Google Ships Chrome Web Browser

The open source browser is available initially for Windows XP and Vista.

Does the world need another browser? Google obviously thinks so, as do many users and developers, to judge from early reaction to Chrome.

From a developer perspective, it's already frustrating enough to have to support the many browsers out there, on all major platforms and devices. But the good news for developers is that Chrome is based the WebKit HTML rendering engine, a beefed-up implementation of the open source KHTML project, which is notably also the rendering engine used by Apple's Safari browser and the iPhone. So from that perspective, the quirks of Chrome will already be familiar to many developers, although the highly standards-compliant nature of WebKit tends to minimize the common requirement for painful workarounds.

Chrome also holds promise for its devotion to fast JavaScript execution, potentially providing a boost to web applications that make heavy use of this, or for even simple tasks such as dragging and dropping. Finally, building Google Gears right into the browser will provide a huge boost for creating Gear-driven web applications.

Users will be struck by the increased emphasis on tabs, which reflects a redical rethinking of how best to manage the tasks to which these are assigned. Chrome provides a greatly increased autonomy for each tab, resulting in a potentially more efficient use of system memory and resources, as well as greater security for the user. Each tab has also been given its own controls and URL box, which also displays such things as suggestions for searches and visited pages. Speaking of the past, Chrome provides full text search of the entire history, greatly reducing the need for bookmarking. Open a new tab and what do you get by default? A new tab page that displays your nine most-visited pages, as well as search boxes for the sites on which you search most. Chrome is also strong on resistance to malware, thanks to its approach to sandboxing, and also has a new take on limiting exposure to phishing scams.

Google Chrome is liberally sprinkled with such fresh thinking, both under the hood and from a user perspective. It is available for free download (in the inevitable beta version) on the Google site. For a development perspective, check out Scott McCloud's comic introduction.