Sep 10, 2008

Chrome - why another browser is good

It has been more than a week since Google unleashed Chrome on the Web. Statistics abound on the market share erosion of the incumbents from the newcomer's arrival. Frankly, I think it is far too early for the numbers to make sense. There will be enough downloads and installs in the first week as people try out the new software and figure out if it is actually any good. (Remember, it was promoted in the Google homepage, no less - the most expensive virtual real estate in the world. That has to count for something.)

So how can the new browser help the Web? In a market crowded by the likes of Internet Explorer, Mozilla Firefox, Safari and Opera, is there any need for yet another commodity software which is free anyway? I think there is.

Firstly, Google has open-sourced Chrome. This means virtually anybody can peer under Chrome's hood and take the best features and even improve upon it. Like the rising tide that lifts all boats, every browser developer and user stands to gain from this.

Secondly, I think the sandbox-approach to the whole browser and even individual tabs is an innovative move. If one site crashes your tab, just close it without bringing all the other tabs and browser windows down. (I am not sure about this, but I think only Chrome has implemented this as of now.) Spawning new processes for individual tabs keeps the user in control, and the entire system more secure.

Thirdly, Google has a way with how it puts the user in focus in product design. The clean, minimalist look of the Google homepage is appreciated by millions, and Chrome has borrowed this philosophy in its user interface. I am sure other browser designers can take a page or two from the Google design book and weave it onto their own. No big, bloated buttons and no useless menu bars. Keep it simple, silly.

There are many things that I don't like at all about Chrome, but that will form the topic of another post. But if somebody has ideas for yet another Web browser and intend to release one soon, I am all for it. Better too many than too few.

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