Blog Post

Google Chrome: One Month Later

Google Chrome BrowserEarlier this week,’s Svetlana Gladkova sent an email reminding me that Google’s Chrome Browser was one month old. How time flies, and how quickly we forget: or at least I did. After my initial few posts and thoughts, Google Chrome has fallen off my attention radar since it is not available for my preferred computing platform – OSX X. I typically divide my browsing time between Safari and Camino. [digg=]

I have checked it out occasionally by booting it up on Windows running via Parallels on my MacBook. Apparently, I am part of the median: Svetlana has been tracking the usage using Google Analytics, Clicky and Net Applications has seen a gradual decline in the usage. Gone is the download Chrome link from the Google home page. She points out that there are some fixes the browser needs and as a result Google might be quietly taking a step back. (Related Post: Why Chrome isn’t a killer browser just yet.)

Svetlana is right in being cautious on the chances of the Google browser, though I am not sure how to view the fact that it now accounts for about 5.6% of the traffic to GigaOM and now ranks as the fourth most usage browser. Across our network, here Chrome’s share of total visits by site: 6.13% (jkOnTheRun), 5.78% (OStatic), 5.06% (WebWorkerDaily), 3.09% (NewTeeVee), 2.43% (Earth2Tech) and 2.24% (TheAppleblog). [If you want to share information about your website/service in comments, it would be pretty cool.]

Those numbers can of course mean many things, like I have a lot of readers at Google. Of course, they remind me that I need to use Windows more often. Jokes aside, I think Google isn’t likely to give up on this browser for anytime soon. There are many reasons why they won’t let it become their Waterloo.

Google has realized that web is no more a mere collection of plain web pages or simple interface to databases. If not today then sometime in the near future we would expect equality in the experience (if not feature parity) between desktop and web applications. It is a future where browsers can’t be just html renderers but containers for a runtime environment. Anyway follow Svetlana – I have a sneaky suspicion she would be following Chrome’s progress (or lack of it) for a while.

83 Responses to “Google Chrome: One Month Later”

  1. Google is not after Microsoft’s share of the browser market: it’s after something much bigger.

    To understand what’s truly and enduringly interesting about Google Chrome, one needs to understand what is special about V8, its new Javascript engine. And to understand that, it’s useful to go back ten years to look at the position of Javascript’s remote cousin Java.

    Ten years ago, Java was so slow it was inconceivable that anybody could use it to build serious systems; its garbage collection process brought entire applications to a shuddering halt. Then a small start-up team led by Lars Bak, a graduate of Denmark’s famous Aarhus University, developed a new virtual machine for Java that enabled code to be compiled on the fly, improving Java’s performance 20 times or more. The start-up was rapidly acquired by Sun and Bak became the technology lead for Java Hotspot, Java’s current virtual machine.

    Hotspot changed everything: suddenly Java became a language to take very seriously indeed.

    Fast-forward ten years, and Lars Bak is back in Aarhus, leading the team developing V8, the Javascript engine behind Google Chrome.

    Without V8, Javascript suffers from the same problem Java had ten years ago: it’s painfully, unbelievably slow, tens or even hundreds of thousands of times slower than other languages. So despite its flexibility, it’s never been used for any kind of serious development; in fact, it’s been the single biggest hurdle to the development of more interesting applications that can run inside a browser.

    It’s not always Telkom’s fault when web pages load at a snail’s pace: Javascript is a big part of the problem. There have been a few attempts to replace it as the main tool for getting functionality into the browser, notably Microsoft’s Silverlight and Adobe’s Flex, both of which are being pushed hard. The goal for everyone is enable as much as possible to be done inside the browser, as efficiently as possible.

    Applications like Gmail and Google Maps have done amazingly well so far, but they are way out at the limits of what can be done inside a browser.

    Or rather, they WERE out at the limits of what could be done. Just as Hotspot changed everything for Java, so V8 is going to change everything for Javascript. In a below-the-radar blog post at the beginning of September announcing V8, Bak said it “has been designed for performance from the ground up. In particular, we wanted to remove some common bottlenecks that limit the amount and complexity of JavaScript code that can be used in Web applications.”

    Bak says there are three cornerstones of the V8 design: Compilation of JavaScript source code directly into native machine code, an efficient memory management system resulting in fast object allocation and small garbage collection pauses, and the Introduction of hidden classes and inline caches that speed up property access and function calls.

    That may not make a great deal of sense to those who aren’t programmers, but here’s the key point: V8 is fast. Very, very fast. So fast that it is now possible, for the first time, to develop seriously functionality inside a web browser without relying on obese plugins.

    Security is also much tighter with V8. Every tab opened in the browser is a separate process that is well sandboxed, allowing no leakage of malignant code. In other existing browsers, even Firefox, all tabs use a single execution thread and a single process, making the whole vulnerable to security problems. V8 provides a far superior environment for developing applications.

    Tellingly, V8 is open source, which will only magnify the huge ripple effect it is going to have. Slow runtime environments have been the biggest stumbling block to moving more functionality off the desktop and into the browser; with that removed, things are really going to take off. Google Docs, for one, will gather enormous strength, possibly making it a real alternative to Microsoft Office for the first time.

    Which brings us back to the starting point: Google is not interested in winning browser market share, it’s interested in replacing entire operating systems. A JavaScript engine that enables serious functionality to be offered inside the browser is a huge step in that direction.

  2. I’m still using Chrome as my primary browser. It’s fast and lean. I too noticed Chrome wasn’t on Google’s homepage after two weeks into release. It’s a wonderful product, I just hope they don’t pull the plug and resources away from this project.

  3. After a month of using, I love Chrome! It’s become my default browser on Vista and XP (across four PCs). I’m still looking forward to trying it on my MacBook and my Linux-based netbook, but if it’s anything like the Windows version, I’ll probably switch there as well.

    Chrome is fast, efficient, and stays out of my way.

  4. I am using it since its launch and I am delighted with the simple, clean, minimalistic user interface. Some people complain about lack of support for toolbars or not having a proper bookmarks organizer, but I love the Google concept of “forget about organizing folders and simply search” for the page you bookmarked, or visited before. Same as in Gmail. Why waste time organizing emails into folders, if you have a powerful search feature.

    The single box for search and URL with autocomplete is also an improvement once you get used to it. It felt strange at the beginning to search for words on what used to be the URL box. But now I have teh opposite effect I missed the one box when I use Firefox or IE.

    Clean user interface, never crashes and extremely fast. Great job Google!

  5. I’m actually using Windows XP because of Chrome. As soon as Chrome is available for Ubuntu Linux, I will switch back to Ubuntu Linux.

    When Google will be launching more AJAX services that can take advantage of Chrome’s faster AJAX processing, if the other browsers haven’t been improved, Google will simple put a link on their homepage again.

    If needed, in a matter of a couple of months, by advertising for it on the worlds most popular website, Google could make sure everyone has installed Chrome and uses it by default.

  6. There is no point in testing all these junks. Its still in very much beta with lots and lots of security bugs. In addition to that google is trying all the possible ways to collect as much personal information in the name of these ridiculous applications.

    There isn’t anything in it to be fascinated as i read in many other articles.In my personal point of view, google is not doing any social work. They have some hidden agendas. This is one among them.

    I’m satisfied with what firefox offers me now.

  7. Om,

    One thing tech blogs need to keep in mind about Chrome and the amount of traffic that comes from Chrome users is your audience are techies and more likely/prone to try Chrome than mainstream Web users. As a result, Chrome usage on tech blogs will be significantly higher than non-tech blogs.


  8. I have not stopped using it since day 1.

    After 1 month of using “chrome” for pretty much all my browsing, I can say that

    1. It has never ever crashed.
    2. Acrobat Reader never loads inside chrome.
    3. Java and Flash work like a charm.
    4. Chrome’s Javascript engine has a few quirks(bugs), but nothing serious.

    Although I do sometimes, use Firefox just for my on line bank accounts.

  9. Michael

    I am totally impartial to the fruitless Microsoft/Apple/Mozilla etc debates. I choose something simply because it works best for me. Chrome works best by far… is super fast, has no bugs, does not crash ever (unlike Firefox which crashes more often with every new release) and has a user interface which is streets ahead of its competition. That’ll do me.

  10. I really liked Chrome but can’t use it due to no Google Toolbar plugin, which I absolutely depend upon, e.g. mainly for the Google Bookmarks button (I use lots of different machines). Sadly, converts to Chrome seem to be predominently from Firefox. People who aren’t willing to try Firefox over IE aren’t likely to try Chrome, whereas a Firefox user would delight in a least evaluating Chrome.

  11. Chrome is my default browser now. While Firefox is for long internet sessions, and can’t live without some extensions, Chrome start in less then a second and do what browsers sould do, show html pages, simple and fast.
    In a world of intelligent people it would take over IE users in few days.

  12. Oh yeah, I forgot to mention. I hate the new History “library” on Firefox. It made it more difficult for me to find what I was looking for. Chrome history is ordered by most recent and they even conveniently time stamp it for me. :)

  13. Sekhar – that’s my issue with Firefox as well. I’ve been using Chrome since day one, because of the Firefox crashes. The crashes were getting to the point of ridiculous. I still, however, have to use Firefox occasionally, because I sometimes run across something that doesn’t support Chrome.

  14. im on a mac. i wish i could use chrome, just for the fact that every tab is a new process.

    from what i see the design/layout/typography of the program is nice.

    supposedly faster than firefox.

    the only thing I wouldn’t use it for is developing, I gotta have my Firebug.

    still waiting on the mac version,

  15. Chris Lees

    I was annoyed that Chrome isn’t officially available for Linux yet, so instead I installed Flock. It’s a little slower than Firefox, but within 24 hours I was hooked on all the features. Flock, my friends, is what a web browser should be. Not dinky little Chrome.

  16. I’m hoping the come up with a really easy plug-in architecture for it, I would love it if Chrome was like a “base” browser, really fast with no bells and whistles, and then you have the ability to customize it to your liking via plug-ins. Firefox originally seemed like this, but I think over time it’s grown considerably.