Guy’s Best Practice Ezine 151 – Review of Google’s New Chrome

Google Enters the Browser Wars with New Chrome

Google has introduced a new browser called Chrome.  I had to smirk when I looked for a Chrome review, the first piece of news was not about its lightning fast rendering, there was no mention of its wonderful new features, just an article full of its security flaws.  Where have I seen this pattern before?  Could it be with Microsoft browsers?  The good news for we Chrome trialists is that Google’s patch fixed via an automatic browser update.

Getting Started with Google’s Chrome

To get started with Chrome, you don’t need a review, you don’t even need instructions, you just need someone like me to remind you of its existence, and say, ‘I dare you to try Google’s Chrome browser!’  Perhaps the biggest complement to Chrome is that it does not feel like a beta program.  This also explains why features found in rival browsers have not yet been incorporated into Chrome.

I could not help wondering that since we already have the choice between IE 7, Mozilla Firefox plus a few other bit-part players, do we really need another browser?  Then I remembered that competition is always good for innovation in general, and for we consumers in particular.  After I spent a day working in an office where the only machine with internet access had an old Netscape 7.2 browser, I concluded, I would be delighted with any of the modern browsers.

Google’s Master Plan

For me, the real news with Chrome is that it reinforces the belief that Google want to increase their influence in the internet world.  Internet banking and internet shopping are well developed, and sufficiently secure to attract zillions of customers.  Furthermore, a vision is slowly coming into focus of a future where computing moves from the desktop to the internet.

 Google already have a basic office type word-processor and spreadsheet.  So it seems natural for them to develop a companion browser like Chrome.  Thus it’s no surprise that the key design feature for Chrome is better support for JavaScript so that it will run all the Google Apps sweetly.  An example of this is the ability to see which internet page is consuming which resources, and thus troubleshoot browser problems more easily.  One non-technical feature to look for in Chrome is the ‘Most visited’.

Is Browser Privacy Important to You?

One nagging worry which persists with Chrome is that Google collects user data in order to improve its search algorithms.  The problem is how ‘personal’ this data will be, and more importantly, how people view this intrusion into their privacy.  This debate reminds me of the debate on CCT cameras.  My view is that if I am not doing anything wrong then I have nothing to fear.  If I were doing anything wrong, then I believe that between them, the internet police and the local neighbourhood police could discover everything that I ever did on a computer – if they put their mind to it.  Thus my only worry is bank and credit card details getting into the wrong hands, and to me that type of security is a separate topic.

Incidentally, I wonder if the extent to which we resent ‘Big Brother’ is related to age.  For example, when I was under 25 I was vehemently opposed to identity cards and the like.  Yet these days I don’t object to the principle of technology which proves, ‘I am who I say I am’.  To be frank, I want prove ‘I am who say I am’ as easily and quickly as possible, without a ‘Spanish Inquisition’ of questions.  My only worry is that the government can implement the technology in a secure manner.

A Webmaster’s View of Browsers

Microsoft’s Internet Explorer series 6,7, and now 8 are the most forgiving of dodgy html.  IE compensates for sloppy coding such as forgetting a closing ‘<b>’ tag, whereas Chrome and Mozilla obey the html standards strictly.  My point is that when geeks discuss browsers and berate IE, they omit to say that its a fact of life that many websites display better in IE than Mozilla, or Chrome.

Even website gurus admit that you have start by designing a website for one browser, then you create fixes via cascading style sheet for the other browsers.  Thus it all depends which browser a webmaster starts with.  As IE 7 has the biggest share it makes sense to design for that browser.  Now big sites have teams of web designers who painstakingly add the extra html to cope with all the other browsers.  We ‘amateur’ web designers just don’t have the time to cater for Safari and Opera who only have less than 5% market share. 

Incidentally, while there will be job opportunities for Chrome designers for those big sites, beware of HR types producing adverts saying: ‘Wanted Chrome designer, must have 5 years experience’.

What I see happening is that the big slick sites such as Wikipedia, Microsoft, BBC and CNN are capturing a greater share of readers.  Moreover, advertisers are cunningly dominating the search results, thus it’s becoming harder for people to find niche sites run by enthusiasts, which is a shame.

See IE 10 in Windows 8 »

Final Thoughts

Chrome was designed to improve upon other browsers handle JavaScript.  This is important because JavaScript is one of the technologies used to make Web pages interactive and more like desktop software applications.

Even if Chrome was better than Mozilla Firefox or Microsoft’s IE 7 (8), then many would stick with their existing browsers, just because they are familiar with their look and feel.  Despite this, and other limitations of a beta product, I recommend you try Chrome if only to see what it’s like.

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Will and Guy’s Humour

Meanwhile, this week Will and Guy have gone fishing. Fish for a ticket?  Good deal!

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