14 Nov 2008

Web stuff

As some of you might have noticed, Google released a ‘new’ web browser Google Chrome recently.
First, and most obvious:

Google isn’t stupid. They know their brand awareness is very high. People love google stuff, and would use it ‘just because it’s google.’

Second, The world’s most popular browser (Internet Exploder) is really bad, and is preventing the web from progressing.

Just think of it this way. There are tons of web designers that have great ideas for websites. Websites that follow official web standards. The problem is, Internet Explorer (IE) won’t render it correctly. So, even though the developer makes a really cool website that work with Firefox, Opera, Safari etc.., it won’t look right on IE.

Admit it, if you were browsing the web in IE, and a website looks all messed up, who would you think was to blame?

Yup, you’d probably think it was the web designer.

So, what I’m saying, is that because tons of people use IE, a lot of websites are stuck in the stone age.

Third, they want to make sure that they are the default search engine in browsers (they have to pay Mozilla to be the default browser in Firefox, but obviously they are default in Google Chrome for free.

There were a few decisions to make when beginning this project.

Being Google (with the slogan ‘Do no evil’) they had to make it Open Source.

There choices were:

  • Start from scratch.
  • Use an Open Source rendering engine and improve it slightly.

They chose the obvious latter. Somewhat surprisingly though, they chose to use Webkit (the renderer in Safari), instead of Gecko (the renderer from Firefox). I’m sure part of the reason was the work they’d done on Android, but another part was the cleanness and lightweightness of the code. It it also more efficient with memory.

This is great news, because as they improve their own browser, they’ll also be improving Webkit, which lots of projects share.

Another part of the reason, was because all of the Google online software (Gmail, Google Docs, Maps, etc..) use Javascript (JS). Most web browsers have very slow JS interpreters. Google had a special group of coders in Denmark spend 2 years writing a new interpreter. (unfortunately, Firefox and Webkit have improved their JS interpreting a lot too, making them all run similarly).

Google Chrome is currently only available on Windows, which means I’ll stick to Firefox for now 🙁 I do, however, use Chrome on my WinXP machine at work.

If I were to criticize one thing, it would be their use of their own graphics library Skia, instead of Cairo. There is really no need to have so many similar Open Source software projects.

So, I know what you’re thinking.

I like Firefox. Why should I switch to Google Chrome ?

It’s the same question I had.

There are a few reasons:

  • It’s feels snappier than Firefox.
  • Each tab is isolated from the rest. If one tab crashes (usually because of Adobe Flash) the rest will continue functioning. I’ve had numerous times when I have 10 tabs open, and have the whole browser crash.
  • It gives you much more screen real estate. You just need to see screenshots to understand why.
  • It will probably get more frequent updates than Firefox (security fixes and point releases don’t count) Firefox 3 took almost 2 years!
  • Google has a lot more money than Mozilla, which means more manpower.

I’d probably recommend most people try it out, but it’s not yet ready to be your default browser. There are currently no extensions (Google has said they will make it extensible in the future), and it has a beta feel to it.

Still, it’s got great potential.

Another thing of note. Recently Steve Ballmer (The new head honcho at Microsoft) said they would look into using Webkit instead of Trident (The IE renderer) in the future, as he admitted they (Microsoft) were hindering the web.