Google just introduced its first browser, Chrome. I’ve only had a few hours to learn about it and use it, but it already has my attention.
The browser is fast, it’s stable, it provides for a great browsing experience because it virtually disappears when you’re on a page, and it has some cool features, like Incognito, a mode that lets you surf without leaving a history or cookies behind. The tabs are very nicely done, and can be moved within the browser or to the desktop and back again.
Chrome is based on the open-source project WebKit. While WebKit has been used for Safari, Chrome is currently only available for Windows. It will be coming for Mac soon, and should be integrated into Google’s forthcoming cell phone platform, Android.
Google introduced Chrome using an online comic book. This approach generated buzz while also serving as effective PR.
The browsing experience is unique in some ways. Many of the normal controls are gone (you have to add a Home icon, for instance), and a panel of recently visited sites and recent bookmarks greets you when you open a new tab. Entering anything in the address window starts a search engine (default, Google, but you can change this), which I found to be handy and accurate.
Chrome is in beta, and there is already a security flaw reported that could be serious (Apple has already fixed it in Safari).
Overall, it looks like the browser wars are back on. Why does it matter? Because Chrome is likely aimed not at Microsoft’s Internet Explorer, but rather at Microsoft’s operating system. By preserving the maximum workable space, making itself incredibly fast, and allowing for true multi-processing, Chrome is an OS platform disguised as a browser.
Even if this end-game doesn’t materialize, Google will benefit from faster browsing — more ads will be served, more pages loaded, and Google benefits from an increased Web GDP.
It may be a browser war, but in the world of broadband, the stakes have changed.