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Chrome – Google Browser Launching

Google has officially confirmed that they’ll be launching “Chrome” — their newly developed, open-source browser, into the wild tomorrow for the Windows platform.

Google Chrome

If you recall, I’d previously posted about rumors of a Google browser here and here a year ago, despite Google executives previously indicating that they would not build another browser. A number of other analysts dismissed my observations that a Google browser would be advantageous to the company and complimentary to their various other applications and services – but, I’m now proved right and Google’s efforts to obscure the fact of their browser initiatives appear in retrospect to have been intended to keep the whole thing as top secret as possible until deployment. In 2006, Google CEO Eric Schmidt had stated, “We would only do so…if we thought there was a real user benefit.”

Obviously, Google now believes that there is a real user benefit.

I’m imagining that the main motive Google might’ve had in keeping the Chrome development plans hush-hush could’ve been centered upon concerns that the work could’ve been cited as another reason to consider Google’s massive growth and influence to be somewhat monopolistic. After all, the advent of the Internet Explorer browser, and how it was integrated into the Windows system resulted in a lengthy anti-trust lawsuit between the U.S. Department of Justice and Microsoft.

The Chrome comic book promoting the browser and educating readers about its features makes a pretty good case for there being compelling reasons for someone to attempt to build a better browser. Browser speed, robustness (reduction in crashes), efficient memory usage in terms of re-use after process completion and good garbage handling, non-intrusive UI, and improved security are all some of the elements that the Google dev team highlighted.

Yet there are downsides, too. Throughout the internet, I sense a collective groan of dismay from website developers as they realize that this could result in increased development costs and headaches as applications will need to be developed and tested on yet another browser platform, once the adoption rate for the new browser spikes up to significant percentages. If Google promotes Chrome through its various applications, particularly through Gmail, the percentage of people using it could become significant fairly rapidly.

One area that the Chrome team has addressed which makes me have mixed feelings is how they’ve handled pop-up windows. According to the comic book, they’re keeping all popups within the pane of its browser tab, rather than allowing a popup action to spawn another window. While I understand their desire to keep annoying, aggressive adware windows from popping open on their users, this specifically changes how some javascript and web applications were built to function.

There’s nothing wrong with a user-initiated action which pops open a new window, and forcing these to stay in-pane also changes a fundamental way that the code was built to work. The javascript code “window.open” is meant to open new windows, and changing that paradigm just because people have misused it in some cases seems wrong. I generally think that the popup suppression software in my Google Toolbar, or in my Internet Explorer browser and other security software has handled the majority of the inappropriate uses of popup functionality, while still allowing benign uses.

It will be interesting to see the other areas where Chrome differs in presentation and functionality from the other top popular browsers. Even if supporting another, different browser platform is a bit of an inconvenience, if the browser functions as well as the comic book describes, it may be well worth the inconvenience.

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