Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Google Chrome: the alternative

This is my first post in this blog.
As the name suggests, it's gonna be about development and technology. I hope you enjoy it!

I wanted to begin with my commentary on Google Chrome, the long-awaited alternative to FireFox, Safari and Opera (sorry, I don't consider IE an alternative at all).

Google did the smartest thing for a new application: they designed the solution, but implemented it using existing open source components, thus avoiding NIH and giving back to the community.

Of course, the new browser is not perfect. I used it for several weeks before going back to FireFox, and I had two big reasons for that: Adblock and Atom/RSS support.

Adblock absence is easy to explain: Google makes money from ads, so it would be against there primary interests to support that kind of plugin.

But what about feeds?
I don't need an embedded reader, or "Live Bookmark" support. I use Google Reader for that.
All I need is feed discovery (i.e. show me the feed icon when a feed is available). Is that so hard?

I also miss other not-so-essential plugins, like BugMeNot or FireBug.

Still, Google Chrome gets many things right. I'd love to see a new browser in the near future (1 year?) that combines the best of FireFox and Chrome. The process is easy:
  1. Make it simple
  2. Make it even simpler. Remove everything that's not essential
  3. Allow me to extend it!
Now, what do I love about Chrome?
  • The Omnibox. After using it, having 2 separate boxes for addresses and search feels wrong.
  • Detachable tabs.
  • Zero clutter. No menu bar. No fixed status bar. No fixed bookmarks bar. This is very important with wide-screen.
  • Automatically adding search engines.
  • Startup speed. The cold start times for FireFox are unacceptable.
  • One process per tab. Now, a malfunctioning/slow page can't hang my whole browsing session.
  • A smart start page. One that I don't want to set to about:blank as soon as I install a browser.
  • Fast, fast, fast scripting engine.
  • Great in-page search (I belive this comes from WebKit)
  • Useful handling of invalid/self-signed certificates. Encryption and trust are two completely separate aspects. It's a shame they are basically tied to each other in the current HTTP implementation.
Some things need work:
  • Downloading a file to store in my computer is a different action than opening a file with another program (for example, a .DOC or .PDF). Chrome does not make this distintion, and makes me clean the download folder by hand, instead of using a temporary one.
  • Popup handling is innovative, but I prefer, to some degree, the FireFox way.
I feel we really needed someone to shake the browser world, and I'm glad it's Google, because it's probably the only player with enough mindshare to drive the change.

1 comment:

  1. I still use it sometimes, but I'll tell you why I went back to Firefox. It just doesn't work with Yahoo! mail. For instance, the email address autocomplete doesn't work in Chrome. That completely ruins it for me for my main application.

    Congrats on your new blog!