Review: Google Chrome Mostly Glitters - InformationWeek

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Review: Google Chrome Mostly Glitters

Google's Chrome browser is fast and lightweight, with fresh and welcome user interface innovations. But it's still early beta software -- and it shows.

When Google announced its own open-source Chrome browser Monday, it made no sense. Why build an open source Web browser when Firefox is open source, an excellent browser, and available today? Google's behavior seemed the very definition of reinventing the wheel.

Chrome's interface makes it easy to see where you've recently been, and to return there in just a click.
(click for image gallery)

But Google answers the question in its comic-book-formatted explanation of its new browser technology: Google wanted to build a new browser from scratch, designed specifically to be used with the new generation of Web applications. Many of those applications are, of course, Google's own: Gmail, Google Docs, Google Reader, and more.

Google designed the browser to be lightweight, fast, have a minimalist user interface, and to resist crashing under the heavy JavaScript demands of Web applications.

Google succeeded in its goals. The browser performs well, it's easy to use, it has some really nice user interface features that demonstrate a fresh approach to the old problem of viewing and navigating Web pages.

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Many people are going to want to use Chrome as their primary browser. But others, I think, will want to wait, because Chrome has some rough edges, missing features, and stability problems. Chrome is an early beta, and it shows.

Google designed Chrome to be more stable than other browsers, noting that users can't afford a browser crash while writing an important e-mail, or creating an important document in an online word processor. Chrome is designed to be faster than the competition, particularly in JavaScript performance. And it's designed to work with Google Gears, to allow applications to work offline.

Google designed Chrome to be multithreaded. Other browsers are single-threaded, which means they can only do one thing at once. If your Gmail session hangs, your entire browser is frozen.

Chrome is multithreaded, which means that if one tab is locked up, applications and pages run normally in other tabs. And Chrome has its own Task Manager, which looks a lot like the one built into Windows, and which gives separate information on the resource usage of each running tab, window, and plug-in.

Google's browser is based on the WebKit rendering engine that underlies Safari. It runs only on Windows for now. Mac and Linux versions are in development.

When you're installing Chrome, you have the option of importing bookmarks, passwords, and other settings from Internet Explorer or Firefox. (Opera users, you're out of luck -- at least for now.)

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