by Rob Williams on September 3, 2008 in Software
Sure, the Internet has no shortage of web browsers, but it’s not often that someone comes along and tries something different, and believe it or not, it’s Google this time around. We’re taking a look at the first beta release of their Chrome browser, which happens to be ultra-fast, stable, intuitive and lightweight, all at the same time.
When we posted in our news on Monday that Google was apparently set to release a browser, I don’t think many were expecting it to happen so soon. Did Google release early due to their ‘leaked’ comic strips, or was September 2nd in their plan for a while? As it turns out, Sept. 3rd was the desired date, but the browser was clearly ready, as was their launch plans, so we were all treated a day early.
I am never one to jump at the opportunity to test out a new Google application, and the only one I currently use on a regular basis is Google Earth. Something about Chrome was intriguing though, and while I didn’t quite like everything I was reading, I do think the company is going in the right direction, and for that, I had to give it a try right away.
The first question to come to mind though, might be “Why?”. Each popular OS already includes a native browser, and with the likes of Mozilla Firefox and Opera, what’s the point of building yet another? According to Google, they don’t like how current browsers are progressing. They state that the browser as it stands today was built for a simpler web, one that’s far different to the web we experience today, especially with all the integrated media and games we use on a daily basis.
Their goal was to build a browser from the ground up, one that’s minimalistic in nature, stable, secure and fast. Google wants to essentially evolve the browser, so that the web can also continue to evolve. How they plan to do this is interesting, and well-worth reading up on. We don’t often post content dedicated to a ‘simple’ web browser, but Google really caught my attention here, so let’s take a look at what’s here now, and what’s on the way.
Google Chrome offers what, exactly?
Google plans for Chrome to be the fastest browser out there, while being designed to handle all that makes the web so great. The base used is WebKit, a popular open-source framework that’s ultimately derived from a library that Konqueror in KDE uses. Apple has since picked up on it, which is why it’s also used in Safari and also the iPhone, while Nokia, Adobe, Trolltech and others, among Google, have also decided to use it in their own applications.
Security & Stability
What might be one of the most impressive features is ‘Sandboxing’, the technique of putting each tab within the browser into it’s own instance within Windows, which will increase stability in case one of your tabs crashes. To better explain why this is important, the scenario I’d like to call upon would be one I tend to suffer rather often… random crashes that come out of nowhere while being in the middle of some work.
One example in particular is when I am preparing a post for our news section or our forums, and then all of Firefox goes down in one swoop, without warning and without error. To prevent this, Chrome throws each tab into it’s own instance within Windows, so if one tab crashes, it won’t effect the other tabs that are still open. When first starting Chrome up, you’ll notice that two instances are active – one for the browser, and another for the ‘speed dial’, I assume. Open up another tab, and you’ll see a third instance, and this increases as you open more tabs.
It might seem redundant to open up numerous instances like this, but it’s actually a smart way of doing things. If you are working on something and another tab crashes, you’re probably going to be thankful that Sandboxing exists. How the browser would cope with a fatal plugin error is unknown to me, but I have found it to be a rare occasion when a plugin will crash in a Windows browser, unlike 64-bit Linux, where it happens all the time.
The added benefit of Sandboxing is that the browser becomes multi-threaded in a sense, where each tab can use one core at a time. Theoretically, if you have four tabs open, each one could use it’s own core, and the same goes for the plugins. Webpages aren’t usually that intensive, but this might help out more in the future as 3D web games become more popular.
Since phishing attacks and malware-infested sites are all over the place, ‘Blacklists’ is another feature that Google is giving a lot of attention to. Chrome will feature two different lists, one for phishing sites and one for malware sites. It will automatically update these lists on a regular basis, so that you are kept up to date. This concept isn’t entirely new, but it’s implementation seems to be the best.
Ever get off the computer and then be called back into the room moments later with a family member showing you a porn site you were at fifteen minutes earlier? With the Incognito mode, that doesn’t have to ever happen, since when in use, it will not store cookies, a cache or anything of the nature. It will be as if you never visited the site at all.
From a security standpoint, Chrome seems to be taking care of how it operates, and so far, things are looking good. The Sandboxing method of keeping your tabs secure makes perfect sense, and with the malware site detection and multi-threading capabilities, this browser is already a league above the competition that has been in the marketplace for quite some time.