More Danny Sullivan: What explains all these bad posts about Google Chrome–which appear to be sponsored by Google Chrome?
More Danny Sullivan: What explains all these bad posts about Google Chrome–which appear to be sponsored by Google Chrome?
Computerworld’s Gregg Keizer reports that Web analytics company StatCounter thinks that Google’s Chrome will pass Firefox to become the world’s second most popular browser by December. (Internet Explorer remains the top dog, but its share, which once surpassed ninety percent, continues to drop.)
If the trends established thus far this year continue, Chrome will come close to matching Firefox’s usage share in November, then pass its rival in December, when Chrome will account for approximately 26.6% of all browsers and Firefox will have a 25.3% share.
Those numbers are eerily close to the stats at Technologizer for the past month: 26.05 percent of you have used Chrome to visit us, and 25.06 percent have used Firefox. Chrome is already the top browser amongst youse guys: Safari is #3 at 20.31 percent, and IE is #4 at 19.07 percent. (We’re small enough that there’s plenty of flux in the rankings; things could be different next month.)
“I don’t need ten blue links — just give me the answer!”–Bing Search Blog post, October 2010
“Yahoo Vows Death to the ’10 Blue Links’”–IDG News article, May 2009
It’s funny: Google’s competitors spend a lot of time explaining that “ten blue links”–the traditional search results that we’ve known since the dawn of search engines–are annoying and/or obsolete. But I haven’t noticed any consumer uprising over them, or a mass exodus from search engines that use them. Actually, I suspect that any company that rails against “ten blue links” would cheerfully swap places with Google if it had the chance, dependent on blue links though Google may be.
And at Google’s Inside Search event today, thee was lots of news–but the company didn’t seem to be on a mission to deemphasize traditional results pages. Instead, most of the news was about making the blue links more useful–getting you to them more quickly, in more ways, then letting you get past them and onto a Web page that provides the information (Google would probably say “knowledge” rather than “information” which you’re looking for.
Google’s not bringing the Chrome web browser to the iPad anytime soon, if ever, so app maker Diigo is trying to fill the void with iChromy.
The free alternative iPad browser, which launches in the App Store today, mimics the Chrome aesthetic. Tabs appear at the top of the screen, and a single bar handles web addresses and searches, just like Chrome’s omnibar. There’s even a star-shaped bookmark button to the right of the URL bar, just like Chrome.
Chrome flattery aside, iChromy’s greatest asset is stability. When tab overload threatens to crash the browser, iChromy quietly shifts memory away from background tabs that you haven’t opened in a while. These pages reload when you access them again, but it’s a small price to pay for having lots of open tabs with minimal crashes. I’ve been playing with a preview version of iChromy on an original iPad for a few days, and it’s far better at avoiding crashes than my previous iPad browser of choice, Atomic Web Browser.
Google may take minimalism to the extreme with future versions of the Chrome browser.
As ConceivablyTech points out, the latest Chrome Canary build — an early-stage version that precedes developer and beta versions — includes the ability to hide the URL bar. To turn on this feature, enter “about:flags” in the URL bar, enable “Compact Navigation,” relaunch the browser, right-click any tab and click “Hide the toolbar.” (Don’t be shy; you can install Canary side-by-side with other Chrome versions.)
Once you do this, the URL bar will disappear, providing an extra 30 pixels of room to browse. The forward button, back button and tools icon nest within the same strip of space as open tabs. Clicking an open tab creates a drop-down URL and search bar that’s much shorter than screen width.
Chrome feels like Google’s natural platform — all web, only the web. Android feels like an independent Google subsidiary.
I stopped using Google’s Chrome as my primary browser today. I did so with regret, and hope to be back. But in recent days, some of the Web sites I use most–WordPress.com, Twitter, and Facebook–have stopped working properly in Chrome. I’m uncertain of why, but the most likely explanation is that they’re reacting badly to the newest version of Chrome, which, like all Chrome updates, was installed automatically on my computer. So I’m switching for the time being to Safari, where all those sites behave like they should.
There are plenty of arguments for auto-updates of the type seen in Chrome. For one thing, they’re a good way to stomp out security vulnerabilities as quickly as possible, as widely as possible, once they’re discovered. But they also make it harder for anyone who’d rather decide for himself or herself when to move to a new version of the browser. (For the record, it’s possible to shut off auto-updating, although it’s not exactly obvious how to do it.) Basically, Google appears to think that everyone should use the current version of Chrome (except for bleeding-edge types: they should use the current beta). It’s not going to make things easy for those of us who’d prefer to opt out.
There’s misguided analysis out there this week (see here, here, and to some extent here for examples) on how supposedly Firefox is dead or in trouble. Better stop the presses: it sure isn’t happening yet. In the first 24 hours following the browser’s official release, consumers have downloaded it more than 4.7 million times, double the rate for Microsoft’s Internet Explorer 9 debut last week. Downloads continue at a fairly torrid pace — you can follow here.
Firefox 4′s success is evidence of the fact that consumers are still looking past Microsoft when it comes to browsers. According to NetApplications, Internet Explorer’s market share is now down to 57 percent. IE has been on a consistent decline for the past several years, and the upstart success of Chrome (which now has 11 percent of the market), and Firefox (at about 22 percent), show that consumers are ready for life post-Microsoft.
“Redesigning the icon was very much a group effort,” says a post on the Chrome blog, and to my eye, that’s obvious: It looks like it was designed by a committee. Which is true to Google’s personality, I guess–but I prefer the Susan Kare approach.
With new versions scheduled to be released for these two popular web browsers, many of us are rethinking where our loyalties lie. Should we go with the Google Chrome (Beta) or Mozilla Firefox 4.0? Is it worth the upgrade, or is it time to try something new? Here’s a list of the new and upgraded features to make your decision easier.
Google Chrome (Beta): Beta version available; Those using Chrome will be updated soon.
Mozilla Firefox 4.0: Web and mobile browser expected mid-to-late March. [NOTE: A beta version is available.]
Point Goes To: Chrome. It’s available now, and we all know what happens with tentative dates.
I consider myself optimistic about Google’s vision for completely web-based computing, but it’s not going to happen without an online storage solution that can replace the act of saving files locally.
Cloud Save, a new extension for Google’s Chrome browser (spotted first by DownloadSquad), takes us part way there. The extension adds an option in Chrome’s right click menu that lets you save files directly to online storage services such as Box.net, Flickr and Google Docs. You grant permission for Cloud Save to access each of these services the first time you save to them, and a notification box pops up when your file has saved successfully.
On the most basic level, Cloud Save eliminates a step if you’re trying to move a web file to an online service. If someone sends you a funny picture, for instance, you just Cloud Save it instead of downloading and then uploading. But by skipping that step, Cloud Save also bypasses the need for local storage when saving files from the web. It’s the kind of feature that Google should bake directly into Google’s Chrome OS, the web-based operating system that will launch in notebooks later this year.
Likely in response to the fast-paced development of Google Chrome, Mozilla has announced it plans to accelerate the release cycle of its Firefox browser dramatically, with four major revisions of the browser expected by the end of the year. Chief among its goals are making the browser more nimble, as well as building social aspects into the platform and support for more hardware and platforms.
Seems like a solid plan considering the fragmentation of the hardware world as of late, and consumer’s increasing appetite for social networking. But I think the most important thing here is the focus on stability.
It’s no secret on some platforms Firefox is not so stable. I’ve had problems with crashing and sluggish behavior at times on Mac OS X, and have noticed others have had similar issues. Fixing these nagging issues should be a prority for Mozilla, as its competitors are more stable on Apple’s hardware.
What a difference the little things make.
Before today, I hadn’t found much use for Google Chrome’s pinned tabs, which you can stick to the side of the screen by left clicking any tab and selecting “pin tab” from the drop-down menu. They’d be great for social and message-based Websites that you want to leave open all the time, but without the ability to show dynamic activity, such as unread messages in Gmail, pinned tabs don’t live up to their potential.
A new feature in Gmail Labs called “Unread message icon” addresses that issue for Google’s mail service, at least. Activating the feature adds a count of unread messages to Gmail’s pinned tab favicon, so you no longer have to switch tabs to see how many e-mails are waiting. With this information available at a glance, I may no longer have to confine Gmail to its own browser window.
But why stop there? Google should now extend pinned tab notifications to third-parties. Make it a feature of the Chrome Web Store, so TweetDeck’s app can let you know when someone’s pinged you on Twitter, or so chat apps can tell you exactly how many messages are waiting. Heck, add notifications to the Chrome home screen, so those web app icons don’t seem so much like glorified bookmarks. (A bunch of apps with numeric badges on them would, after all, look a bit like the iOS home screen.)
For now, an extension called Favicon Alerts provides a nice workaround: It appends message counts to pinned tabs for any website that displays this kind of information in the title bar.
Just about all the discussion I’ve seen of Google’s decision to dump Chrome’s native support for video in the H.264 format has been negative–and Google didn’t help things by announcing the move in a terse, bland blog post. Now the company has taken a second pass at explaining its rationale. I don’t think it’ll leave most of the unhappy campers any more gruntled, but it’s good to see Google delve into the topic at greater length.
Google’s response does underline that the browser business has a basic problem: Everyone agrees that browsers should have the built-in ability to play video, but there’s no agreement whatsoever on the standards to permit this. (Internet Explorer and Safari use H.264; Firefox, Opera, and now Chrome use Google’s WebM and the older Ogg Theora.) Most normal human beings couldn’t care less about this and simply want video to play on all the devices they use, ideally with high-quality results and without killing their battery. As far as I can tell, the industry is making no progress whatsoever towards unification, and Google’s move–whatever the reason–simply confuses matters even more.
[NOTE: Here's the lead story from last week's Technologizer's T-Week newsletter--go here to sign up to receive it each Friday. You'll get original stuff that won't show up on the site until later, if at all.]
I’ve been having fun fooling around with Google’s Cr-48 notebook, the experimental machine which runs its Chrome OS. (The company is doling out thousands of Cr-48 test units, but Chrome OS laptops won’t go on sale until next year.) I even took the Cr-48 on a long-weekend trip and pretty much got everything done that I needed to do. (For instance, I wrote this column on it, using Google Docs.)
But when I returned home from my trip, I put the Cr-48 away and haven’t returned to it since. I’m sure I’ll revisit it. But for now, given a choice between a Chrome OS laptop and a traditional laptop (my MacBook Air), I’m opting for the latter.
How come? It’s simple, really: Chrome OS both giveth and taketh away. What it giveth is simplicity and security–since it’s pretty much just a Web browser that’s sprouted stubby little legs that let it function (just barely) as an operating system, there’s very little that can go wrong. It boots and snaps out of suspend mode in a jiffy; it’s almost impossible to lose data, since it’s all stored in the cloud; it should be as close to impervious to viruses and trojans as a computing device can be.
But Google accomplished all this by creating an operating system that can’t run local applications. And for now, at least, losing local apps is a gigantic downside. If you’re in love with the notion of a Web-only computer, you may love the Cr-48; if you just want to accomplish stuff, it’s a work in progress at best.
Continue reading this story…
By Harry McCracken | Posted at 9:30 am on Thursday, December 23, 2010
Here’s this week’s Technologizer column on TIME.com. It was inspired by spending time with Google’s Cr-48 Chrome notebook:
Even if I have a tough time imagining myself recommending Chrome computers to typical consumers as soon as the first half of 2011, I’m glad that they exist. The very existence of Chrome OS should encourage the development of sophisticated next-generation Web services that are better able to replace traditional software. By 2012 or 2013, pure cloud computing could feel far more tenable than it does right now — and if it does, the experiment known as Cr-48 will deserve some of the credit.
Here’s another update on my attitude towards the Cr-48. I’m out of town for the holidays, and while I took the Cr-48 with me as my only computer on my last trip, I decided to tote my MacBook Air this time. If the Cr-48 could be made to run Photoshop, I might have taken it instead…