Why Does Google's Chrome Seem Tarnished? - InformationWeek

InformationWeek is part of the Informa Tech Division of Informa PLC

This site is operated by a business or businesses owned by Informa PLC and all copyright resides with them.Informa PLC's registered office is 5 Howick Place, London SW1P 1WG. Registered in England and Wales. Number 8860726.

IoT
IoT
Government // Enterprise Architecture
Commentary
9/3/2008
10:58 AM
Serdar Yegulalp
Serdar Yegulalp
Commentary
Connect Directly
Google+
Twitter
RSS
E-Mail
50%
50%

Why Does Google's Chrome Seem Tarnished?

I should be more excited about Google's Chrome browser than I actually am. It's fast on its feet, looks good, runs very nicely even for an 0.2 beta, and has even been released under the extremely liberal BSD license. So why do I feel like it's the wrong solution for the wrong problem?

I should be more excited about Google's Chrome browser than I actually am. It's fast on its feet, looks good, runs very nicely even for an 0.2 beta, and has even been released under the extremely liberal BSD license. So why do I feel like it's the wrong solution for the wrong problem?

When I originally sat down to write this column, I bashed out something along the lines of "the last thing this planet need is another Web browser." I didn't like taking that approach, if only because it goes against things I've said in the past: that plurality is a good thing, that what we need is a way to allow people to make more informed choices about things rather than restrict their options, etc. Then I re-read the press stuff about what Google is trying to do with this browser, and that's when my real objections became clear.

Google's plan is to build not only a better Web browser, but a better way to run Web applications both on and offline. This constant fetish of trying to use the Web browser as a front end for every kind of application in the world strikes me as a way to do more harm than good.

The first is the browser itself. Not a bad idea, since what I've seen of Chrome is pretty spiffy. I've tried out the 0.2 version and even though it's still missing a lot (there's no bookmark manager, for one), it ran very nicely over several hours of browsing and never crashed. That alone is a good selling point for users, me included.

But ... (Insert sound of other shoe dropping.)

InformationWeek Reports

Build a new browser -- with, as you can imagine, its own rendering quirks, its own "standards," and all the rest of that annoying foofaraw we've come to hate in this Web 2.x-always-in-beta world -- and you're creating at least as many problems as you're allegedly solving.

That leads us to problem #2: not every user application can or should be be shoehorned into a Web browser -- at least, not without serious reduction of functionality or flexibility. Even ways to extend browser functionality like Flash or Silverlight (or even Java) run into walls that simply aren't there when you use a standalone app -- and create whole new walls of their own. It's starting to feel like a twist on an old cliché: when you build a browser, everything look like a Web page.

A good example of this kind of behavior is when some Web designer uses Flash as the way to put content on or navigate a Web site. Suddenly, you can't bookmark anything, you can't swipe and paste text, form-input boxes can no longer be managed with JavaScript (something I rely on a lot with GenPass), and so on. This all despite the fact that Flash has been around for a long time.

Many people are probably not going to be as worried. A friend of mine, who uses Google's application services for a lot of things, prefers Web-based stuff because it means he can log in from anywhere and get things done. Fine. But I'm coming at this from the point of view of someone whose entire needs are not fully satisfied by the grade of applications that can be delivered through a browser. At least, not yet. If Chrome can change that, great.

That said, I reserve the right to be hesitant. I'm worried that the mad rush to put everything from word processors to image editors on the Web will create a whole new breed of unintentionally crippled software, and make the Web all the more siloed in its standards and jury-rigged in its behavior.

[Addendum re: WebKit, the rendering module in Chrome -- People have contacted me (apart from the comments here) to let me know how WebKit is highly standards-compliant. That's good news, but at the same time, it's still being wrapped up in a whole new application -- with, again, all of its own quirks, corner cases, etc. And entirely aside from that, I still have issues with the drive to make Web browser versions of many kinds of applications that current Web standards -- the ones everyone is currently coding to and using -- were never intended to support.]

We welcome your comments on this topic on our social media channels, or [contact us directly] with questions about the site.
Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Slideshows
Data Science: How the Pandemic Has Affected 10 Popular Jobs
Cynthia Harvey, Freelance Journalist, InformationWeek,  9/9/2020
Commentary
The Growing Security Priority for DevOps and Cloud Migration
Joao-Pierre S. Ruth, Senior Writer,  9/3/2020
Commentary
Dark Side of AI: How to Make Artificial Intelligence Trustworthy
Guest Commentary, Guest Commentary,  9/15/2020
White Papers
Register for InformationWeek Newsletters
Video
Current Issue
IT Automation Transforms Network Management
In this special report we will examine the layers of automation and orchestration in IT operations, and how they can provide high availability and greater scale for modern applications and business demands.
Slideshows
Flash Poll