Google just launched its beta of Google Chrome, the in-house browser that is said to “combine a minimal design with sophisticated technology to make the web faster, safer, and easier.” The browser comes with a lot of interesting features such as a new tab look, a neat address bar giving you the options to search for keywords or auto-completing (even partial) web addresses, anonymus web surfing, web application shortcuts and the ability to isolate browser tabs in case anything goes wrong.
So let’s have a closer look at the browser compared to the competition…
Chrome – shiny new look
Google Chrome has quite a bit of competition on the market when it comes to browsers and the way the look. If you think different browsers you’ll immediately think of the following: IE 7, Safari, Opera, FireFox 2 & 3, just to mention the most common ones. Each one of them has a slightly different look, but all of them both the same functionality: tabs, bookmarks, an address bar, a home button, a search bar, addons, history, etc.
Here is where Google Chrome goes a bit of a different way (see screenshot on the right – click to enlarge). For starters, the tabs are on top of the main window and address bar, which can take a bit of getting used to – why they did it I don’t really know, from a user-experience level I think this could have been left as it was.
Another few notable things are that there is no search bar on its own, making url-entries a bit of a pain at times. One example is entering an IP (to access the webserver for example) which resulted in Google searching for the ip rather than going to the server as other browsers would. Most notably though is the lack of any “home” button, which I tend to use fairly often among all the tabs I have open usually. In fact, there is no option of changing the top bar at all, which is a shame – but then again, its only beta!
New Tabs – new processes
One of the most notable features of Google Chrome is how it handles tabs – they are all different processes. What this does is it allows the user to see which tab is a resource-hog or which tab is causing the browser to crash – without having a detrimental impact on the rest of the tabs. Who of us hasn’t had a couple of tabs open, some of them most likely not bookmarked (but important) – and all of a sudden the tab you just went to crashes the browser. “Damn” is the first thing that comes to mind. With Google Chrome however you are able to just kill the tab / process of the tab without causing any problems with the other tabs. Now the only thing it needs is to tell me which ‘chrome.exe’ process relates to what tab (if the memory usage doesn’t show it)
Many browsers, little memory – a comparison
Obviously by now every developer and web user will ask “okay, good stuff, but what about resources? How much more (or less) memory does Google Chrome use?
For testing purposes I disabled all addons / extensions of every browser and directed them to open https://www.whatwasithinking.co.uk
FireFox 2 is the least resource-hungry browser, followed by Chrome and Opera. I am assuming FF3 was taking that much memory due to the fact that the extensions were only disabled and not uninstalled.
Summary and outlook
Overall, Chrome seems to be doing a lot of things really well, it is very fast and offers a lot of functionality.
- Passes Acid 2 test on 100%
- Fails Acid 3 test (74/100) just like every other browser
- Very fast
- Good anonymity
- Currently lacks addons / functionality of FireFox
- Does not allow use of Scroll-wheel click to scroll fast around the pages
- Image-uploaders (like for example eBay or Facebook) do not work properly
- Quick loading of PDF links
- Nice resize features
- No ability to use different style sheets or edit source code
- Multi-threading capabilities
- Lack of plugin-installation or RSS discovery
Chrome is on the right track to becoming yet another browser developers need to test their sites on. The lack of extensions (such as Adblock, Fangs, Accessibility addons) will be a reason for me not to switch any time soon. I think that Chrome will be more of a social browser for now, it is new on the market and something to look at, but hey, it is still beta, so let’s see what will happen 🙂