Chrome – first impressions

Google released its browser, Chrome, in official beta yesterday. Accompanied by the story of its creation, illustrating how user considerations and computing resource use were taken into account to produce a more satisfying product.

Here are my first impressions, using Chrome on my Windows XP PC.

The browser loads very swiftly, unlike Firefox 3 which takes a finite and noticeable amount of time to start up. Good for cloud computing going mainstream, says Om Malik. The interface is clean although it takes up the whole screen which is an aesthetic adjustment that may require time to get used to. One-clickto change sizing and two-click to change font is a welcome feature. It uses far less – nearly 1/6 in a like-for-like-tabs-open situation – memory than Firefox 3. Built-in incognito surfing does away with the need for add-ons such as Distrust.

But where is the magic?

Chrome is mouse-friendly, definitely but I am a keyboard type person and will need to learn shortcuts. Here are things that have so far not been to my liking.

The password-save is an either-or option, that is, ‘save’ or ‘never save’. The granularity in Firefox 3’s offer to save or not to save for some sites is missed. Just like Firefox 3, there is the irksome – to me, may not be to others – dropdown. The suggestions are not always apt or tailored. Typing ‘tw’ offers ‘Twitter but when you extend it to ‘twi’, the offer is for TWI and Twitter is not seen in the top 5 recommendations. Most recommendations are for .com businesses and none for .co.uk, even though I am accessing from the UK. It reminds me of Amazon’s recommendations. You buy one book on tax planning and then it will offer you, ad nauseum, all the books on tax planning you never wanted. There should be an option to switch this feature off or at least customise it in some way. I also noticed that the Favicons do not appear on the leading edge of the URL box, but on tabs. This is a change but not materially important.

I tested some sites for relative loading speeds too. I noticed Yahoo mail loads slower than Gmail, and New York Times loads faster than BBC News, Twitter is noticeably slower on Chrome than on Firefox 3. I then found all my banking related websites load at the same perceptible speed as Firefox 3.

From a business perspective, I cannot help but wonder about ‘add-ons’. There is no evidence that Google is working to create a community of developers who are racing to offer add-ons. Is this just the not-invented-here syndrome at work, or do we have to wait for more announcements?

I am still looking for the answer to the question ‘where is the magic?’.

Additional reading:

Security flaw in Chrome from ReadWriteWeb

Om Malik on Chrome and Cloud Computing

Late addition:

Google changes EULA

18 thoughts on “Chrome – first impressions

  1. Chrome has a bright future, but baby has a lot to learn πŸ™‚
    till then, we can admire the cute and innocent looks for the baby πŸ™‚

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  2. i loaded firefox 3 yesterday only but have not tried it yet! And certainly not tried chrome so can’t comment on any of them. But what i gather from your experience is that firefox is still better. If i have got you wrong, do tell me! Will wait for your comment to know more! πŸ™‚

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  3. I have been browsing through all reviews of Chrome to hear something about Magic. So far I could not find it. Some reviews have complained that with increase in number of tabs chrome eats up more memory than firefox ever did. Also, is Chrome faster than Safari?

    I have not yet read that much touted comics launched by google to explain features. How was it?

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  4. Hey, I wrote a Quick look on Chrome myself on my blog, though it is not as technical as you have done. I feel Chrome is faster due to its Webkit background. Add ons will keep me away from it for a while but lets see how it fares after the Beta.

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  5. Just did a quick drive-thru of Chrome. As a browser, it’s speed is excellent, with very quick rendering of pages and downloading. Some sites (e.g. BBC) are slower than others (NYTimes). I quite like the speed and the small memory footprint.

    As a browser that’s barely a day old (in public), there’s no community of developers right now. But given GOOG’s distribution and ability to get stuff out the door, I won’t be surprised to see many Firefox developers rush on to it. Especially, since the code will be open-sourced.

    Features I’d like to see:-
    – AdBlock Plus! Chrome won’t be my browser of choice until developers implement this extension/add-on. We are sure Google won’t be the one implementing it. πŸ™‚ For the first time in ages I’ve seen ads on NYT and BBC, which of course, I don’t using Firefox + AdBlock. (I don’t mind the text ads as much as the constantly moving, jittering, distracting banners and flash ads.)
    – Mac version. Can’t wait to get rid of Safari, just because of the ads.
    – Better password control. Multi-site, “manager-based” control would be great.

    More feature lists here:
    https://internetducttape.com/2008/09/02/why-google-chrome-isnt-my-default-browser/
    https://lifehacker.com/5044467/which-chrome-feature-do-you-most-want-in-your-browser#poll_=ETNyUTM

    Over time, Chrome will get its features, no doubt. It is still just version 0.2, after all.

    But as to your ‘where’s the magic’ question: it’s all inside, as G’s comic shows. The speed, process control, the rendering, etc. are all part of it. When the browser disappears as an application to the background, Chrome will have delivered.

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  6. Magic is with Google, which until now was able to spy on you based only the services that they provided but now, they might know whatever you do online
    This is a freaky thing!

    You might say, they ain’t doing this… they might not be doing it now.. but sure they’ll have it once you are addicted to chrome.. it’s their forte!

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  7. Not much impressed by chrome. With no add-ons, i dont think the developers are going to warm up to Chrome in a big way. Which means that Google will have to do a lot of dirty work.

    Chrome will be just another of the assembly line products that Google churns out regularly but which never becomes a market leader.

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  8. Actually, I hear of the fine print that allows Google to own all content that’s written on chrome .. including blogs.

    Something for u on me blog.

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  9. I’ve been playing around with Chrome all day long and it’s amazing… Few of the irksome things you mentioned are ok, i can live with it… But the design is extremely minimalist and it may just overtake firefox.. πŸ˜€

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  10. The licensing issue is significant. By clicking on the ‘accept’ button, the user is granting non-exclusive rights to google for all or any of the content uploaded through the browser. That is not the same as copyright – it simply means Google can do what they want with the material, including sell it. The intent is to protect them from spurious litigation – the wording is rather more ‘aggressive’.

    It is significant because it gives Google the ability to analyse the users browsing patterns and their use of web applications as well as their search patterns – and therefore the ability to target content much more precisely – advertising revenue will certainly rise.

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  11. Shefaly, I won’t comment on this technology issue as these things usually leave me cold. πŸ™‚
    But I want to compliment you on this blog. It’s great. Well, I guess that’s not a very original word…I should say classy. I wanted to comment on your about page, but naturally, being a professional blog, you have disabled comments there.

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  12. Shefaly

    Have chatted to a couple of other technologists who say good first strike but needs work. Will be interesting to see what Chrome looks like on an Android handsets.

    Have played with Chrome on my own Windows PC and whilst I think that it’s interesting will still be using Opera for day to day because can use it across all my platforms, fixed, mobile, Windows or Apple.

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  13. @ Dinu: Thanks. In their defence, they do say it is in ‘beta’ so we can hope for more improvements.

    @ Sakhi: FF3 definitely takes much more resource than Chrome so in that respect the latter is better. The user interface (UI) may take some getting used to because the drop-down menus are limited and placed differently from where we expect to see them. Try it and see which works better for you.

    @ Poonam: That cartoon explanation of the design process is delightful. I compared FF3 and Chrome with the same number of tabs and the exact same pages being open in tabs. Chrome is much faster than FF3 and uses much less memory. I use Safari only on my Mac, which is lightly configured i.e. not many applications are run on it and has far more memory than my PC. So I think it may be unfair to compare it with Chrome on Win XP, but I observed on side-by-side comparison that Chrome is still faster.

    @ Dinesh: Thanks. The add-ons bit is off-putting for many so you have company there. However I think Google may be tempted to do it all in-house. The speed may also be down to the way the pages are served, as my friend Ian (see below) and I were discussing earlier this week. Other browsers need to pull ads from one server and content from another where their relative latencies etc may affect the speed whereas Chrome benefits presumably from the Google cache. What do you think?

    @ Atul: Interesting to see your experience of BBC News versus NYTimes is the same as mine! Thanks for the additional links too.

    You make a good point re FF3 developers. There is reason to believe that Google aimed at FF3 and Mozilla rather than Microsoft with this salvo. The Chrome team after all can boast of Ben Matthew Goodger, formerly owner of the FF project at Mozilla! The biggest hurdle – despite open source design – might be the resentment towards Google, trying to do things sneakily, such as in their EULA (see late addition link above).

    I agree re Ad Blocking although my Safari-on-Mac experience is remarkably ad-free; perhaps I should thank my ISP and my own hub settings!

    Alas, I am not sure many are going to read the cartoon strip to discover the magic. For a consumer product the magic has to be in the experience, not in the behind-the-curtains sausage making process.

    @ Sandeep R: That ‘trust’ issue with Google affects nearly everything they do. This would be no exception. I don’t think Google cares much about it either.

    @ Roop: I am surprised that the Mac release did not happen simultaneously, considering Chrome is open source. And on the ownership issue, they have amended their EULA (see late addition link above).

    @ Philip: I agree about the add-ons but I am intrigued that you think Google has products ‘which never become a market leader’.

    I am no fan of monopolies on the web but the data points towards something else re Google.

    Google’s search engine is a leader in its area, and Gmail continues to grow and lead the capture of market share. Google Maps are growing the fastest by visitor numbers even though the market share is quite small. The market share of Google’s other, niche applications such as Scholar, may be harder to compute. Before its launch, most academic researchers used several different databases to look for materials; but since its launch, at least some have discovered it and found it very useful as a single gateway to locating – if not accessing, which depends on their institutional licences etc – articles and papers.

    The question ‘what business is Google in?’ is not resolved. At one time, it was about the algorithm and they pointedly said they were not a Media company. This may be changing, now with growing ownership of content, such as street maps.

    What do you think?

    @ Nikhil: Finally, a potential fan of Chrome! Thanks for your note.

    @ Chris Wright: Under pressure and with a lame excuse relating to cookie cutter agreement templates, they have now altered the EULA. But yes, you make a valid point about potential growth in advertising revenues, which brings us back to the question ‘What business is Google in?’. What do you think?

    @ Nita: Thanks for your comment and your complimentary words about the blog. You are a major user of technology so your views on these technology issues would be quite useful I am sure.

    @ Ian: Thanks for those additional perspectives on the need for Chrome to be platform agnostic. You know that I use FF3 but I am increasingly fed up with the time it takes to start-up and then the memory it continues to use. After all these years, you may well have convinced me to go to Opera…

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  14. Interestingly, a consistent complaint on Google’s tech discussion fora over the last few days has been on Chrome’s lack of integration with Google toolbar… especially for the online bookmarks facility that allows users to carry their browsing preferences and context with them through a browser-independent and portable login.

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  15. @ Frashegird: Thanks for your comment.

    If you mean sites like Delicious, those are usually browser plug-ins or add-ons, the lack of which in the beta stage is to be expected and perhaps meant to spur application developers on to writing those plug-ins.

    Not all of Google’s offerings are integrated with the toolbar. I may be going out on a limb here because I stopped using Google toolbar for several reasons, but I recall ‘Analytics’ isn’t part of it either.

    I find this discussion fascinating nonetheless. Microsoft, for ages, shipping software that was not ‘perfect’ and all manner of patches and updates were to be downloaded for the rest of the software’s life. But large swathes of consumers rarely had to bother with the issues. Google however plays in a very different territory – the consumer is not just hyper-aware, she is also more demanding and the expectations of minimum standards have also evolved to a higher plane. Merely sticking on the ‘beta’ label no longer is sufficient.

    Thanks.

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