Technologizer posts about Chrome

Google Ships Chrome 1.0–Now For the To-Do List

By  |  Posted at 4:33 pm on Thursday, December 11, 2008

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chromebox1Well, that was quick! Yesterday, my colleague Dave Worthington wrote about the news that Google planned to take its Chrome browser out of beta soon. Soon, it turns out, is right now. The little “BETA” label is gone from the Chrome logo, and you can download version 1.0 from the Chrome site. Assuming, that is, that you’re using Windows.

And unless you’ve got an inexplicable aversion to cool new software, I recommend that you do spend some time with Chrome. I wouldn’t have guessed that it was possible to bring so much new thinking to a Web browser circa 2008–especially without adding much in the way of new features. But Chrome is fun, zippy, and practical. If it were a car (I hate automotive metaphors in tech journalism, but can’t help myself) it might be something like this.

When I met with one of the people in charge of Chrome a month ago, he told me that Chrome would ship when it displayed Web pages properly and was sufficiently reliable, not when Google had added every feature on its to-do list. Chrome in its 1.0 version reflect that: It’s got far fewer features than Firefox, Flock, IE, Opera, or Safari, and I’m sure some folks will come away disappointed simply because it’s ultimately pretty basic. The Google blog post on today’s news mentions two upcoming features: form autofill (I’m a little surprised the browser came out of beta without it) and RSS. And it reaffirms its intention to release versions for Mac and Linux versions without revealing a timetable.

Google says it has plans to add lots more stuff to Chrome; that’s good news, although the browser’s streamlined, no-muss-no-fuss personality is so pleasing that the company will have to work hard not to bloat it up over time. I do, however, have a little list of new features that I hope are on Google’s Chrome agenda.

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Report: Google Polishes Off Chrome

By  |  Posted at 4:36 pm on Wednesday, December 10, 2008

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chromelogo2The browser was are heating up– again. Google vice president Marissa Mayer said that company’s Chrome browser is on the verge of coming out of beta, according to a report by TechCrunch. Chrome made its debut as a beta on September 2nd; for Google, a beta period of only a few months is a surprisingly short one.

Google’s applications are a likely vehicle for distributing Chrome, with Apple having paved the way for more aggressive bundling by tethering distribution of Safari to iTunes. There is also plenty of potential for high-profile promotion of Chrome at Google’s wildly popular Web properties, and the company has several hardware partners that could pre-load the browser on PCs.

Chrome is the bedrock for Google’s whole Web application platform. Its pillars are speed and stability: Chrome’s zippy JavaScript engine is at the top of the class, and its use of separate processes for browser tabs and windows can make browsing more reliable.

The arrival of Chrome has also pressured other browser makers such as Firefox to accelerate the performance of their JavaScript engines–making Google’s applications perform better across the board.

Google will be leveraging Chrome to deliver the open source Native Client project, a plug-in that permits Web applications to directly access hardware resources. Let’s hope that Native Client is effectively sandboxed so it can’t be abused by hackers, so we don’t revisit the bad old days of the ubiquitous ActiveX exploit. The more Google can blur the lines between client applications and Web applications, the more competitive it will be against entrenched software. CPU intensive software will no longer have to run on the desktop. The concept of what type of application a Web application can be would be drastically changed.

Chrome is based upon the WebKit open source project, making it easier for developers to make their sites and services Chrome-friendly, because it is not something entirely new. Google is likewise providing a framework for the development of secure Firefox-like extensions for Chome. Developers could very well fall in love with Chrome, but with technologies and tools from Adobe, Microsoft, Sun, and others in the mix, not to mention HTML 5, they may have to pick their side of the battlefield. You can see why it’s in Google’s best interest to release a Chrome that’s ready for prime time sooner rather than later.



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State of the Browser Betas: A Technologizer Cheat Sheet

By  |  Posted at 12:02 pm on Thursday, December 4, 2008

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cheatsheetI’m hesitant to make any bold predictions about what 2009 will hold for technology, but this one seems profoundly safe: a lot of Web browser upgrades will ship. That’s because new versions of the current big five–Chrome, Firefox, IE, Opera, and Safari–are all in various stages of progress. And prerelease versions all except Safari are available for download right now. After the jump, a quick guide to what’s up with each of them. If you’ve been using any (or all!) of them, let us know what you think…

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Google Answers Your Chrome Questions

By  |  Posted at 2:47 pm on Wednesday, November 12, 2008

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chromelogo6I spent much of yesterday at Google, visiting with several teams to learn what they’ve been working on lately. I came with a little list of questions in my pocket–ones that members of the Technologizer community threw out when I said I was headed to the Googleplex. And while there were some good questions that just weren’t appropriate for the Google reps I met with, I did pose several community-supplied queries to Brian Rakowski, a Google product management director who works on the Chrome browser. Questions and answers after the jump…

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The Trouble(s) With Google Chrome’s Security

By  |  Posted at 11:20 am on Monday, October 6, 2008

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It’s been more than a month since Google Chrome first hit our desktops. The blogosphere is still pondering its features and performance, and making predictions about Google’s future in the browser business. But amidst all of the commentary about Google’s latest venture, very few have taken the time to examine the new browser’s security. Browser-based attacks in the form of phishing expeditions, cross-site scripting, plug-in exploits, and other techniques should give even the most tech savvy among us pause when considering which browser to make the workhorse of our daily online activities. A significant number of users have chosen Chrome–but the security measures Google has implemented in Chrome are subpar for a modern browser.

There are many simple steps that Chrome could take to further protect its users. To be fair, many of the complaints I have could also be directed at Firefox, Internet Explorer, or Safari, so I’ve decided to break things down into a feature-by-feature comparison.

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Holy Cow! It’s Chrome for the Mac! Right Now! Sort of!

CodeWeavers beats Google to the punch by bringing Chromium to the Mac (and Linux)

By  |  Posted at 1:56 am on Tuesday, September 16, 2008

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For all you Macintosh freaks itching to try Google’s Chrome browser, the good news is that Google is working on a Mac version (as well as one for Linux). The bad news is that it’s not saying when it’ll arrive, even though cofounder Sergey Brin is supposedly just itching to get his hands one one. And the surprising news is that CodeWeavers beat Google to it.

Well, not exactly, but it’s still pretty entertaining. Chrome may be a Google product, but it’s Google’s version of an open-source project that the company initiated. The open-source version is called Chromium. And CodeWeavers, which produces software based on Wine, the open-source system for running Windows apps without Windows, decided to try its hand at using WINE to create Mac and Linux versions of Chromium. Both are now available for download. I snagged the Mac version, which takes a few minutes to initiate itself once you’ve downloaded and installed the program. And here it is, looking like the Chrome I’ve been using in Windows. (Actually, looking a bit too much like the Windows version: Those are Windows minimize/maximize/close buttons, not Mac ones.)

In answer to the question “Should I run CrossOver Chromium as my main browser?”, CodeWeavers’ FAQ provides a succinct and honest answer: “Absolutely not! This is just a proof of concept, for fun, and to showcase what Wine can do.”  You only need to spend a few minutes with CrossOver Chromium to see that CodeWeavers isn’t being inappropriately modest–fonts and formatting are kind of messed up, and if there’s a way to get Flash working, I haven’t figured it out. As the CodeWeavers blog points out, CrossOver Chromium can’t auto-update itself with security fixes, as Chrome can. And another sign of its Windows origins is the fact that it offers to import bookmarks and other settings from Internet Explorer–even though IE for the Mac is defunct, and Safari is the browser that a new Mac browser would appropriately ask about importing from.

It’s also unclear from CodeWeavers’ blog and FAQ whether it intends to refine CrossOver Chromium or leave it as is. Presumably that’s hard to say: If Google releases Chrome for Mac soon, CrossOver Chromium becomes redundant. But if it’s months and months before Chrome for Mac shows up, CodeWeavers’ browser might have an audience. If the company polishes it up…a lot.

For now, CrossOver Chromium is really a software toy that you’ll likely use for just a few minutes, then put away. But it is fun. And it does whet my appetite for a Mac version of Chrome–one, I hope, that’s even more fully evolved than the Windows one is at this early point in its existence.



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Microsoft’s Zune: 24 Hours of Glory

By  |  Posted at 7:21 am on Tuesday, September 9, 2008

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Steve Jobs goes onstage to unveil new iPods at 10am today; we’ll all be drowning in coverage of them shortly thereafter. So I understand why Microsoft made its Zune announcements yesterday morning.
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Windows Vista: Bring in the Gurus!

By  |  Posted at 8:17 pm on Friday, September 5, 2008

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Okay, I’m already sick of talking about Jerry Seinfeld and churros and shoes and Bill Gates’ underwear. There must be more to life. Or even to Microsoft’s plans for Windows Vista.
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Project Fakebar: Improvising a Google Toolbar Substitute for Chrome

There's no Google Toolbar for Chrome, alas. Here's a rough approximation.

By  |  Posted at 10:59 pm on Thursday, September 4, 2008

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Two days ago, I mentioned that the wildly popular, extremely useful Google Toolbar didn’t work in Google’s Chrome browser. I said I missed it. So do  legions of other people, judging from the thousands of Toolbar fans who have read that post, and the 140 who have commented on it so far. Who knew that a humble toolbar could be so beloved?

I think it’s pretty much a given that Google will eventually either release a Toolbar for Chrome or essentially build in all of its functionality. But it’ll only happen on Google’s timetable, and I suspect it isn’t priority #1. And while Toolbar is cool, it’s not exactly advanced technology–what it does, mostly, is to provide fast access to various Google services.

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Dell Joins the Mini-Laptop Movement

By  |  Posted at 10:50 am on Thursday, September 4, 2008

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Remember when laptops were big, heavy, and cost two or three thousand dollars? Most of the action at the moment involves undersized cheapie models like the eee PC, HP Mini-Note…and Dell’s new Inspiron.
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Google Chrome: Our Coverage So Far, and a Poll

By  |  Posted at 10:44 pm on Wednesday, September 3, 2008

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Was it only day before yesterday that we got the startling news–via the startling medium of a graphic novel by a leading cartoonist–that Google had secretly been working on a Web browser and was about to release it? Yup–and it was only yesterday that that browser became available for download.

I’ve had a blast writing about Chrome over the past 60 hours or so. And you guys sure like reading about it–my posts have gotten as much traffic and comments as anything I’ve done on Technologizer to date. Herewith, a recap in case you missed any of the major coverage here to date:

Ten Questions About Google Chrome: My initial thoughts about what the browser might mean, before we knew much about it.

Google Chrome Comic: The Readers’ Digest Version: A highlight reel from the 38-page Scott McCloud comic book that Google commissioned to introduce its browser.

Google Chrome: Hey, That Logo Looks Familiar: Random musings on its color scheme!

Google Chrome: My Stream-of-Consciousness Notes: I install and explore the browser, and share some initial impressions as I do.

Needed for Chrome: The Google Toolbar: I discovered that Chrome doesn’t support the Google Toolbar or replicate its features. I missed it. Judging from how much traffic and comments this post got, I have plenty of company.

Chrome vs. the World: I had so much fun writing about Chrome yesterday that I contributed this piece to PC World, with some thoughts on what Google’s browser may mean to the competition.

Google Chrome: Impressive! Innovative! Incomplete!: Some thoughts after twelve hours of hands-on time with the browser.

Project Fakebar: Since there’s no Google Toolbar for Chrome yet, I attempt to fashion a rough approximation, and tell you how I did it.

That’s it so far–I’m sure there will more to come. Now for a quick T-Poll:



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TiVo and DirecTV: Together Again

By  |  Posted at 9:55 pm on Wednesday, September 3, 2008

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I have a soft spot for TiVo, so today’s list is topped by some good news about the DVR that remains synonymous with DVRs. Plus: Two Google Chrome items (inevitably!) and two iTunes items!
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Google Chrome: Impressive! Innovative! Incomplete!

By  |  Posted at 12:58 am on Wednesday, September 3, 2008

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(UPDATE! I’m conducting a poll about Chrome–please go here to take it, and to get a recap of all of Technologizer’s Chrome coverage.)

When Google says that Chrome “is far from done,” it’s not engaging in aw-shucks modesty. This browser is missing some of the basic stuff that I thought made a browser a browser in 2008, such as RSS support and the ability to zoom entire Web pages, not just text. It can’t be customized through extensions or even run the Google Toolbar. It explores almost none of the fascinating possibilities opened up by the world’s dominant provider of Web services building its own browser. If the question is whether serious consumers of Web content should dump whatever browser they’re using at the moment for Chrome, the answer is “probably not.”

And yet…using Chrome is an exciting experience–the most fun I’ve had with something new from Google in a long time. It’s exciting partly because of what Google has done with Chrome, partly because of what it plans to do, and partly because of what it could do.

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Needed for Chrome: The Google Toolbar

By  |  Posted at 1:51 pm on Tuesday, September 2, 2008

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(VITAL UPDATE! If you came here looking for a Google Toolbar for Chrome, the bad news is that there isn’t one. The slightly less bad news is that it’s possible to construct a rough approximation–I explain how to do so in this post.)

(UPDATE! I’m conducting a poll about Chrome–please go here to take it, and to get a recap of all of Technologizer’s Chrome coverage.)

I don’t have any numbers, but I suspect it’s a safe bet that Google’s most widely-used application to date is the Google Toolbar. It’s available for IE and Firefox, and integrates either of those browsers with multiple Google services, including Gmail, online Google Bookmarks, and Google Maps. It’s also got other handy features like a spell checker, a form filler, and the ability to send links to pages via Gmail or SMS.

You might assume that Google’s new Chrome browser would come with Toolbar built in–or even if it didn’t put all of its features into the browser in toolbar form, replicate some or all of them elsewhere in the interface. But based on my first couple of hours with Chrome, it looks like just about none of Toolbar’s features are available in Chrome. Even ones that seem like naturals, such as quick access to your Gmail inbox and Google Bookmarks.

How about installing Toolbar in Chrome? Chrome has a framework for extensions, so I thought it was possible that I could do so. I visited the Toolbar download page, and noticed that it seemed to think I was using Firefox. But I tried anyway, and was sent to a page that asked me to agree to the Toolbar terms and conditions before installing. I did so. And at that point, I got this message:

In other words, not only is there no Toolbar for Chrome, but the Toolbar download site gets totally flummoxed when you visit it in Chrome; it shows no signs that it knows that Google has a browser of its own.

One of the most fascinating things about Chrome is the potential it opens up for Google to deeply integrate its myriad services with a browser in a way that’s never been done before. Depending on your outlook, that’s either tremendously exciting or kind of scary. (Or, come to think of it, both.) Getting access to Google Toolbar’s features in Chrome, one way or another, would be neither exciting nor scary–just useful. I hope it happens soon–and that Google fiddles with the Toolbar download site to at least acknowledge Chrome’s existence…

(ADDITIONAL SELF-SERVING PLUG: If you want a stopgap until there’s a real Google Toolbar for Chrome, check out my instructions for creating a Google Fakebar.)



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Google Chrome: My Stream-of-Consciousness Notes

By  |  Posted at 12:29 pm on Tuesday, September 2, 2008

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(UPDATE! I’m conducting a poll about Chrome–please go here to take it, and to get a recap of all of Technologizer’s Chrome coverage.)

I promise to publish a coherent evaluation of Google’s Chrome browser later today–but coherent evaluations take time. Right now, I’m playing around and exploring and seeing what happens. And I’m going to share what I learn in this post (which I’ll update as I have stuff to say).

The download and install: Fast and easy, as is just about always the case for Google products. The company probably doesn’t get enough credit for that–it’s the exact opposite of the classic Microsoft download that tells you that you need some other Microsoft download you’ve never heard of, then makes you reboot.

Flash: I visited a site that uses it, and got an error message and an invitation to click to install it; I clicked, and got another error message. I couldn’t believe that the company that owns YouTube would release a browser that didn’t support Flash out of the gate, so I went to YouTube. Got another error, and a link to Adobe’s download site. Download site tried to identify my browser, but thought it was Firefox or Safari or Netscape and didn’t mention Chrome. I had to do a semi-manual install of Flash, rather than the seamless install I’m used to. But it’s working.

User interface initial impressions: Google’s definitely trying to clear out clutter and preserve as much space as possible for the Web site you’re on rather than the browser UI–which is both pleasing and kinda ironic given that the name “Chrome” comes from designerspeak for browser UI elements. The tabs sit up in what’s normally the Windows window bar; as far as I can tell, Chrome doesn’t show you the title of the page you’re on, which is usually what sits up there. Potentially confusing? In theory, at least.

Chrome also has no standard Windows menus. When Microsoft removed menus by default in IE7, it drove me bonkers, and I apparently wasn’t alone, since they came back in a later update to IE7 (albeit in a weird, non-standard location). Chrome does have two menus–one, which you get by clicking a little page icon, gives you access to commands relating to the page you’re on. The other, accessed from a wrench icon, provides settings. So far, it seems logical enough–it’s certainly easier to blow away standard menus when you’re a brand-new browser rather than one with more than decade’s legacy of having normal menus.

Like IE7 (and IE8), Chrome also messes with the expected organizatin of elements at the top of the browser–the tabs sit above the address bar rather than below it. Seems to work.

Like IE8, Chrome attempts to make URLs more readable by bolding the main address and greying other parts of the URL. So far, I’m thinking that this may make them harder to read, not easier.

I’m already missing Firefox 3′s “Awesome Bar”–my fingers are conditioned to use it, and Chrome doesn’t replicate its ability to type random parts of a URL and go there.

Search: I’m used to browsers sporting a search bar to the right of the address bar. Chrome doesn’t have one–presumably to conserve space–and instead lets you search by typing keywords into the address bar. The default search engine–you’re going to be stunned to hear this–is Google. But you can switch it to Live Search, Yahoo, AOL, or Ask. And there’s a feature for adding other search engines, although it looks a tad cryptic.

Speed: It’s dangerous to come to any conclusions based on a few minutes of tooling around, especially when the browser developer has told you that a browser is uncommonly fast. But Chrome does seem pretty zippy so far. I’m blogging this in Chrome, using WordPress, which can feel sluggish. In Chrome, it’s quick, which makes it a lot more pleasant to use. So far, at least. Toggling between normal editing mode and full-screen mode in WordPress happens nearly instantaneously.

Bookmarks: Since there are no standard bookmarks, the bookmark bar seems to be the only fast way to get to your bookmarks. And it seems to be turned off by default? Odd–it may be a sign of excessive dedication to blowing away clutter. But you can turn on the bookmark bar easily enough.

Passwords: Chrome asks you if you want to save ‘em using a top-of-the-page bar that’s identical to the one in Firefox 3–much better than a dialog boxes that gets in your face until you get rid of it. On the other hand, password management is hidden in a “Minor Tweaks” tab in the Options settings. I don’t think it would occur to me to look there, and I’m not sure why Google would call a settings tab Minor Tweaks at all, if it was attempting to build a browser that would appeal to non-geeks.

Also, the password reminder didn’t notice I’d logged into Twitter the first time, and doesn’t notice I’m logging into Zoho. Or at least it would seem that it didn’t notice–it didn’t ask me if I wanted to remember those passwords.

Integrated Gears: Chrome comes with the Gears offline framework built in. Looks like the main thing this does is save you a download–when I tried to use Zoho’s offline word-processing feature, I still had to authorize Gears to work with Zoho. Once I did, it worked fine.

Google logo: There’s one in the upper right-hand corner of the Chrome interface. It doesn’t seem to do anything. Shouldn’t it take you to Google?

Create application shortcuts: Chrome has a feature that lets you add a link to a Web page to your desktop, Start menu, or Quick Launch toolbar. It’s no big whoop, but I don’t think I’ve seen it in other browsers. And it’s the sort of thing you’d do if you wanted to train users to think of sites the same way they think about desktop applications.

Web History: Along with thumbnails of my nine most-visited sites, the default Chrome start page gives you a Web History feature that lets you find stuff in pages you’ve visited in the past. Nice–but as far as I can tell, it only searches pages I’ve visited in this copy of Chrome. Shouldn’t it tie into Google’s existing Web History feature, which records my wanderings in any browser that I’m signed into Google on? At least optionally?

Zoom: Chrome seems to have an old-fashioned zoom feature that just changes the type size and leaves graphics alone. These days, IE, Firefox, and Opera can all make the entire page larger or smaller.

Incognito: Like IE8, Chrome lets you easily browse the Web without leaving any traces of where you went or what you did. The explanatory text warns you to be careful about “Surveillance by secret agents” when you use this feature. These days, I can’t tell whether that’s serious or in jest.

Find in Page: It’s very similar to the new one in IE8, except that the search box and related tools sit on the right-hand side of the screen near the top rather than the left-hand side, and don’t span the entire screen. (I’m now officially coming to the conclusion that Google was fanatical about the Chrome IE requiring no more space than absolutely necessary.) Once you open the Find bar, it only stays there until you travel to another page, and is only visible in that tab. I do a ton of searches within pages, so I’d much rather it just stayed there. (As far as I know, no browser lets you simply leave the Find bar permanently open.)

Okay, I’m done with random thoughts. A more organized evaluation will follow…



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Google Chrome: It’s Live

By  |  Posted at 11:58 am on Tuesday, September 2, 2008

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(UPDATE! I’m conducting a poll about Chrome–please go here to take it, and to get a recap of all of Technologizer’s Chrome coverage.)

Time to stop speculating about Google’s Chrome browser and start trying it: The Chrome download site is live, with a beta version (Windows only for now–sniff).

I just installed it and will be back later with first impressions before long…and I’m dying to hear yours, too.



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