Google Chrome: Is it Ready for Web Workers?

As if we didn’t have enough to juggle, Google adds their own browser to the mix. Google Chrome was released a few hours ago for Windows XP & Vista. A Mac version is promised at some point. Even though I’m a Mac user, it was worth a launch of VMWare Fusion to take the new kid on the block for a spin.

Initial impression? Nice start. I’m certainly not going to shout from the rooftops because Google puts its tabs above the address bar. Yes, it’s different. But in some areas of the browser it feels different for different’s sake which does nothing for productivity.

What sets Chrome apart, clearly, is how it manages resources. The browser is the operating system, and like with any modern OS each application is handled separately. I think of all us who live in Firefox know what it’s like to have 30 tabs open and be stuck because one is being ornery. The fact that Firefox has the ability to restore sessions after a crash or browser restart is great, but nothing beats the ability to close down the troublemaker tab and get back to work. 

Mac users, remember those System 7-9 applications that used to routinely crash and force a restart? That’s browsers today. Chrome wants to be the browser of tomorrow. What they’ve released today is a good proof of concept. But it’s not the workhorse Firefox currently is, warts & all. I’d recommend web workers wait and see how this develops before expecting Chrome to fit in a day-to-day workflow.

I only wish I could do the impossible and take the wonderful resource management in Chrome and bring it to Firefox, rather than having to wait until Chrome duplicates some of what already makes Firefox so successful.

I haven’t had enough time to really test how Chrome performs when it gets bogged down, but I like what I see so far. This is about rethinking how a browser is built from the ground-up, not about matching IE or Firefox pound-for-pound.

There are a few other nice touches, such as an “Inspect element” window that gives a source view that you typically need a Firefox Add-On to match. Chrome also handles downloads nicely and has built-in Gears support, allowing you to save a web app to your desktop. Later, you can open it without distraction of other tabs and navigation.

It may be a Google product, but I can’t see that Google apps behave any better or worse in Chrome than they do in Firefox.  Unfortunately, Chrome feels crippled by its current lack of plug-ins. I simply can’t do Gmail for any length of time without the Remember the Milk extension or Lifehacker’s outstanding Better Gmail 2

Web workers have to consider that it’s a new product, and it may take a while for favorite apps to catch up. For example, our organization uses the time tracking application ClickTime which works just great in Firefox, but this messages now greets me when I log in with Chrome:

For a browser that puportedly caters to the “cloud,” more robust password management is a must. I have 4 Google accounts, 3 Google Apps and one regular Gmail, and Chrome quickly got confused remembering which username/password went with which URL.

Ultimately, If I stayed in Chrome I think I would miss some basic features like spell checking, bookmark editing, RSS rendering, sidebar and more. I’m not giving up Firefox anytime soon.

Have you tried Chrome? Are you thinking of making a fulltime switch? Our sister blog OStatic has their own review of the browser here.

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