the browser game - with such a massive share of search and advertising, getting a hold of the browser might be a bit too much like holding all the keys to the kingdom, but IE hasn't yet been dislodged from its position of dominance by Firefox, so that's really a worry for another day.

All that remains to say now - give us the beta!

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