Google Chrome Reviewed

Google Chrome LogoAs a web developer I have to constantly be looking at new technologies, of course Google Chrome has been around for a fair while now but after the initial techy-geek pickup immediately after launch, I’m starting to see an increasing user base for this particular web browser and it’s about time I took the time out to look at it properly.

Speculation about Google releasing a web browser into the market had been around for years since it was confirmed and it was eventually released in September 2008. It launched with a pretty big “hoo-hah” and had zillions of downloads before the day was out. However, many skeptically (and probably rightly) suggested that a great number of these downloads would then sit as unused desktop items that your OS would kindly remind you should be tidied at regular intervals. There was, many said (and I was amongst them), no real room for a new browser in the market. Internet Explorer was going to be used by anyone who had no real reason to look elsewhere, whilst FireFox had the market of those who needed to look under the hood of websites. Safari had fairly recently been available to download for Windows users – and so what need was there for a new browser?

Chrome – the fast browser

In my use of Chrome one of the best things I can say about it is: Whoa! This thing’s fast. I don’t just mean at loading itself, although that is fairly nippy, but the actual rendering of web pages is very impressive. True, I must temper this with the confession that I have a silly number of “add ons” plugged into FireFox at any one time, but nonetheless I’ve never seen a browser render a page quicker. And it makes a difference you know, I never really thought about it but it makes the internet feel a heck of a lot slicker. I spend a decent amount of time in my job working out how to make the back-end behind websites process quicker, whilst at the same time ensuring that the front-end developers around me are also producing slick code and well optimised imagery. But all this work is heavily diminished if the browser itself is sluggish, and Chrome has pointed out (hopefully) to the big-boys exactly how it’s done. Yeah, I’ll call Mozilla’s FireFox browser a big-boy because it really is now.

Another feature of Chrome that I’m really impressed with is that each browser tab or window is (apparently) a separately running application, meaning that if one tab crashes, the rest doesn’t go with it. This might sound stupid but I’m sick of losing the dozen or so tabs I’ve got open with IE or FireFox, even if FireFox does offer to open them up again next time… and crash for the same reason :)

Speaking of tabs, I LOVE the way you can drag a tab outside the tab-line and it turns into a new window. That’s magic, that’s exactly what I wanted from FireFox, especially when you’ve got 2 monitors. The ability to create a new window from an existing tab is such a simple one but something I’ve genuinely missed having!

Chrome – the ‘meh’ browser

However, when trying to think of other positives, I’m kinda struggling. It’s not that Chrome’s doing much wrong, it’s just that I get everything it does, more or less, from either FireFox or IE. With IE I know I’m going to find the website I’m looking at (probably) looking as it was designed¬†1, with FireFox I know I’m going to be able to get the functionality expanded, that everything I already use it for works really well, and I can rely on its rendering engine to displays things exactly as programmed.

In terms of what it’s actually missing, there’s not a great deal, I’d suggest. The only thing I have noticed is a lack of internal RSS reader – a bit weird when you open up an RSS/XML file and have it load in the page like an HTML file (ie. tags invisible, content spewed).

Overall, I mean, I like Chrome. I’d give it a home, maybe in the garage, but I suspect there’ll be others who’d give it the couch, maybe even offer it a beer. But I just don’t care enough. Y’know?

Score: 7/10. It’s not its fault, it’s just a bit meh.

1 NOTE! I know perfectly well that IE renders things very poorly indeed. What I mean by this is that developers are pretty good at making sure that their websites work in the browser that 80% of people use. Sadly.

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