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3/18/2009
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Google Launches Chrome Experiments To Showcase JavaScript's Power

The search giant is using games, apps, and visualizations that push JavaScript to its limits to showcase the Chrome browser's capabilities.


Google Chrome

Google Chrome
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Against the backdrop of browser makers claiming their browser is fast, faster, or fastest, Google is trying to find a way around the benchmark battlefield.

Taking a break from the seemingly required citation of browser speed statistics -- something platform partisans are inclined to dismiss no matter what -- Google is testing the power of whimsy as a means of product evangelism. It has, after all, worked for the company before, through projects like iGoogle Themes and zany Gmail Labs add-ons.

On Wednesday, the company launched a Web site called Chrome Experiments. The site is home to 15 games, apps, and visualizations that push JavaScript to its limits. The company's goal is to demonstrate the capabilities of its Chrome browser and V8 JavaScript engine.

Google on Tuesday released a new beta version of its Chrome browser and claimed the software is 25% to 35% faster in benchmark tests than previous versions. When Apple released its public beta for Safari 4 last month, it claimed that Safari was "the world's fastest and most innovative browser." And earlier this month, Microsoft published a report showing that Internet Explorer 8 beat Chrome 1.0 and Firefox 3.05 loading 12 out of the top 25 Web sites.

Chrome Experiments represents an attempt by Google to woo by wowing. The company approached a handful of respected Web designers and JavaScript developers, including REAS, Mr. Doob, Ryan Alexander, Josh Nimoy, and Toxi, and asked them to post their JavaScript applications to show off what can be done in a browser.

"These experiments were created by designers and programmers from around the world," Google explains on the site. "Their work is making the Web faster, more fun, and more open -- the same spirit in which we built Google Chrome."

The results are fun and fascinating. My favorite is Google Gravity, which takes the Google home page and puts all the HTML elements into a gravity simulation that's similar in concept to the 2-D physics sandbox program Phun. When you run the experiment, the Google logo, the text entry box, and all the other links on the page fall to the bottom of the screen in a jumble. There, the page elements remain functional -- you can still enter text into the search box and generate search results. At the same time, they're both movable and continuously affected by simulated gravity.

Jacob Seidelin's DOMTRIS, a Tetris clone made using the document object model, or DOM, for representing HTML pages and JavaScript, is also pretty impressive. Really, all 15 of the experiments are worth looking at. And best of all, adept JavaScript programmers can submit their own experiments, if they feel inclined to showcase their work under Google's flag.

But Chrome Experiments isn't just an outlet for clever browser tricks. It also serves to spread Chrome through a prominent link to the Chrome download page.

While these experiments may seem like fluffy novelties, they're more than that. They're proof that the browser has become a potent platform for advanced graphics and animation. And they suggest that there's a method to Apple's madness in not rushing to include Flash support on the iPhone.

These JavaScript experiments may be enough to raise questions in the heads of Web developers about whether rich media technologies like Flash and Silverlight have a future.


InformationWeek has published an independent analysis of Google Chrome. Download the report here (registration required).

And 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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