Great, just what the world needs, another free browser. That was my first thought. I have Firefox and love it (along with a few essential extensions). I have Internet Explorer, mostly because it’s installed with Windows but also because occasionally I encounter sites that have been developed¬†explicitly¬†for Internet Explorer. I have Safari, only because I installed it to have a look and then didn’t de-install it. I had Flock for about ten minutes (that was all that was required for me to decide I didn’t need it).

Why would I want yet another browser?

And yet, there was absolutely no way that I wasn’t going to install Chrome and give it a whirl. I’m actually writing this blog post using Chrome right now. It has some great things, it has some major deficiencies (for example, it’s not spell-checkking this as I type). Some of the important things are under the hood – the separate threading which will stop one rogue page killing all of your browser session (nice). And the strengthened sandbox approach to ensuring your personal data isn’t captured.

I guess the important thing is that Google have recognised that browsers, despite having more and more features stuffed into them, haven’t really changed much in ten years – but the Interweb is a very different place. Chrome, if you believe the blurb, sets out to address the changes in the way we work. I think I’d have to give it a more thorough test drive, and I aim to do that for a week or so, to see whether their claim holds up. In the meantime, what’s good about Chrome…?

  • The architecture – security, multi-threading, security, all that stuff you don’t see.
  • When you create a new tab, it shows you your most-visited sites, recently-created bookmarks, a history search bar and recently-closed tabs – the idea being that you may want to return to some of those things (I’d like Firefox to do that).
  • The tab mechanism that lets you pull off a number of tabs and group them in a separate window.
  • The address bar goes one better than Firefox – as well as suggesting URLs from your history or bookmarks it also suggest sites you might want to visit based on the word you type. A completely random example, type ‘wyoming’ and it’ll suggest the State of Wyoming Government page.
  • Screen real-estate – lots of it. Who needs menus anyway?

But there is some bad news…

  • RSS feed support – I couldn’t find any. As someone who uses Firefox’s live bookmarks this is a big omission (granted this is a beta, so it may come).
  • Memory usage – the apparent downside of it’s protected sessions is that it uses more memory. At the moment I have five Firefox tabs open and I have the same pages loaded into Chrome… it’s using over half as much memory again as Firefox.
  • The toolbar – it’s a bit too minimal, the option to add other buttons would be nice.

In summary, there’s nothing here to make me switch from Firefox but I do find myself liking Chrome. A bit of competition in the browser market (I say market, who ever paid for a browser?) is no bad thing and can only foster further innovation. Time will tell if Chrome addresses the missing features in later betas and the finished first version.