May 22, 2009
With Chrome 2.0 out this week for Windows only, the hue and cry arises once more: why is there still no Chrome for Linux -- or for that matter, anything other than Windows?
The answer, inasmuch as we have one so far, lies in a congeries of things -- each of which in their own way say something about the way Google has approached this project. These reasons are gleaned both from what I've read and my own theorizing:
Breadth of feedback. Google picked Win32 as the starting platform for Chrome as a way to start getting the broadest possible amount of feedback from the most number of people. I hardly need to make a case for how broadly-used Windows itself is, of course. Like it, love it, or loathe it, Windows is what people are using, and to release a program for Windows guarantees that it will have a certain breadth of acceptance and usage.
Ease of deployment. If you want to release an application for Linux, you have two choices. You can use a language that, in effect, makes it a platform-independent release (Python, Java, Perl, etc.), but at a performance cost. Or you can write it as a native C/C++ application, but at the cost of having to effectively re-deploy it on every single distribution that comes along. (Cf.: Opera.) This isn't trivial work, and it's that much less effort that can be focused back into making the program worthy. Choosing Windows also means they don't need to make endless choices about which visual toolkit or desktop environment to support first and most directly.
These are the two biggest reasons. They still don't answer something else that people have been wondering aloud: this aside, why is it taking so long? To that I can only answer: because that's what it'll take. Chrome isn't just a browser, from all I've seen, but a whole framework into which Google will build its broad array of desktop services -- and the best place to do that right now is Windows, since it'll give them back the biggest bang for their development bucks.
Finally, there's the simple fact that Chrome itself is still somewhat in flux. The feature mix, the behaviors, the third-party add-ons -- all of those are still a moving target. I'd bet we won't see a serious attempt to deliver a Linux or cross-platform edition of Chrome until version 3.x drops ... if only because by that time things should be as solid as they're going to get for a while, and the third time's the charm.
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