Google on Tuesday said it sees its new Chrome Web browser more as a way to improve its search, ads, and apps business than as another horse in the browser race.
The company officially launched its open source browser this week after company engineers accidentally (purposefully) lit up tech blogs with a cartoon explaining its features.
"Our intent here is to help drive whole Web platform forward," said Sundar Pichai, VP of product management at Google, during a press conference at the company's Mountain View, Calif., headquarters. "We believe that browsers should evolve a lot more to keep pace with how the Web is evolving."
Google co-founder Sergey Brin echoed that point, saying, "Our business does well if there's lots of healthy Internet usage."
Chrome, in other words, is about making Web usage and Web applications more competitive with the desktop application experience. It's the beginning of a transition similar to Apple's migration from Mac OS 9 to Mac OS X, which included technologies like pre-emptive multitasking and memory protection as a way to make the computing experience better. With Chrome and its new multiprocess architecture, Google hopes to bring the stability of modern operating systems to the browser.
But as much as Chrome is about reliability, it's also about speed.
For Google, speed, rather than time, is money. As Google co-founder Larry Page suggested, faster Web browsing leads to more searches, which shows up on Google's bottom line.
"If you look at what you're doing on the Web, you're looking at a blank screen or waiting for something pretty often," said Page.
Chrome aims to minimize that wait. In a test of static Web page load times conducted during the press conference, Chrome's average per-page rendering time clocked in at 77.28 milliseconds. Microsoft Internet Explorer averaged 220.64 milliseconds per page. (Google didn't immediately respond to a request to clarify whether IE 7 or IE 8 was used.)
Such statistics hardly represent the final word on browser performance, which may fluctuate in conjunction with network speed issues, as well as a variety of other variables.
But testing the performance of Chrome 0.2, Firefox 3, Safari 3.1, and Internet Explorer 7 loading the InformationWeek home page using WebWait.com, the results were similar: Firefox (5.21s) Safari (6.34s), Chrome (6.48s), and Internet Explorer (8.90s).
Another recent speed test between Chrome, Firefox, and Internet Explorer, conducted by Lifehacker, showed speed wins for Chrome and Firefox.
Even as Google pushes the browser performance envelope, the company stresses that Chrome is an open source effort and not a threat to Mozilla or other open source projects. "Any improvement to any set of browsers as a consequence of Chrome is a benefit to Google," said Sergey Brin.
"We think of the browser as the modern platform for applications," said Pichai.
No wonder former Microsoft VP of development Paul Maritz reportedly once said to Intel that he planned to "cut off [Netscape's] air supply."
Take a spin through our Google Chrome image gallery and have a look at the browser that's being touted as a game-changer.