Google Chrome's First Year

A year after its release, the Web browser -- and operating system -- isn't a Microsoft-killer, but it has enthusiastic supporters and influence.
Following Chrome's release, Firefox followed Chrome's lead in offering private browsing mode, aka "porn mode," where the browser can be set to stop tracking URL history, passwords, and caching Web pages. Private browsing was pioneered, not by Chrome, but by the earlier Safari browser in 2005, and Internet Explorer also offers it.

Another Chrome feature copied by Firefox: Chrome offers application windows, where individual copies of the browser can be locked to specific Web pages and applications, and behave more like desktop apps. After Chrome came out with that feature, Firefox pushed a project off the back burner that does the same thing, called Prism, and it's now available as either a standalone application or a browser extension. Safari also offers application windows through a third-party add-on.

Yet another Firefox feature that looks like Chrome: When Firefox crashes with multiple tabs open, it offers you a choice of which particular tabs to re-open, which is similar to Chrome's method of treating individual tabs as separate process. That behavior is new to Firefox 3.5, released after Chrome.

Long Road

Chrome still has a long road ahead, and quite a lot of potential. It's filling in many of the significant holes in its capabilities, and knocking down barriers to adoption. The open beta released last year didn't even have a bookmark manager; the current version has that. As my colleague Serdar Yegulalp reports, version 2.0 is now available, version 3.0 is on its way, and Chrome just keeps getting better and better. Chrome now supports browser extensions, the lack of which was another barrier to adoption, and it's working hard on getting out Mac and Linux versions.

So is Google Chrome a success? Not if you measure it against initial expectations in places like TechCrunch and TechDirt. It's far from a Microsoft-killer; it hasn't even caused Microsoft to break a sweat. And it's been a disappointment to Mac and Linux users, who are still waiting to see versions of the software.

On the other hand, measured on its own terms, Chrome is a hit. It's great software, it's been influential in shaping browser evolution, and it has a devoted user base.

While Chrome has fallen far short of fulfilling its potential, it's still early days. Don't count Chrome out.

For Further Reading:

Review: Google Chrome Mostly Glitters

Google Chrome Gets Faster, Learns HTML 5

Google Chrome OS: Web Platform To Rule Them All

Google Chrome Bookmark Sync Coming

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