Tuesday, 2 September 2008

Google Chrome

I must have missed the Chrome story, as I've only just seen a pointer to it from Darren Waters BBC blog piece. Having just read quickly through the Google Chrome storybook, this looks like a potentially important and exciting development. The storybook format is really excellent, too: what a contrast with the way other software companies (e.g. Microsoft) introduce a product!

Technically, this looks like a winner to me. Using a process instead of a thread per tab is a sound idea in principle, with lots of benefits (explained in the cartoon) which you pay for with a slightly higher initial resource footprint. I've little doubt that this will be a worthwhile price to pay, though: almost all of us have machines with enough CPU and memory to accept this.

It seems to me that the most important thing Google has done is to recognize that the nature of the browser has changed utterly, from what was simply a way to view HTML through to something which is trying to be a complete application platform. With Google Mail, Google Apps and Gears, plus a handful of add-ins, Firefox is currently central to the way I work, but because the underlying architecture is still anchored in the past, Firefox isn't going to be stable or performant (or secure) enough to cut-it, for much longer.

This seems to be Chrome's architectural starting point, and the team have sensibly decided to start with a clean sheet of paper, rather than simply build just another branded browser on top of old-world technology. In some ways, I wish the Mozilla engineers had gone down this route. Firefox has been a great success, but if Chrome is as good as the comic-strip suggests, I think Mozilla will need to raise their game significantly.

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