Ten Questions About Google Chrome

By  |  Monday, September 1, 2008 at 12:28 pm

(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.)

Four years ago, I blogged about rumors that Google was working on a Web browser. I found ‘em intriguing, as anyone would, but no such browser ever appeared, and Google became an enthusiastic Firefox booster. The blogosphere pretty much stopped pondering the possibility of a Google browser, and so did I.

Today brings news that the rumors were apparently premature, not wrong: Google Blogoscoped has published an amazing comic book by Understanding Comics’ Scott McCloud introducing Chrome, Google’s browser. (UPDATE: I’ve condensed the comic into a highlight reel.) Over at All Things Digital, Kara Swisher says that Chrome may be formally announced as soon as tomorrow. (UPDATE: Kara dropped me a note to say she’s confirmed Chrome will arrive on Tuesday.) (EVEN FURTHER UPDATE: The Google Blog now says that Chrome will be available for download tomorrow; it’s Windows-only at the moment, but Mac and Linux versions are in the works.)

Earlier rumors of a “Gbrowser” had it as being based on Mozilla, as Firefox is, but the comic book says that Chrome is built on top of Webkit, the browser platform that also serves as the basis for Apple’s Safari. Chrome has a highly tab-centric user interface, advanced memory management to prevent the browser from getting bogged down as you open up tabs, a fast JavaScript virtual machine, sandboxing to prevent malware from doing damage to your PC, built-in Gears for offline applications, a framework for plug ins, and more. I’ve never tried to judge a software product by assessing a comic book about it before, but it’s clear that Chrome is an ambitious attempt to launch a truly new Web browser–not a rebranded version of Mozilla or a me-too clone of anything else that’s out there.

It all leaves me with about a gazillion questions. Here, for starters, are ten of them:

1. Will Google stop promoting Firefox? It’s been known to use the Google homepage to tell IE users they should be running Firefox, and it distributes a version of Firefox with the Google Toolbar built in. You gotta think that it’ll redeploy some or all of its Firefox-boosting energies to drumming up interest in Chrome.

2. Will Mozilla decide Google is an enemy, not a friend? Probably not–as Kara notes, the companies recently extended the relationship that makes puts Google into Firefox as its default search engine until 2011. That deal makes Mozilla millions of dollars a year, which is presumably enough to make Google at worst a frenemy of Mozilla. It’s hard–although not impossible–to imagine Mozilla being so ticked off by Google launching a browser that it takes its search business to someone else, such as Yahoo.

3. Did Google tell Mozilla it was working on a browser? Out of courtesy, or to ensure that the Firefox deal, which makes millions for Google as well as for Mozilla, emerged unscathed? Or did Mozilla renew the partnership not knowing that Google was planning to become a competitor? In the great scheme of things, it’s no surprise that Google might want to build a browser, but conventional wisdom would likely have involved it being based on Mozilla, not Webkit.

4. Just how hard will Google push Chrome on the Google homepage? Like no other company on earth, Google has an opportunity to get hundreds of millions of people using its browser in a relatively short amount of time. You gotta think that it’ll use the Google homepage to drum up interest. But will it check to see if you’re using IE, Firefox, or another browser and attempt to convince you to switch?

5. Will Google try to convert Google Toolbar users into Chrome users? Toolbar is presumably Google’s most widely-used piece of software at the moment, and it seems inevitable that Google will want to let users know about Chrome. But will it, say, try to bundle Chrome into the Toolbar download from now on? Apple discovered that bundling is dangerous when it caught flack for distributing Safari for Windows via the iTunes updater.

6. How deeply will Chrome be integrated with other Google projects? It’ll include Gears. Will it tie into Google Maps and Google Print and Google Desktop and the 18,432,922 other Google projects in ways that a non-Google browser wouldn’t?

7. Or to put that last question another way, will Google services work better in Chrome than other browsers? A conspiracy theorist could easily come up with scenarios in which Google starts to tie together its offerings in ways that resemble the tactics that Microsoft used in the 1990s to drive IE adoption and discourage use of Netscape. Google is too smart and too well intentioned to go down that route in the same way, I’m sure. But even a company with good intentions might do things that reasonable people (or even the courts think are anti-competitive.

8. Just how popular could Chrome get? Can it get to ten percent marketshare? Twenty? Forty? Ninety? Firefox has shown that it’s possible for a good new browser to gain plenty of traction, and Chrome will have advantages that even Firefox doesn’t have in terms of distribution.

9. Who will it steal users from? Kara says that Chrome is at least a part a response to Google concerns that IE 8 may be bad for Google’s search-and-advertising business. So the company would presumably be pleased if IE users jump ship for Chrome. But if you can divide the world into folks who will switch to a better browser and those who won’t, a high percentage of the former group has likely already moved to Firefox. You can imagine a scenario in which the arrival of Chrome results in Firefox’s marketshare gains stalling. Or even in Firefox use eroding.

10. Will Chrome stay on the desktop? Google sees its future as being highly mobile, as witness its work on Android and all the work it’s put into making services like Gmail and Google Maps work well on iPhone, Windows Mobile, BlackBerry, and other mobile platforms. Will we see Chrome on phones?

I could go on–but for now, I’ll stop my pondering. Your speculation and additional questions would be welcome. And needless to say, I can’t wait to try Chrome, assuming that it’s real and imminent…

 
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59 Comments For This Post

  1. depert Says:

    Well, good question. Next hope, this browser not a temporary project. And i hope this google chrome, always free, faster and better. And also less memory consuming.

  2. Dave S. Says:

    I’m also interested in the questions that you’re asking here, but I’m further interested in the prospect of it being Open Source. Browser security is the forefront concern in my mind. Will we see security patches fixed quickly in short bursts (Firefox) or fixed in big upgrades (Safari, IE). Being open source certainly gives it a security advantage, as I’m sure many developers will flock to this project simply for the possibility of a massive scale of recognition and the effect that they could have. But will this give Google a charisma that will make it a solid fortress of security? I am also worried about their choice of using WebKit as the rendering engine. Certainly the speed will be amazing, as WebKit is a top-notch speed demon, especially in conjunction with Google’s uses of separate processes for each tab in Chrome (a la threaded tabs). However, many of the recent Mac exploits have all come through Safari, as in the Pwn2Own contest recently. Perhaps WebKit is not at fault here, as it may be Safari’s wrappings of the rendering engine, but I am suspicious. I remember reading somewhere that, over the life of Firefox 2, Mozilla only went 9 days at a maximum for time left between the notification of a severe security flaw and its resultant patch, whereas Apple has taken as long as several weeks or months, not to mention Microsoft’s completely fumbled record with IE. Overall, these remarks are not a condemnation of Chrome, for it sounds extremely interesting and a viable competitor to Firefox for sure. However, I do hope that Google keeps security at the top of its list of priorities.

  3. Dave S. Says:

    Also, as a second thought, will Google perhaps push this browser via partnerships with companies like MSI, Asus, and HP to be included by default on increasingly popular netbook models? That would be a very interesting play indeed.

  4. David Spark Says:

    If they truly do launch tomorrow as Kara Swisher predicts, and they make it easy to find and download, like on their homepage, there is no doubt this will be the single biggest one program download day ever.

    I don’t think its Firefox that has to be scared. I think IE needs to be scared. Firefox users will probably use both, but a Google browser will get more converts than even Firefox did.

    Also, we need to realize that Google’s “egalitarian” open source “we’re giving back to the community” messaging is purely designed to feed its own business model. More eyes on the Internet for longer periods of time generates more revenue for them, especially if they make the browser.

  5. istara Says:

    My biggest question: why is Google doing this?

  6. Tom Says:

    I hope it comes out, and I hope it crushes IE’s stranglehold. As a web developer, I am constalty put out by having to implement work arounds for Internet Explorer. Even the “next generation” of IE (IE 8) is not going to fully support CSS1, while WebKit and Mozilla are part the ay through implementing CSS3!

    I also hope this puts to bed all those Web Devs out there who insist on embedding OLE objects into websites. A utter PITA guys.

  7. Forone Says:

    My first reaction was “There goes snoopy Google, looking for another handle on its users.” On second thought, it might just help “silo” the few Google features I use other than cold searches – some Docs, Maps, Earth – within that Google browser and help me keep the Big G’s tentacles out of everything else done on the other browsers.

  8. dash Says:

    Good questions. We’ll have to wait for time to tell us the answers.

    Google has not succeeded with every venture e.g. social networking using Orkut-who? I’ve uninstalled Google Toolbar because it failed to deliver utility while cluttering the desktop.

    Like any product, Google Chrome needs to be cheaper, better, faster. Cheaper is hard because everything is free. Better, faster not only requires immediate benefits, but stands the test of time. Remember, the vast majority of users hate change.

    Google Chrome looks promising. Millions will be downloaded tomorrow. The answers to your questions require the test of time.

  9. Kathy Evans Says:

    The real question… the ONLY IMPORTANT question… is it standards compliant. This is just what the web community needs, another browser to have to program around.

  10. Sean OBrien Says:

    I’m amazed that nowhere in those 10 questions do you mention security.

    Security is the only issue I use to choose a browser.

    A new browser has poor security by definition. But perhaps if it uses WebKit security it might be as good as Safari (which only has medium security because it does not offer NoScript).

  11. edomikari Says:

    >>”My biggest question: why is Google doing this?”

    I can only assume they were thinking “we’re tired of memory-gobbling browsers. We’re going to make a super browser of our own.”

  12. drew olanoff Says:

    Google has gotten to do what other browser competitors couldn’t do…sit back and watch.

    IE has failed. Over and over. 8 seems to follow in that same slow development and weak path.

    Opera can’t decide what it wants to do. One day its all about mobile, the next they scream about their desktop offerings.

    Firefox is firefox. The underdog for life.

    Don’t get me started on Crapfari.

    Google launches Chrome and it’s nice and fast, and easy to use? Game over.

    #2 share of browser market in under 2 years easily if they promote it on the homepage.

  13. Ben Noble Says:

    Will you be able to change the default search of Chrome to another search engine? For instance, Windows Live Search?

  14. Farhan Says:

    Its very interesting that Google has decided to take on a project like this. They obviously have such an interest in how people access the web, it was only a matter of time before they took things into their own hands. It is going to be very interesting to see how this pans out.

    Google Chrome browser Screenshots
    http://www.tonesall.com/computers-internet/google-chrome-screenshots.html

  15. playpause Says:

    Above all, aren’t Google intentions about the ad-blocker plugins that work quite well in Firefox? I’m pretty sure Chrome won’t let you add such a plugin… or at least not as efficient as some of Firefox’ extensions…

  16. Andrew Finkle Says:

    Chrome will mean different things depending on who/what you are. The one thing it does mean to everyone though is that the Internet is the operating system, and the clouds are moving closer to earh.

    You are Apple;

    This means that if it were not enough of a conflict of interest (Iphone VS Google’s Android) to have Google CEO Eric Schmidt sit on your board – It is now. Look for Schmidt to resign sometime in the next six months.

    If you are Microsoft;

    This means that if you ever considered making Internet Explorer open source in the past, now is the time… You can not afford to wait, not even another minute. Expect Microsoft to make Vaporware like noise over the next few months about cloud widgets to give IE closer ties to cloud based initiatives.

    If you are Yahoo;

    you need to buy Mozilla.

    If you are Firefox;

    Keep your friends close, and your enemies closer…yes continue with your Google revenue deal, but learn how to monetize your Browser outside of a paid search deal. Leverage your large user base to form “spin-off” type “power of the crowd” businesses. Note to Firefox, hey you guys ARE a social network…you just haven’t figured that out yet.

    If you are Sun;

    Realize that Java is even less relevant every day. First we kicked you out of client side computing because you were a resource hog. Realize that Java will now continue to be less and less relevant on the Server. What a waste of a good company… McNealy must have got hit in the head with one to many hockey pucks.

    If you are a social network;

    “social networks” would follow along with users in the browser. Truth be told, we thought it would be Facebook, or even more likely Firefox that would lead in this initiative. So if you are a social network, you need to know now Chrome is the first step in a series of moves that will make it unnecessary for your peeeps to ever visit your site (directly) again.

    If you are an application developer;

    Life used to be simple, eh? You knew that you should be developing applications for Windows, because that is where the 100’s of millions of users were. Fast forward, and now you need to choose what platforms to support, and when. Of course it makes sense to develop for Windows still, but Apple now has a mass of millions of Mac OSx users, and if it a browser based app, write once for Safari, and it should work without much adaptation on the Iphone. There are over a billion cell phones in use world wide, however every phone requires writing to separately (yes even all those different flavors of Java are different phone to phone. Suddenly with Android coming, and a matching desktop browser you need to be here.

    Lastly if you are a consumer;

    There is always a bottleneck somewhere … Think back 5-10 years ago, before what we now refer to broadband… Dial up was painffulllllyy slow, and when you tried to browse, the bottleneck was in your “last mile” connectivity. Once you got broadband, the lag time in reaching a site was likely in your PC (not enough ram, slow processor, etc). Before either of those issues though it was the software that was not “smart” enough to keep up with the ever faster CPU’s being created.

    Look for Chrome to optimize all these new “cloud” based application initiatives like Google Gears, etc. This is just another nail in the coffin for desktop based computing. In 10 years, likely 90%+ of your applications will reside somewhere outside of your home or workplace – but certainly not on your desktop.

    http://www.twitter.com/A_F

  17. toby johnson Says:

    I agree that Mozilla doesn’t need to be as concerned about this move as you suggest. I highly doubt that Google would discontinue their advertising deal, because Chrome isn’t a source of revenue for them, but rather a means to an end. Look at it this way: Mozilla is going to sell those millions of Firefox eyeballs to *someone*; if not Google then Yahoo, Amazon, or someone else. Why would Google not continue to pay for that space and bring in all those search advertising dollars? This may make their position a bit stronger and get them a better deal, but I don’t see them completely turning their back on Mozilla.

    Notice that in the official announcement on their blog, the *only* mention of WebKit is “We’ve used components from Apple’s WebKit and Mozilla’s Firefox”. If Chrome uses WebKit as its rendering engine, why did they contrive that sentence to make it sound like WebKit and Firefox are almost equal contributors? That wording was carefully selected to downplay fears that they are going after Firefox or plan on ending their relationship.

    Firefox is *years* ahead of Chrome in terms of community and developer acceptance and contributions. I’m sure Chrome will have a great extensibility API (as Firefox does) but it will take quite a while to build that level of third-party adoption and integration, so they’d be foolish to burn the bridges they’ve built with Mozilla. They know very well that “the enemy of my enemy is my friend.”

  18. testking Says:

    http://www.certbible.org/first-images-of-google-chrome/ google chrome

  19. RS Says:

    Please inform,how can I install java on Google chrome.
    Java applets are not working.

  20. RS Says:

    Google Chrome is faster than Safari

  21. Patrick Says:

    How is it possible they shipped this thing without the ONE FEATURE that I can’t live without? The “cloud” bookmarks from the Google Toolbar!

    Or am I just missing it? Doesn’t it seem natural that this should be a superset of all of the functionality that toolbar adds to firefox?

  22. Lynda Says:

    Excellent product and super fast, but with one fatal flaw… as others have said, no live bookmarks. Back to Firefox until this is remedied.

  23. chrome is amazing Says:

    google chrome is amazing. ridiculously fast and stable, especially for a beta!!!!

  24. media boy Says:

    looking forward to Chrome for efficiency’s sake… plus Google tends to roll out really well-tested software, so it shouldn’t be half bad in any case

  25. Sativarg Says:

    JavaScript virtual machine is not working in Google Chrome on my machine even though I have it installed and it is working in Firefox. I can not find an option in Chrome to enable Java and Java’s control panel is oblivious to the Chrome browser as far as I can tell. Should I install some other Java for the Webkit platform? But I thought the Java was built into Chrome.

  26. Maran Says:

    I downloaded as soon as it is made available….but Java not working…….thats something i need very much….will wait to use Chrome until google makes it available……… :-(

  27. Joecools Says:

    Need Java to work on Chrome !

  28. lovesilence Says:

    I am a fan of google. But their new browser is badddd. it’s like cuil trying to do a better search against google. It’s not opening my applications, Java , Charts, doesn’t have options to change the browser much. At this point IE is better than Chrome. As for Firefox it smokes Chrome and beats it hands down. I was dissapointed but live and learn. So I am uninstalled the Chrome and back to fire fox. May be google should stick with what they do best, Search. just a thought.

  29. Gatesix Hospitality Says:

    Google toolbar is necessary for web browsing, because is become the habit of user to check Page Ranks

  30. Shailendra Says:

    I disappointed to find that, No google toolbar in Google Chrome, when ever I visit any website I have habit of checking Pagerank.

  31. Flagstaff Hotels Says:

    No offline installer for Google Chrome. I don’t like this idea of having online installer since every time I need to reinstall I have to download it again.

  32. willyday Says:

    So far I like the Google browser and it will use java but it has to be java 6 update 10 which is in early release.

  33. VK Says:

    I think question 4 has been aswered already – http://googlechromecommunity.com/bb/viewtopic.php?f=4&t=9

  34. sumanth krishna Says:

    Good questions to ponder on!

  35. infomofo Says:

    To answer your question:

    6. How deeply will Chrome be integrated with other Google projects? It’ll include Gears. Will it tie into Google Maps and Google Print and Google Desktop and the 18,432,922 other Google projects in ways that a non-Google browser wouldn’t?

    The answer is right now, not very much.

    Right now in google groups, you can only edit pages in IE, Firefox and Safari:
    http://groups.google.com/group/Is-Something-Broken/browse_thread/thread/c2bbc5200cfa7bef

  36. bikran Says:

    Yes java application and plugin does not work in chrome ..but chrome looks cool and it is faster.

  37. sundararajan Says:

    I have tried using Google chrome .It was fast and good design.I have been facing one issue related to Tamil fonts.Its not displaying correctly in the browser.The same thing i was opening in IE7.Its working fine.If anybody knows please let me know whats the exact issue.

    Thanks in advance,
    sundar

  38. kingslady Says:

    Java version 6 update 10 can be found at “http://java.sun.com/javase/downloads/ea/6u10/6u10rcDownload.jsp#6u10JREs”. Worked beautifully with Chrome.

  39. radiojh Says:

    Ouch, why isn’t JAVA working! Was really liking Chrome, till now….

  40. AppleObserver Says:

    I think Firefox will suffer but feel that Safari will suffer the most if Apple sites back and does nothing. Anything that helps knock IE down a few more percentage points will be welcome.

    I’ve actually discussed Chrome and Safari in my blog:

    http://www.appleobserver.net/wordpress/2008/09/safari-to-suffer-from-chrome-release/

  41. Website Design Says:

    I’ve not been able to use it myself as I run Linux. But I’d also like to know if it is standards compliant. Apparently it’s supposed to be based on the same engine as Safari… Guess I’ll just have to wait and see.

  42. movie fan Says:

    it’s funny, the more i use Chrome (for windows), the more unstable it seems to get… crashes a lot more, can’t handle sites with flash, hangs every time i close a tab… all that to say, i’m switching back to Firefox

  43. Nocom Says:

    I use Chrome rarely but i give credit to Google for creating new browser, for now Chrome is not top choice but i expect fast bug resolving from Google .

  44. sumit baheti Says:

    how can i download the currently playing videos on my screen and also tell me about any Add-ins featurs in chrome.

  45. Dinesh Says:

    i am sure that google will come over fox. just since 10 year google is dominating the internet world. i thing another browser war is going to happen.. firefox have to prepare for that.

  46. N.R. Arend Says:

    I like that Google is doing this. Just proves that a browser doesn’t have to take up ten-kazillion mb’s of memory to work efficiently. Maybe simplicity is the answer to effectiveness?

  47. tinggi badan Says:

    but no such browser ever appeared, and Google became an enthusiastic Firefox booster. The blogosphere pretty much stopped pondering the possibility of a Google browser, and so did I.

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  52. jackcar12 Says:

    Its very interesting that Google has decided to take on a project like this. They obviously have such an interest in how people access the web, it was only a matter of time before they took things into their own hands. It is going to be very interesting to see how this pans out.

  53. JohnDMoore3000 Says:

    It'd be better if Google joined Apple and help them better their Mac OS X. It needs a lot more work to be super intuitive, easy and user friendly. I use both Vista (really nice OS if you ask me… don't shoot… coc) and Mac OS X and the happy medium is between them two. I like Linux-based nature and speed of Mac OS X, but love the functionality of Vista (any given day!), so an OS that would combine these two would be my pick.

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  56. KayKay Bouaphanh Says:

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    Suggestions:
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    Try reloading: clk.­atdmt.­com/­CNT/­go/­260308114/­direct/­01/­
    Search on Google:

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  58. Alex Says:

    Google Chrome nice browser

  59. Stink Bugs Says:

    The biggest question I have with Google chrome is where exactly do your bookmarks go? I can't find them for the life of me!

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  27. Report: Google polishes off Chrome | Technologizer Says:

    [...] 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 [...]

  28. Télécharger Google Chrome ! | Blog Elephorm Says:

    [...] d’info sur Chrome : Sur technolizer Sur business [...]

  29. Eleven Questions About Google’s Chrome OS | Technologizer Says:

    [...] many big Google announcements (such as the unleashing of Chrome itself last September) this one prompts more questions than it answers. Such as the first eleven that popped into my [...]

  30. Thinking Long Term: Google’s New Browser ‘Chrome’ « Collaboratory – Dachis Group Says:

    [...] folks are thinking about the long term implications to Google’s new browser called ‘Chrome’. Harry McCracken does some forward thinking and raises 10 questions that need to be answered, mainly around conversion and partnerships. I’ve got to add a few more [...]

  31. Chrome for Mac: Not Here Yet, But Use It Anyway | Technologizer Says:

    [...] Here at the Web 2.0 Summit, a surprise guest dropped by this afternoon to be interviewed by cochair John Battelle: Google cofounder Sergey Brin. An audience member asked him a question that was on my mind, too: Exactly what’s going on with Google Chrome for the Mac, which still hasn’t shipped well over a year after the Windows version debuted? [...]

  32. Chrome for Mac, Finally Within Sight? | Technologizer Says:

    [...] finally arrive in an OS X beta in early December. If so, fifteen months will have passed between Chrome’s Windows debut and its appearance on the Mac. (Developer versions of Chrome and its open-source doppelganger [...]

  33. Faded Chrome: Google’s Incomplete Mac Browser | Technologizer Says:

    [...] it ships its first OS X beta. I’ve been waiting for the beta for fifteen months, since the arrival of Chrome for Windows and the first word that a Mac version was in the [...]

  34. HP Does Android, Experimentally Says:

    [...] This machine’s presence at the show isn’t nearly the big deal it might be, for one simple reason: HP says it’s just experimenting with Android. This is a concept PC, and there’s no news about its chances of turning into a shipping product you can buy. Still, you gotta figure that if HP has gone through the bother of building this prototype, there’s a real chance it’ll commercialize it in 2010. Unless, that is, it decides to scrap the Android OS and begin over again with Google’s Chrome OS… [...]

  35. Can Google Chrome Topple Firefox? | SEO Content Writer Says:

    [...] have come across a nice article that talks about ten questions you might have about Google Chrome. It gives a deep insight into [...]

  36. Finally, a 21st Century Browser from Microsoft: Explorer 9 « Dukooth.com Says:

    [...] Last week, Microsoft unveiled the first beta release of Internet Explorer 9, or IE9 for short. It’s easily the most impressive browser upgrade to hail from Redmond, Wash., since the original skirmishes with Netscape. And I don’t think it’s mere coincidence that it’s the first one the company has hatched since its scariest current competitor, Google, got into the browser business by launching Chrome two years ago this month. [...]

  37. Google Chrome Story: Digital Storytelling Example | ConverStations Says:

    [...] Choices is all about the Hooks (Chrome) – Meet Chrome, Google’s Window Killer (Chrome) – 10 Questions about Google Chrome (Chrome) – Chutzpah, Truffles, and Alan Ducasse (A Digital Story) – CogDogRoo’s Storytelling [...]