Thoughts on Google Chrome

Warning This article was written over six months ago, and may contain outdated information.

As you have no doubt noticed, today saw the release of Google’s new browser, Chrome. As is usual, reactions have run the gamut from “it will kick all kinds of arse” to “meh”. Some have said it will take Firefox’s market share (within three months, apparently), but I don’t agree; I’ll explain why shortly, after this bit of link love.

The first we heard about Chrome was with the release of the in-depth introductory comic (by Scott McCloud). Some good early reaction came from Jon Tan, and The Usability Post; Download Squad have a more comprehensive round-up, and Wired provide an interesting behind-the-scenes look.

Update: Jesse James Garrett talks about Chrome and future user interfaces, while decode the comic.

After using it for an hour or so (I’m using it to write this) I’m pretty impressed; it’s fast and light, the tabs work well above the location bar, and the ‘omni bar’ is a pleasure to use. It’s built on Webkit, like Safari, but is a much better offering than Apple’s browser (certainly on Windows, at least). All of that said, I still can’t see it making a huge impact on the browser market.

First of all, while faster than its rivals, it doesn’t seem that much faster. And while the omni bar is more intuitive than the equivalents in Firefox 3 or IE 8, it won’t be too long before those browsers implement their own, improved versions. Browsers, more than any other type of software, are quick to borrow the best features from their competitors.

Second, and perhaps most importantly, the majority of people don’t care what browser they use. It’s taken Firefox years, and a lot of word-of-mouth and marketing, to chip into IE’s market share, despite its obvious advantages. Chrome’s security, detachable tabs, and so on, may be great features to those who care about that kind of thing, but to the average user they mean nothing; that’s the barrier that every non-native browser has to break down.

I’m happy that Chrome exists, because it’s got some good features (and no doubt will have more still by the time it leaves Beta) and is the first real attempt at a next-gen browser; not only that, but I believe it will make other browser makers raise their game. But as for taking a huge chunk of the market: I just can’t see it. Not yet.

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