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That's the blink of an eye compared with Gmail's gestation in beta, which began in April 2004 and continues to this day. And the speed at which Google is moving underscores Chrome's strategic value to the company.
Google describes its business as search, ads, and apps. Search and ads, it dominates. The online applications market remains contested, not to mention the mobile applications market. Google needs a browser of its own, so it isn't dependent on the goodwill of Apple, Microsoft, or Mozilla for access to its users.
"We're going to rip the beta label off with our 15th release," said Brian Rakowski, product manager for Google Chrome, in a phone interview. "The engineering team has been fixing a lot of bugs and working on stability, working on making the product really rock solid. We're pretty excited about that."
To some extent, the 1.0 designation is meaningless. Rakowski said that Google isn't going to spend a lot of time talking about numbered iterations. "We're trying, throughout the whole Chrome development process, to release features very quickly, so we have a lot more stuff coming down the pipe," he said. "The main point of this is that it's a rock-solid product that's ready for anybody to use, not just early adopters."
In other words, Chrome is both done and a work in progress. Mac and Linux versions are still being worked on, with no declared target date for release. New features, like an API for extensions, also are under development. And then there are the bugs. Google's Chrome bug-tracking system lists more than 2,400 open issues. Not all of them are bugs and not all are serious bugs, but clearly plenty of significant issues remain.
"There's no question that we have a lot of work to do," Rakowski conceded. "If you compare it to other projects of this scope, it's not unusual to have many thousands of open bugs. What we try to do is triage those bugs carefully and make sure that we're taking care of the most important ones, the ones that are affecting most users. Lots of those bugs have been targeted for this release to close."
Fair enough. Chrome feels fast and stable, at least far more so than the days after its initial release, when a large number of problems surfaced, alienating users not accustomed to Google's release-early-and-often habit.
Perhaps the most meaningful consequence of Chrome's 1.0 designation is that Google will be able to pitch its browser to distribution partners as a finished product, rather than the noodling of a few engineers over the weekend.