Google Chrome

Google have just announced their new open-source browser Google Chrome, via the ingenious medium of a comic strip:

It’s good to see a new approach being used like this, particularly commissioned illustration.

First of all, the good news is they’re using Webkit. I remember John Allsopp joking about how great it would be if there was just one rendering engine, that was downloaded just like the Flash plugin. It’ll never happen, but the rapid adoption of Webkit outside Safari is getting to be the closest we’ll have to that. I had expected them to go with XUL and Gecko, in order to support other platforms with ease, so a voice at the back of head says this will be Windows only.

I can’t comment on all the talk about architecture/background processes, it all sounds very cool, but I have no idea if this really is a new approach or not. The main interface details are on page 19, where we see nothing new. Each of these features are currently available in other browsers:

  • Tabs on top (or the ‘Omnibox’): Been in Opera for years, and more recently in Coda. While Safari doesn’t visually show tabs on top, if you have inquisitor installed it behaves in the same way as the Omnibox, in that each tab has it’s own URL bar and Search.
  • Location bar that searches pages in the history: Another Opera innovation, recently added by Firefox. Also, for a few years now, Omniweb has enabled you to search the full text of pages in your browsing history
  • New tabs show most used sites: Opera’s speed dial feature. Also, Camino has always had a dynamic ‘Top 10 most visited sites’ bookmark list, although I find that the 10 most visited sites, and the 10 sites I’d want to quickly access aren’t the same thing. I’d prefer to choose my sites manually.
  • Privacy Browsing: Safari. Cough. Bless ‘em though, I like they way they use ‘buying a present in secret’ for the real world example.
  • Pop Up Window Control: Most browsers have this, but in particular, the pop-up control sounds just like Omniweb.

They start by telling us how they’re rethinking the browser, and then go on to repeat what has happened before in others. I would’ve liked to see them approach another problem – namely ‘too many tabs open’. Beyond the performance issues, the more tabs you have open, the more difficult it becomes to know what you have open, and in which tab it is. Omniweb gets around this with it’s lovely visual tabs. Opera uses an alt-tab switch with thumbnail preview (which has also found it’s way into the latest Firefox nightlies).

The comic site itself highlights another web problem – loads of ‘next’ links, something Omniweb solves with a magical press of the enter key, and I’d love to see implemented in other browsers.

Knowing Google, ‘Chrome’ will most likely work really well, but not allow ads to be hidden, and of course, have the standard insipid google style. In fact just as I was writing this, a screenshot has appeared on news sites

Screenshot of Google Chrome

I’m excited about the spread of Webkit, but at this stage Chrome doesn’t seem to offer me much. If they do make an OS X version, I’ll be duty-bound to try it of course!

The Hickensian is the journal of Jon Hicks, one half of the creative partnership Hicksdesign. Take a look at the work we do.

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