Friday, September 5, 2008

Chrome googles serious browser challenge


Does the world really need another Web browser?

Google thinks so. Chrome, its new browser, was developed in secrecy and released to the world on Tuesday. The Windows version is available for download; the Mac and Linux versions will take a little longer.

Google argues that current Web browsers were designed eons ago, before so many of the developments that characterize today's Web: video everywhere, scams and spyware, viruses that lurk even on legitimate sites, Web-based games and ambitious Web-based programs like Google's own Docs word processor. As Google's blog puts it, "We realized that the Web had evolved from mainly simple text pages to rich, interactive applications and that we needed to completely rethink the browser."

What this early version of Chrome accomplishes isn't quite that grand. But it is a first-rate beginning. With no status bar, menu bar and only a single toolbar (for bookmarks), Chrome is minimalist in the extreme. Some might even call it stripped-down. This initial version is labelled "beta," meaning it is still in testing. True, Google labels almost everything beta — four-year-old Gmail is still in beta — but this time it's serious.

At the moment, for example, there's no way to email a Web page to someone, no full-screen mode, no way to magnify the page (rather than just the text), and no bookmarks organizing screen. Google says that these features are at the top of its todo list. Chrome is, nonetheless, full of really smart features that seem to have been inspired by other browsers — or ripped off from them, depending on your level of cynicism.

Take the address bar. As you start to type, a menu of suggestions appears immediately beneath — a list culled not just from pages you've visited before, but also from your bookmarks, search suggestions and popular Web pages that you haven't yet visited. Similar address bars in Firefox and Internet Explorer 8, also in beta testing. If you've ever searched Amazon, eBay, or another popular site, another cool shortcut awaits. You can just type the site's first letter in the address bar and then press Tab. Do that with "A," for example, and the address bar changes to "Search," allowing you to search within that site without even going there first.

The "Create application shortcuts" command generates an icon on your desktop. When you click it, the corresponding site opens without the usual address bar and buttons. Chrome is quick — faster than Internet Explorer, although not quite as fast as Firefox or Safari. Chrome is opensource, meaning that its code is available to everyone for inspection or improvement — even to its rivals. Now, it's best to think of Chrome as exactly what it purports to be: a promising, modern, streamlined, nonbloated, very secure alternative to today's browsers. NYT NEWS SERVICE

Download Google Chrome (beta) for Windows



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Hi, I am Hua, a chinese expat residing in India excited about windows, linux and all things tech

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