Google's Browser

I have been disappointed with Google's entry into the web browser market ever since I first read about it. The first question that I had which I still haven't found an answer to is what name have they given to the browser? All that I see refers to the browser's chrome. At the time of writing this the browser is still only an early beta version and so perhaps the name of the browser will be announced prior to its being released for the general public to use.

The browser chrome is the second disappointment. Instead of using the operating system API to generate the browser chrome the way that all other programs do so as to get the standard functionality and appearance of that chrome, the Google browser has taken the approach of writing their own code to generate the chrome so that it looks totally different from the way that you would expect. It stands out from the other programs on your computer by not properly utilising the operating system to handle the common functionality that the operating system is there for in the first place. All I can think of as a reason for their doing this is that their next step will be to create a stand-alone version of this browser that will not require a separate operating system. If that is what they propose to do next then this action of writing their own code to generate the chrome at least makes some sense.

As an aside for those who haven't come across the term "chrome" before it is a technical computer term to reference those standard parts of a computer program such as the borders, title bar, menu bar and tool bars that most programs share in common and which are usually generated from the operating system API.

Next step was to actually download and install the browser so I could take a look at it. The first thing I noticed was how extremely rude the install process was. The browser did not ask me where I wanted to install it but instead proceeded to install itself into a data folder on my system - somewhere that I expect to contain only data. The program will therefore probably find parts of itself being deleted the next time I do a clearout of my old data and delete some of its files as being unknown garbage. To me this indicates that the program does not want to stay on my system since if it had wanted to stay and be used then it would have asked me where the appropriate program folder was that I install programs into so that it could have been installed into the right place.

The program's rudeness doesn't stop at the install though. It continues by deciding for itself that once a day it will automatically run an update module that will connect to the internet, steal your bandwidth, and check to see if Google have released any updates to the browser. If it finds any updates, no matter how minor, it will then steal more of your bandwidth to download and install them. Now given that the program is an early beta there are likely to be many huge changes made to the browser before it is ready for public release. Those testing the beta version do not need to be installing upgrades to the browser every day since at this stage in its development it only makes sense to check out a few pages in the browser every so often just to see thatm the browser actually processes the pages correctly so that any bugs can be reported back to Google so that they can be fixed before the program is released to the public (after all that is what a beta release is for). While a weekly or monthly automatic check for updates would perhaps be useful in the final version of the program, a daily check in the beta version is pointless. Fortunately since the update test is perfomed by a separate module within the program it is easy to block that modeules access to the internet in the Firewall without affecting the main program's ability to view web pages.

So with the browser installed (in the wrong place) and with the update function disaqbled in the firewall how does the browser itself perform. Well to say that I was impressed would be a lie. Every web page I visited appeared to take at least as long if not longer to load that it did in any of the other browsers I have used. Note that I am not saying that it did take longer, just that it appeared to do so. The JavaScript engine within the browser is supposed to be much faster than that in other browsers but I didn't notice any difference (perhaps because I write JavaScript that runs reasonably efficiently in the browser in the first place). The browser did display the pages the way they are supposed to appear and without the clunky ugly font rendering that Safari (the other main browser that uses the same rendering engine) insists on using so as far as displaying web pages goes the browser is acceptable but nothing special.

That brings us to navigationg between different pages and browser customisation. Now at this point it is important to remember that this is only an early beta and that the browser will hopefully be significantly enhanced in these areas before it is released since te navigation options in the browser itself are extremely primitive (in part due to the custom chrome) and customisation is just about non existant (presumably they haven't added that part yet.

This browser has a long way to go before it will be ready for public use and I think it could have done with more time in private development before being released for the public to look at. At least then they could have got more of the basic functionality in place before people could start listing everything that it is still missing. As yet another browser on the various existing operating systems, the Google browser is nothing special and will require a major marketing campaign to compete with the alternatives (similar to the ad campaign that Microsoft used for their extremely mediocre Windows 95 operating system when they first released it in competition to the far better OS/2 and Windows NT operating systems). If Google procees to create a stand-alone version of the browser with its own built-in operating system then that will be a completely different situation and that version of their browser should be quite capable of capturing a significant portion of the operating system market for those whose only use of a computer is for access to the internet.


This article written by Stephen Chapman, Felgall Pty Ltd.

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