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Warning This article was written over six months ago, and may contain outdated information.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