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First Look: Google Chrome, open-source browser

updated 03:40 pm EDT, Thu September 4, 2008

Google Chrome browser

The latest entry in the browser wars is Google's Chrome, an open source project with a special emphasis on speeding up JavaScript performance. Although a beta of the browser is only available for Windows (Mac and Linux versions are coming soon), the browser already promises a handful of features to separate it from its competitors.

Like most browsers, this one also provides a tabbed interface for opening multiple web pages within a single window. One visual difference is that this browser displays tabs at the top of the window, unlike other browsers that display tabs underneath the address bar. This placement of tabs may take getting used to, but it does make tabs more visible and easier to spot.

Since a tabbed interface can be so convenient to use, this browser adopts one of Internet Explorer's features. Instead of pressing a clumsy keystroke combination like Ctrl+T (Windows) or Command+T (Mac), you can open a new tab just by clicking on a New Tab button that always appears next to the row of existing tabs.

One problem with other browsers is that if you open multiple web pages in tabs and one web page freezes, all web pages in other tabs hang as well. Since Google hopes to run web applications, such as Google Docs, this browser offers a unique task manager feature, similar to the Task Manager found in Windows.

Right-click in the empty space near the tabs and you can choose Task manager from a pop-up menu. This displays the Task Manager dialog box, which not only lets you see how much memory each web page gobbles up, but also gives you the ability to select and shut down web pages individually. Doing this insures that one buggy web page won't bring your whole web browser screeching to a halt.

Besides restricting web pages from crashing other open web pages, this browser's tabbed interface also isolates web pages in a sandbox, which effectively isolates any malicious websites from attacking your computer. For added security, the program will constantly update and block a list of known malicious websites used to plant malware on your computer or mimic the websites of trusted financial institutions.

With other browsers, you can type a website address in the address box and a search phrase in the search box. Rather than clutter the interface with two visually identical text boxes, this program displays a single text box. This text box, called the omnibox, gets its name because you can type either an address or search phrase in and the program is smart enough to know how to handle different types of input.

Borrowing the Speed Dial feature from Opera, Google's browser displays a home page that can contain thumbnail images of multiple websites. Rather than force you to choose a single web page as your home page, this list of thumbnail images lets you choose multiple home pages that you can pick at the click of the mouse.

For maximum privacy, the browser offers an "incognito mode," which allows you to browse the Internet without leaving behind a trail of web pages or cookies stored on your hard disk.

The heart of the program is its new open source JavaScript virtual machine dubbed V8. Since many interactive websites rely on JavaScript, this V8 virtual machine can supposedly make web browsing faster. According to
Celtic Kane's JavaScript speed tests, this JavaScript virtual machine improved performance over Internet Explorer 7 but still lags behind the performance of Safari 3.1.2 and Firefox 3.01.

Although Google's Chrome may not be polished yet, it offers an intriguing glimpse at where browsers will likely evolve in the future. If you currently use Safari or Firefox on Windows, you may not see much of a performance boost from Chrome, but if you're still using Internet Explorer 7, you may want to consider switching to Chrome rather than wait for Internet Explorer 8.

by MacNN Staff



  1. UberFu

    Joined: Dec 1969


    so MacNN...

    Does this mean you are showing off the First Look of the Mac Version of the Google Chrome Beta?

    Or why in the h*** should we care about the Windows Beta on a Mac news Site?

  1. Guest

    Joined: Dec 1969



    Command-t isn't clumsy. Keyboard shortcuts are faster than mousing all over the place. That's why they're shortcuts.

  1. csimon2

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Re: Keystroke

    Seriously... how is having to move a mouse to an empty spot on the tab bar (and what if you have a lot of tabs open and therefore have very little to no room available to right-click in?; this sounds like the same problem XP has with its taskbar when a lot of windows are open) easier than command T or moving the mouse and left-clicking twice (the same number of clicks it would take via the tab bar in Chrome) to create a new tab from the File menu?

  1. Guest

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Browser wars?

    If you read the entire Google Chrome cartoon, they're not at war with anybody. They're trying to push the browser market forward, which is why they're open-sourcing everything. They want others to borrow and use and improve on.

    Googles business is online, and their revenue is advertising. They need browsers to come up to standards so that their online apps (Gmail, Docs, etc) perform well.

  1. chirpy22

    Joined: Dec 1969



    Given Google's track record, I would not be surprised in the least if their "open source" web browser sent information about people's browsing behaviors back to Google for them to analyze and capitalize on. Perhaps "incognito" mode enables this feature :)
    As someone above said, their business is advertising.

  1. Tanker10a

    Joined: Dec 1969



    How many more browsers do we really need to surf the net?
    Not to mention the number of sites that are not compliant to Safari, Chrome, FireFox, etc...

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