By Harry McCracken | Wednesday, November 12, 2008 at 2:47 pm
I 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…
Technologizer community member Relyt asked: “What are your plans for Google Chrome in the future? How much is planned to be changed for the final release (example- interface)?”
Rakowski told me that the Chrome beta is mostly about testing the browser’s reliability and ability to accurately render Web pages of all sorts. Once Google is comfortable that Chrome is robust enough for general consumption, it’ll take it out of beta. Featurewise, though, that version may be more or less the same as the current one.
But Google wants to make sure that Chrome quickly gains the basic features that you kind of assume every browser will sport, such as a more comprehensive approach to bookmarks and auto-completion of text fields. Rakowski says that it’ll implement some of this stuff itself, but other features are being worked on by members of the Chrome open-source community.
Rakowski stressed that Google doesn’t think in terms of a “final” version of Chrome: It plans to roll out new features more or less continuously…much as it does with most of its Web-based services.
Kon Z asked: “What does Google have to say in response to Professor Hermann Maurer’s statements, especially about Chrome sending every visited URL to Google?”
I asked Rakowski about the hubbub over Chrome privacy, most of which centers around the fact that the browser’s default settings for its Omnibox address bar send every keystroke back to Google–so it can auto-suggest sites you may be looking for–and the fact that Google stores about 2 percent of queries to help power the auto-suggest feature. He said that the company takes privacy seriously, and that it thinks that auto-suggestions are a useful feature which most users will like–but that it also lets folks disable auto-suggest, in which case their keystrokes won’t be logged.
He said that some concerns about Chrome are based on misconceptions, but that the company has already made some Chrome tweaks based on legitimate issues that users have brought up.
As for Austrian professor Hermann Maurer’s allegations, Google apparently has a standard response that calls him a conspiracy theorist and says his concerns are “frankly, a little strange.” No beating around the bush there, huh?
Sudeep asked: “Will there ever be a real Google Toolbar for Chrome?”
An awful lot of folks are wondering the same thing that Sudeep is: Almost 200 of ’em have commented on the post in which I lament Chrome’s toolbarlessness.
So will Google build one? Probably not, Rokoswki told me, at least in the form of a downloadable, installable, optional toolbar. It thinks it would be odd to build a toolbar for its own browser. But over time, the company would like to enable much of the toolbar’s functionality in the form of features built right into Chrome. (Rokowski said it sees Chrome’s Omnibar as providing an improved version of the toolbar’s search functionality already.)
Oh, and since Chrome is open source, it’s also plausible that some random third party will see fit to build its own Google Toolbar. (Which, come to think of it, happened with Firefox once upon a time: The unofficial-but-excellent Googlebar satisfied those with a jones for the Google Toolbar before Google got around to building a Firefox version.)
I also asked a question submitted by…well, myself: “Will Chrome be customizable through extensions, like Firefox?”
Rakowski said that Google very much wants to open up Chrome to Firefox-like customization…but that it wants to do so in a way that doesn’t bog down the browser or make it less reliable. So the company is still in the process of figuring out how to do it. (One small bit of customizability–if that’s a word–is already out there, thanks to an open source developer: Support for Firefox’s Greasemonkey page-rejiggering engine.)
Thanks for the smart questions. I promise I’ll keep the ones I didn’t get to relay to Google this time around in mind, and will ask them as the opportunity arises…