Google Chrome: A browser to help web apps replace Windows desktop apps?

Yesterday Google launched a beta of a new web browser they're calling "Chrome."

Yesterday Google launched a beta of a new web browser they're calling "Chrome." (Windows only at this time, with Mac and Linux in the works.) Most peoples' initial responses are "Oh great, ANOTHER browser to deal with!" But Google is saying "No no! This is not just another browser."

Google published information about Chrome in a fairly cool comic book-style document, available online for free via Google Books. The book is easy to read, and the jist of it is that today's web browsers were really written for ten-year-old technology that was just showing static pages. But today's Internet is more about web applications--Javascript, DHTML, AJAX, etc.--and web browsers are buggy, bloated, crash-happy demons. (IE8 by itself consumes more memory than the entire Windows XP OS!)

With Chrome, Google is starting from scratch and creating an [open source] web browser for this decade that's more appropriately designed for today's environment.

So what's that have to do with us? We've been writing and talking more and more about the coming evolution of applications, and that includes web applications. The concept of a web app is changing, and we're seeing standards like Gears and Silverlight and AIR and others which could potentially blur the line between "web" apps and "windows" apps.

Yesterday I read through all of the Google Chrome documentation that was available. I played with the beta (via Fusion of course) and read through all the blog entries about the product I could find. Obviously there is a lot of cool stuff and a lot to talk about, but here's what's important to know about Chrome in the context of corporate IT applications and app delivery:

Each Chrome tab is its own process

Of course Chrome is a tabbed-browser. But one of the problems with the other mainstream browsers is that all the tabs run under a single process. This means that they all run in the same security context, and that a single buggy web page/app/script/whatever can crash your entire browser.

In chrome, each time you launch a new tab, a new process is created. (Not a new thread, but an honest-to-goodness process.) While this will slightly increase the overhead at first, it means that worst-case, a bad app will only crash that tab, not the whole browser. It also means that closing a tab will completely clear out and remove all memory elements of that page/app.

Built-in frameless app / SSB support

One of the emerging trends in the web application space is the concept of a "site-specific browser" (SSB). The idea of an SSB is that if you're just using a single web application, you don't need the address bar, bookmarks bar, forward and back buttons, etc., that a normal browser has. You'd probably like to be able to put shortcuts to that app on your desktop or start menu. Ideally you'd probably also like to change the contents of the menus (file, edit, view, etc.) so that they were specific to the web page or web app that you were using. (For example, a "compose email" menu item on the file menu of a Gmail app that would invoke the same AJAX routine as clicking the "compose email" link within the web page.)

There have been a number of lab-type projects in this space over the years, the most notable being the "Prism" extension for Firefox. (Also Windows only.) The HTML 5 draft specification has some language around this idea as well.

Google Chrome has several SSB features built-in already, including the ability to hide the excess browser and menu clutter, as well as the ability to easily create shortcuts on your desktop to web pages and apps.

Perhaps the coolest SSB feature of Chrome goes back to the fact that each tab is its own process. So now when you click icons or visit pages in an SSBish way, you can start/stop/launch/kill whatever you want without different pages/apps negatively affecting each other.

(As a quick side note, everything in Chrome is drag-and-droppable. Since each tab is its own process, you can simply drag a tab out of a window to "pop" that tab into its own window. A few more clicks and you've removed the menu bar, etc., from that window. I literally kept my Gmail window open and running all day in the background, and it felt 100% like a "real" email client. You forget that you're using the "web," which I guess is the whole point.)

Gears is built-in

I briefly mentioned Gears previously. If you've never heard of it, Google Gears is Google's technology which will allow users to run web apps while they're offline. (This will of course require that the web app developer has specifically developed the app to be Gears-compatible.) Right now the only [sorta] mainstream app that's Gears-compatible is Google Reader (Google's RSS reader), but it's widely assumed that Gmail, Google Office, and pretty much everything else that Google owns will be Gears-enabled at some point.

Building Gears into Chrome is not unexpected, but it's just one more of the "little things" that this browser does that's oriented towards real web apps.

Chrome is here to stay

I guess the bottom line with Chrome is that it's here whether you like it or not. And with a company like Google behind it, it will get noticed. We'll see how it evolves over time, but in my mind this is just one more reason (or enabling component) that will allow real desktop apps to ultimately move off of the desktop and into the cloud.

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When playing a YouTube video, Firefox 3 took up 95 percent of the CPU time on a three-year old laptop running Windows XP.


 


Chrome came in at 60 percent - still too much. Especially since Google owns YouTube! You'd think it could make its browser work well with that site in particular.


 


Internet Explorer barely broke a sweat, taking up just a few percent.


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When I told each browser to load eight pages, some of which were heavy with Flash and graphics, Firefox took 17 seconds and ended with a continuous CPU load of 50 percent. That means it took up half of my available processing power, even if I wasn't looking at any of the pages. Chrome loaded them the fastest, at 12 seconds, and ended with a CPU load of about 40 percent. Internet Explorer 8 took 13 seconds to load, but ended with no CPU load at all.

 

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a single test of two web pages does not really bring anything meaningful to the discussion. I am running Chrome since it's been released and I already like it better than Firefox (I have not used IE for as long as Firefox has been available)
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MS Watch has this article poking holes in Chrome's treatment of privacy issues: http://www.microsoft-watch.com/content/web_services_browser/chrome_privacy_is_full_of_dents.html

Chrome makes some sexy promises, but for myself, I'm waiting to see how long it takes for their first zero-day to make an appearance. Glad to know there are men of stouter heart than I who are willing to guinea pig -- it makes for a better show when it all hits the fan.

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I think that MS Watch article is a bunch of FUD. Here's Matt Cutts' response:

http://www.mattcutts.com/blog/common-google-chrome-objections/

Personally I don't think Chrome is any different than any other browser out there today in terms of privacy. Also, remember that it's open source, so it's not like they can hide anything deep inside that no one will find out about.

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On the note of Youtube (and all things Flash for that matter), it's less about the browser and more about the Flashplayer. Flash in Windows/IE will always seems to run faster and more efficiently (and in my experience with greater stability) than any other platform/browser combination. I suspect the Flashplayer ActiveX control is just more efficient than the Flashplayer XPT plugin.
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Good but not great. Honestly, I've been playing with Chrome for hours and I don't see how it's any better than Opera. At least on my system I cannot notice any real performance improvement memory and CPU wise. Obviously, it's considerably better than Internet Explorer. It's definitely a very good browser, at least it's showing great potential from the get-go. So far, I like Opera better but I do see this browser as a great addition to the list of good browsers. 
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it still use netcaptor!  best tabbing browser ever!

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/NetCaptor
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First thing I noticed is that the web interface 5.x loads up extremly fast in comparison to internet explorer. But then the client detection part ... it simply won't detect my locally installed clients :) also the anoying part is that it won't open up the launch.ica automaticly although my website is added in the security as trusted website.

For a first launched beta product i am pretty pleased with this browser although I did not look at how it performs vs other browsers. And i have firefox, opera, chrome and IE7 installed :) can't have enough browsers today on your machine says the fool :+ 

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Citrix only tests with IE before releasing to minimize dev costs.
Other browsers are tested as customers complaints intensify
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I've been using Chrome since the Beta release and so far i like it. The installation is fast and Chrome launches quickly. The downside; each time i try to launch a Citrix published app i receive the message "No available plug-in for this display". or something very similar. Howerver, plug-ins are available for Flash.

I realize Chrome is currently in Beta, but one would think that Citrix would be right there with Flash during the planning stage when it comes to plug-ins, but i'm slightly bias.

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Actually the whole browser crashes,.


try this in a .html page:


<a href="fakelink:%">Hover To Crash</a>


 Then you see, the whole browser crash.


 Cheers, JW

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Incognito window is a very cool feature. 

Google is eating IE for lunch 

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Get a clue MS lover....your team is dead.  Google and Apple will rule the next few decades.  You blew your load in the 90's...it's over.
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Get a clue MS lover, your team is dead!  Google and Apple will rule the next few decades.  You blew your load in the 90's.  It's over!
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Been loving and using Opera for 6 years.


Never really tried Modzilla/Firebox.  SOME features of Chrome look pretty good - annoymous surf..etc.

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If so you don't own it GOOGLE does ;-).


Check this out.... Google Chrome EULA Claims Ownership of Everything You Create on Chrome, From Blog Posts to Emails http://gizmodo.com/5044871/google-chrome-eula-claims-ownership-of-everything-you-create-on-chrome-from-blog-posts-to-emails

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