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12/11/2008
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Google Chrome Goes Gold With 1.0 Release

With improved speed and stability over the beta released in September, Chrome is hoping to grab a larger chunk of the browser market from Internet Explorer and Firefox.

Speed and stability are two areas where Chrome's developers have been focusing their energies. According to Rakowski, Chrome is 1.4 times faster than when it was launched in September using the SunSpider JavaScript benchmark and 1.5 times faster using Google's V8 JavaScript engine benchmark. What's more, he said, common plug-ins like Adobe Acrobat and Flash, Apple QuickTime, RealNetworks' RealPlayer, and Microsoft's Windows Media Player and Silverlight now perform much better.

Chrome was released early to generate user feedback and that data has shaped the 1.0 release. "Managing your bookmarks is one of the things we heard loud and clear from people," said Rakowski. "They have lots and lots of bookmarks and want to be able to export them and organize them into folders more easily. So there's a bookmarks manager people can use now. Some people were interested in having more fine-grained control over some of the privacy settings, like what information gets sent up to servers at different times, so we grouped all the privacy settings together for the user to be able to make all those choices in one place. There're also a host of small improvements, like making pop-up blocking work better. There's a lot of refinement based on user feedback that should make people feel more comfortable using the existing product."

Making people feel more comfortable using Chrome also requires some measure of security. Unlike other browsers, Chrome was designed to compartmentalize processes, an architectural security feature not unlike the multiple hull compartments in the Titanic. Of course, we all know how well that worked out. Google, however, is aware that the security innovations in its browser need to be tested and that other vendors making software that connects to Chrome have to be improve the security of their software too.

"Security is an area where we've actually been very proud," said Rakowski. "When we launched we were very excited about the architecture, but it's unproven software. As you know, you can never make foolproof claims about the security of unreleased software. So over the last couple months, we've been able to see how it has performed in the wild. It has gotten a lot of scrutiny and we have a lot more confidence in the security of Chrome now. Also, we're really proud of how the engineering team has been able to respond. There have been a few things that have come up through the security research community and they've been able to fix those very quickly and issue patches in what we consider very admirable time frames ... hours, not days.

"One of the cool things about the multiprocess architecture and the sandboxing is that we can run plug-ins in their own separate process, which is great," Rakowski continued. "It provides some insulation for security purposes but also for stability. If one of those plug-ins goes down for whatever reason, the rest of the browser can still continue to function normally. In terms of sandboxing, plug-ins have a lot of capabilities and surface area, so it's pretty tough to sandbox those without some cooperation from the plug-in manufacturers themselves. We have started to talk to some of the big ones about potential changes to design so that we could sandbox them in a very secure way, but at this point we haven't made any changes to the way plug-ins are sandboxed from the beta, where they're running in their own process."

Google, meanwhile, has some running of its own to do. Firefox is now used by over 20% of Internet users worldwide, according to Net Applications. Chrome's market share is 0.83% at the moment, down from the surge of interest that took it to 1% market share when it was first released. According to Rakowski, there are 10 million people using Chrome. Expect Google to seek many more.

InformationWeek has done its own breakdown of Google Chrome. Download the report here (registration required).

If you haven't seen Chrome in action yet, take a spin through our Google Chrome image gallery and have a look at the browser that's being touted as a game-changer.

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