Google goes browser
This column originally ran in ComputorEdge on September 12, 2008
Just a few months after AOL pulled the plug on the venerable Netscape browser, Windows users have another browser to check out if for some reason they're not happy with Microsoft's Internet Explorer, the open-source Firefox, Norway's Opera or Apple's Safari (or, for that matter, Firefox's Mozilla cousin, SeaMonkey).
Following years of rumors, Google released its Chrome Web browser in early September in beta for Windows users; Mac and Linux versions are yet to come.
Why Google wants to have its own browser, and why consumers might be as concerned with Google providing their main gateway to the World Wide Web as privacy and consumer advocates have been with Microsoft are all good topics for discussion but this month, I'm just going to look at how Chrome measures up against the competition.
As with every other browser currently in active development, Chrome uses a tabbed interface for having multiple Web sites open within a single window. It uses the same base set of hot keys for completing your basic Web browser functions.
In appearance, it is laid out similarly to Internet Explorer 7 with a very narrow toolbar along the top. But Chrome frees up even more monitor geography for displaying Web pages instead of tool bars by combining the URL location window with the search window. No doubt in order to head off possible anti-trust action by the feds (or European Union, which has been hammering Microsoft of late), Google allows you to choose different search engines as your default (although the initial setting is for surprise Google). But the combined URL/search window works very well, and is likely to become the way all search engines are laid out in the near future.
In terms of rendering, Safari and Opera both claim to be the fastest at displaying Web content. But in the age of broadband connectivity, it's not really an issue. Chrome seems as fast as any of them, anyway; unless you're on a dial-up account, are you even going to notice?
The best part of Chrome right now, though, is how seamlessly it imports bookmarks and passwords from your existing browsers. Well, at least from Firefox; I have IE7 on my laptop, but don't use it for anything other than columns like this in which I need to compare it to other browsers.
But Chrome found my Firefox bookmarks, and also imported all my saved passwords meaning when I go to my page for my bank, insurance company, etc., I don't have to retype everything. (Yes, this should probably worry me and if the laptop is ever burglarized, I'm going to have to jump quickly to shut down all my different accounts. But for convenience, you can't beat it.)
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