Ten frequently asked questions about Google's Chrome web browser
- What is it?
- What technology does it use?
- Why do we need it?
- What is different about it?
- Will it be safe?
- Will it mean the end of other browsers?
- What does it mean for corporate IT?
- When will they have a version for Mac and Linux OS?
- Why should I worry about Google Chrome?
- What's all this about a comic book?
Chrome is Google's attempt to re-engineer our interaction with the Internet. Google says it can make a browser that is faster, more stable and more secure than Microsoft's Internet Explorer. Older browsers were not designed for today's interactive web use, and keep breaking down.
Now that we do everything - working, shopping, banking, playing - on the Net, insecure clunky old browsers, which were designed for a bygone era of searching texts, are costing us time and money. Google hopes to address this with the Chrome browser. Some describe Chrome as a web application platform that can also surf pages.
According to some tests, Chrome is twelve times faster than Internet Explorer.
In technical terms, it's a new web browser, built from scratch, that recognises Java Script, which became the de facto standard for web applications, wasn't being handled ideally. So, according to Google, they designed a browser that interacted the way they'd like their own applications (such as Google Apps) to be treated.
For end users, the browser has been a limiting factor to what they can do on the web. The Internet has outgrown its original purpose. It's no longer about accessing text, but about using web-based, thin-client applications and multimedia. Every application needs a proper host environment to perform reliably. Software as a service (SaaS) and cloud computing become more realistic when the enabling browser is re-engineered
Internet Explorer 8 and Firefox 3 are revamped versions of the original browser concept, which was not designed with today's users in mind. Who knew then how the industry would develop? So there's only so far these old technologies can be stretched.
Google says it can create a much more efficient browser by starting from scratch and using open source code. Inherent in the design is a paring down of the code and the creation of modular design that gives the browser more flexibility. By separating out different functions, and letting them run independently, Google argues it can save us from the modern phenomenon of crashing browsers and lost tabs.
Chrome has a complete rebuild, compared with Internet Explorer 8 (IE8), with a different architecture that allows different functions to run independently. For example, it gets around the crashing browser problem by allowing each browser tab to be a separate process. So if your shopping tab crashes, you don't lose all the research material you'd found on another tab.
The debate about technical pros and cons has only just begun.
Developers meanwhile, need a browser that can be an application host platform.
The main differences are that Chrome is built on Open Source and uses multi threading.
One major difference is that hackers should find it harder to get damaging code onto your computers via Chrome, because it has been designed to stop people tampering with core code in other applications.
According to independent testers Google's Chrome browser is outperforming the latest "stable" builds of both Firefox 3 and Internet Explorer 7. In one test, (see link below) Chrome (with 78 out of 100) outscored Firefox (71) and IE7 (14)
However, it was outperformed by Safari 4 (100), which was also built on Apple's WebKit framework.
In the short term, it won't affect other browsers. In the long term, its influence could go beyond browsers. It might even threaten the likes of Windows XP or Vista. If one day Chrome manages to seduce the general public into accessing their applications online, it could be argued, an operating system on their PC, which excludes other applications, might be redundant.
From a business perspective, there are good and bad points. Google wants more people comfortable with using the web, because that will encourage more use of web applications, such as Google Apps. What is good for the web is good for Google, as they say at the company.
But, from an IT director's view, the browser based client layer is by far the riskiest part of the whole application stack. It comprises lots of scripts from many different sources, mixed with AJAX tool kits, gadgets and all kinds of mysterious codes.
Google will only say these are in development, and don't give a release date. Google offers to let interested Mac users know by e-mail when Google Chrome for Mac is available.
Early user complaints are that there are no add-ons, which means no advert blocking.
Some security researchers have reported that Chrome allowed files to be downloaded automatically to the desktop.
Another early complaint is that it was difficult to close.
The privacy option might encourage a lot more inappropriate surfing at work. On the other hand, it is easier to handle and imports all your old Firefox bookmarks and passwords.
A spokesman for Germany's Federal Office for Information Security has said Chrome should be approached with caution because the beta version's security is untested.
This was first published in September 2008