Initial Thoughts On Google Chrome

I figured I’d blog my initial thoughts on Google chrome. Rather than a hard to read essay, I figured bullet points are easier to read/scan, so that’s what I’ll do.

Announcement

  • Another One Bites the Dust – The classic Queen song was played both before and after the presentation. I can’t help to think this was an intentional joke about a browser biting the dust.
  • From Scratch – How can a browser be both written from scratch, and based on the existing WebKit at the same time? Is this a bug? 😉
  • Ben Goodger – Did a good job selling the UI.
  • BSD License – All of it is BSD licensed. Very interesting that it’s not pulling a Safari. Chromium Project, V8.
  • Incognito Mode – Ben/Brian discussed it without mentioning the word “Porn”, though you can somewhat tell that they were both dying to use the “P” word…. uhh for research… for a friend!
  • Static Content Performance – As shown in the demonstration: IE7: 220.64ms, Chrome: 77.28ms. Less is more.
  • Dynamic Content Performance – As shown in the demonstration: IE7: 5.8 RPH, Chrome: 569.3RPM. More is more.
  • Search Box Missing – I agree with merging the search box with the url bar. It makes sense and results in a cleaner UI.

My Testing

  • Build – This is build 0.2.149.27 (1583)
  • UseragentMozilla/5.0 (Windows; U; Windows NT 5.1; en-US) AppleWebKit/525.13 (KHTML, like Gecko) Chrome/0.2.149.27 Safari/525.13. Noteworthy that they keep “Safari” in there. This looks like what I’d expect.
  • Bug Type – “reporter” feature has a “Bug type” called “browser crash… go boom”. I like jokes in software.
  • Tubes – The gears plugin in the chrome install has the file description “These are the Gears that power the tubes!”. Awesome Ted Stevens reference.
  • History View – I always wanted the history view in Firefox to be in a page rather than a sidebar. I understand the thought behind the implementation, but when you see how Chrome is laid out, it’s clearly superior.
  • No PPC Support – Because of how V8 works, I strongly suspect Google Chrome will never support Mac/PPC despite it still being supported by Apple until (likely) 10.6. In the press conference they said anyone can port V8 to another platform, if you have 3-4 months. Doubt they will use any other engine for that one platform. I’d say it’s toast.
  • Chrome API – The announcement mentioned plans for an extension API. Looking at the files it ships, it looks like almost all dll’s. Because of this I doubt we’ll see a method as simple as Firefox. Not sure how the interface is put together but it doesn’t look like anything as flexible as XUL, Boxely or XAML.
  • about: – So far I’ve found about:, about:memory, about:plugins.
  • Slickspeed Test – Ran a test and found Chrome did 115ms, 130ms, Safari 3.1 did: 28ms, 68ms, while Firefox 3 did 179ms, 294ms (prototype, jQuery). Interesting that Safari selectors are still faster.
  • Walt Mossberg – Everyone’s favorite tech writer Walt Mossberg wrote:

    Despite Google’s claims that Chrome is fast, it was notably slower in my tests at the common task of launching Web pages than either Firefox or Safari. However, it proved faster than the latest version of IE — also a beta version — called IE8.

  • Icon – Daniel Glazman identified the source of inspiration for the icon.
  • Phone Home – Matt Cutts has a blog post on when Chrome phones home
  • Omnibox – It’s ability to find new search engines is pretty neat… wonder how well that really works in day to day browsing though. Otherwise it’s essentially an Awesomebar to me.
  • Application Shortcut – The Prism-like functionality is just that. Essentially it just passes the url as a param into the Chrome exe via a shortcut. Looks like unless Gears is used you’ll use the Favicon which looks pretty bad.
  • Download Manager – The download manager is pretty cool, but if you download a number of files, I think this interface can get pretty cumbersome. Just like Thunderbird with a lot of attachments.
  • Font Rendering – It looks like they are using GDI Text rendering to avoid that blurry mess that Safari uses on Windows. I suspect Apple will do the same soon.

Overall it seems pretty smooth. From what I’ve seen, the process model does result in more memory in total than Firefox 3, since most tabs I open stay open for quite a while. It’s clearly still a little rough, but it’s not even out for 12hrs yet.

I await a Mac release. I just realized Pinkerton is working on Chromium as well, so I have a feeling the Mac release won’t suck but will be a real port that looks and feels like a Mac application should.

I don’t think it was mentioned in the press conference, but the Chromium blog is open.

Wired has a great article on inside the project. In addition to the names I mentioned yesterday, Bryan Ryner was also involved in at least the prototype.

I’ll make one prediction: The code most likely to find it’s way into other browsers is the GreenBorders stuff. It was originally for IE/Firefox, making it most suitable for possible adaptation to be included in other browsers. I’m not sure how much of it remains and how easy to adapt it would be though.

I’ll leave this “review” right here and unfinished since it’s still an ongoing project. Just wanted to share my initial thoughts. I’ll follow up at some point in the future when I feel it’s right to do so.

Any thoughts/additions? Feel free to leave a comment.

Edit [9/2/2008 @ 10:55 PM EST] – Added prediction about GreenBorders and link to Wired Article.

Zimbra Desktop

Yahoo owned Zimbra released the latest Zimbra Desktop today. At a glance it seems pretty nice. Essentially Yahoo Mail running on Mozilla Prism. It does seem somewhat of a large download for what it is. But maybe they still have some fat to trim. What is now Firefox was pretty hefty when it first split from Mozilla App Suite. It takes time. The installer is also very slow. I see it has jetty, so looks like there’s a Java backend.

It supports any POP3 or IMAP account similar to Thunderbird, with options for Gmail and Yahoo Plus in the wizard (for those who don’t know what type of email account those are).

My general impression is pretty neat, but the UI needs work. It often has scroll bars to view the contents of a window (just like a webpage). This is normal in a browser, but just feels strange in what is designed to be like a client side application. Even setup has this problem.

So far I still think Thunderbird and Apple Mail provide a better desktop experience. But Zimbra’s the new kid on the block, so I wouldn’t underestimate it. It is Open Source. It will be interesting to see who contributes to it.

If anyone else tried it, I’m curious to know what you thought of it.

The Winner For Most Embedded Is: SQLite

So the format war of Blue-ray vs. HD-DVD is over. There are still several other rather significant battles going on in the tech world right now that aren’t Microsoft vs. Apple or Yahoo vs. Google. For example:

Adobe Air vs. Mozilla Prism vs. Microsoft Silverlight

Google Gears vs. HTML5 Offline support

Android vs. iPhone SDK vs. Symbian

Ruby On Rails vs. PHP

Not every case will have a true “winner”. That’s not really a bad thing. Choice is good. In some cases they will merge to form one standard, such as what’s likely for offline web applications.

What is interesting is that SQLite really dominates right now. Adobe Air, Mozilla Prism, Google Gears, Android, iPhone SDK (likely through Core Data API), Symbian, Ruby On Rails (default DB in 2.0), PHP 5 (bundled but disabled in php.ini by default). It’s becoming harder and harder to ignore that SQL survived the transition from mainframe to server, and now is going from server to client.

No longer is the term “database” purely referring to an expensive RAID5 machine in a datacenter running Oracle, MySQL, DB2 or Microsoft SQL Server. It can now refer to someone’s web browser, or mobile phone.

This has really just begun to have an impact on things. The availability of good information storage, retrieval, and sorting means much less of these poorly concocted solutions and much better applications. Client side databases are the next AJAX.

Edit [2/27/2008 9:14 AM EST]: Added Symbian, since they also use SQLite. Thanks Chris.