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Google Chrome, is it Just Another Web Browser?

Tuesday, September 2nd, 2008

Google Chrome BetaToday Google released the latest browser to enter the flurry that is the web browser market, Google Chrome. Chrome is Google’s answer to the growing needs of the web, and is intended to just “[get] out of your way and [get] you where you want to go.” They also descibe it as “[…] a browser that combines a minimal design with sophisticated technology to make the web faster, safer, and easier.” But, is this just another web browser? Let’s dig deep into Chrome to find out.

Google Chrome is open source and is powered by the Webkit rendering engine; the same engine that powers Safari, MobileSafari (or iPhone Safari, if you will) and partially powers Adobe AIR. This means that Chrome is not another browser that web designers/developers will have to worry about, it will render pages the same as in Safari.

Initial Impressions

Alright, enough of those technical details, let’s get into the visual ones. Here’s a screenshot of a newly opened tab, with some other tabs open alongside it (click for a larger view):

Google Chrome - New Tab/Home Screen

On first sight of Google Chrome, you’ll probably notice the following:

  • There’s very little “window chrome” – This is actually where Chrome gets its name, due to its very minimalistic approach to window chrome. Heck, it doesn’t even say the browser’s name anywhere on the Chrome (just “Google”).
  • There’s no search box – Google said that it found that users got confused to where they should be typing in addresses when there’s both an address bar and a search box. So Google combined the two into an “OmniBar” (let’s see, we have the “AwesomeBar” for Firefox, “Smart Address Bar” for Internet Explorer 8 and now “OmniBar” for Chrome, you’re still following, right?). In my small time of testing, this seems to work well.
  • There’s no context menus – Google does away with any File menus, and just replaces it with two small buttons to the right side of the screen (this is also the direction Microsoft is going with Vista and Internet Explorer).


One of the main purposes of Chrome is to be super fast. Notably, the browser is very quick to start up, and very quick to open up a new tab. This is by far the snappiest browser I’ve ever used. I’ve found that Javascript intensive websites (for example, Gmail or Google Reader) feel far faster in Chrome than they do in Firefox or Internet Explorer. The average site feels about the same in Chrome than it does in Firefox or Internet Explorer.

Interestingly, Chrome is also very unlikely to crash or become unresponsive. This is because each tab is given its own separate process (so if you have multiple tabs open, you’ll see multiple instances of “chrome.exe” in your Windows Task Manager), meaning that when a site in one tab is unstable, it may cause that tab to become unresponsive and crash, but the rest of your tabs will remain responsive and in perfect working order. This actually does work, I went to a site that used Shockwave, then the Shockwave Player crashed and the tab became unresponsive, however the rest of Chrome was perfectly fine. Chrome will then actually tell you why the tab became unresponsive (or crashed). This has already proved to be much more convienant than the whole browser crashing and then restarting (Mozilla and Microsoft should take note of this). However, there is one problem with this, when you’re in the Task Manager, there is no way to tell which chrome.exe process is associated with what tab. So, if there’s a process that’s using a large amount of resources, there’s no way to know which tab to close down. Hopefully they’ll be able to fix this by adding the tab name to the description of the process, or with some similar solution. UPDATE: There actually is a way to tell which process is which, see my post on it here.

Shockwave Plugin Crash


I quite like Chrome’s user interface (UI). Such as how it takes up very little room (which is especially nice on a notebook) and feels very intuitive and efficient. Doing away with the redundant title bar was a good move. You can ever make the window chrome even smaller by maximizing the window. In the screenshot directly below, you’ll also notice how in the “OmniBar” the actual domain is in focus, while the rest of the URL is slightly faded out. Internet Explorer 8 does this, and it’s a nice touch to help prevent misleading phishing URLs from tricking users into thinking the site is legit when it isn’t.

Faded OmniBar

The tabs are something interesting all together. Obviously, they’ve been moved to the very top of the window, and they look very sleek and modern (like all of Chrome does), but the functionality goes much deeper than that. You can do the usual stuff with them, like drag then around and order them the way you like them, but you can also do much more. You can drag the tabs out of the tab bar, and Chrome will automatically open a new window to house it in. This is particularly useful for making web applications feel more like desktop applications. For example, drag a tab with Gmail open in it out of the tab bar, and boom, you’ve got it in a new window, just like a desktop email client (such as Outlook) would be. You can even drag tabs back and forth between multiple Chrome windows. You can also create “Application Shortcuts” which allows you to add a shortcut to the Desktop, Start Menu and Quick Launch bar, which will open a specific website in a window that doesn’t have the OmniBar or any other window chrome in it. This furthers the desktop application feel.

Application Shortcut Standalone Window

Application Desktop Shortcut

I also like Google’s approach to the status bar, it only appears when it actually has something to display. No more status bar that just says “Done” that sits there wasting space.

Google Chrome Status Bar

Bookmark ButtonHowever, I do have a few gripes with parts of the interface. First of all, Chrome includes a built-in spell checker, which checks the spelling of things you type into textboxes. That’s good, and useful, but there’s no way to add a new term to the dictionary. Secondly, when I was trying to bookmark a page, I had a hard time finding the bookmark button. I looked through the two little “context menus”, but there was nothing there. I scanned across the minimalistic interface, but nothing really caught my eye. I right-clicked on the tab and page, again, there was nothing. Then I found it, the little star to the left of the address bar. You click that and it lets you add a bookmark. This is the exact same place that the site’s favicon appears in Firefox and Internet Explorer, so you can understand my confusion. Lastly, (not necessarily an interface issue) I can use the right edge of my notebook’s touchpad to scroll down, but I can’t use it to scroll up. Which is extremely annoying, as I have to reach for my arrow keys, or use my mouse to adjust the actual scrollbar.

Google Services Integration

What I find so fascinating about this browser is the fact that Google hasn’t really integrated any of its services into it. About the only way it interacts with Google is through the search features (which you can easily change to another search engine). iGoogle isn’t the homepage, Feeds aren’t opened in Google Reader and you don’t need to sign into a Google Account. Although Google probably could have gotten away with some integration into its services, it didn’t, and to me that shows that they’re dedicated to making a true browser, and not just a Google promoter.

Features and Miscellaneous Facts

Google ChromeAlthough I’ve already covered most of the major features in the above sections, there’s still plenty of smaller features included with Chrome. Since this post is getting a bit lengthy, I’ll just present a few of them in list form.

  • Chrome is completely open-source – Chromium (which is Chrome’s codename) is licensed under the BSD license. You can find Chromium on Google Code here.
  • Integrated Google Gears Support – The popular offline/local caching plugin comes preloaded in Chrome, ready to download your unread Google Reader items, or help speed up your WordPress admin surfing.
  • Google will soon release a completely open API for Chrome, so that people will be able to create add-ons for it
  • Download Manager – Chrome has a built-in download manager, which looks pretty slick.
  • Chrome has a built-in password manager.
  • There is currently no Google Toolbar available for Chrome.
  • Chrome’s useragent contains “Safari”, so any sites doing conditional stuff for Safari (they should really specify “Webkit”) will also show in Chrome.


Here’s a few random screenshots from around Google Chrome.

About Google Chrome
About Google Chrome

Incognito Mode
Incognito Mode

View Source
View Source

Page Menu
“Page” Menu

Tools Menu
“Tools” Menu

Find Box
Find Box


Although I do question Google on why they’re bringing out their own web browser, when they already fund Mozilla ten’s of millions of dollars a year (which without Firefox probably wouldn’t exist for long), to have Google as the homepage and default search engine, but I’m defiantly not going to argue about it. Overall, I believe that Google Chrome is an excellent browser, and with a little work could win a sizable chunk of market share away from the current top browsers (Internet Explorer and Firefox). The fact that it will render pages the same as Safari also means that web developers won’t have to worry about Chrome gaining market share, since it isn’t another browser to test in.

To answer the question originally posed in this post, no, I do not think Google Chrome is “just another web browser”. After only this short time of playing with it, I have already set Google Chrome my default browser (which isn’t something I do lightly). Finally, to those of you who have some privacy concerns about Google Chrome, please see Matt Cutts’ post on the topic at his blog, here and well you’re at it, check out his great FAQ on Chrome here.

Google Chrome is currently available for Windows XP and Vista; Linux and Mac OS X versions are coming soon. Get Google Chrome Now.

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix: The IMAX 3D Experience

Monday, August 6th, 2007

Harry Potter and the Order of the PhoenixI went to see the latest Harry Potter movie, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, (the 5th) the other day. I decided to go see it in IMAX, since the last 20 minutes or so were in 3D.

The movie was actually pretty good. Wasn’t exactly the same as the Book, but it was pretty close. Some nice special effects in there too. In this movie, you really notice how much older the main actors and actresses have been. In real life, the dude who plays Harry Potter is 18, in this movie, he’s supposed to be 15. By the time they do the 7th (and last) movie, he’ll be like 20 or 21. But, Harry is only 17 in the 7th book.

The 3D wasn’t exactly as good as I thought it was going to be. They really only took advantage of the 3D in a little bit of the 20 minutes. Like, when they were flying on a broom towards you (wasn’t it supposed to be on those bird-like things that only people who have seen death can see?). They should’ve made it so spells and stuff were flying at you… Now, that would’ve been cool. It seems like the 3D was more of an after-thought.

But, seeing it in IMAX was pretty cool. Movies are usually better on an 8 story tall (and even wider) screen, 12 000 watts of sound and on Canadian technology (yes, IMAX is Canadian πŸ˜€ ). πŸ˜‰

Overall, it was a great movie!

Samsung SyncMaster 226BW

Monday, July 16th, 2007

Samsung SyncMaster 226BWI got a new Monitor on Saturday! I got the Samsung SyncMaster 226BW. It’s about time I got rid of my old 17″ CRT Monitor (although, it still worked well). πŸ˜›

The Samsung SyncMaster 226BW is a 22 inch, LCD, Widescreen High Definition Monitor. It’s got a 2ms response time, HDCP, 16.7 Million colours and DVI (Digital) input. It’s high gloss black, with a silver “bezel”. It also has regular D-Sub (VGA) input; but who wants to use that? Not to mention that it’s Windows Vista Premium Certified (not quite sure what that means πŸ˜› ).

This monitor is freaking awesome! The colours are perfect, it’s huge, no backlight bleeding (that I can see right now, at least) and it’s just… awesome! Brilliant, awesome, words hardly describe how great it is!

The colours on this Monitor are great. I’d recommend setting MagicBright to “Intelligent” for really vibrant colours. It’s also a nice clean, clear and crisp picture.

There’s actually quite a bit of “controversy” around this Monitor. Back when the Monitor originally came out, it was using a Samsung LCD Panel. Which is a great panel. Which all of the reviews from back then are based off of, the Samsung Panel. But, it was such a great Monitor that there started to be a shortage of them, and Samsung couldn’t keep up with demand. So, they decided to outsource some of the Panels to two different companies. One of them was AU Optronics and the other one was Chi Mei Optoelectronics. Thus, making the A, C and S panel. The A panel bring made by AU Optronics, the C by Chi Mei Optoelectronics and the S (the original Panel) by Samsung. Now, all these different Panels are not equal. Although, they were given specific instructions by Samsung. Both the A and C panels have different problems. The biggest ones are that the A has a noticeable Blue Dominance and that the C has bad backlight bleeding. The S is basically perfect. Now, they may have fixed these Problems by now, they’ve had 6 months.

I was lucky enough to get an S Panel. The first one we bought was a C, but we returned that and picked up another one, at another store, and got and S Panel.

The way to tell which panel is which, is that on the back of the Monitor (behind the plate that hides the inputs) there’s a sticker. That sticker has the model number, serial number, etc. Right after the model number (226BW), there’s a letter, either A, C or S. There’s your Panel type.

I didn’t think this Monitor would look this great. I mean, it looked good in the store, but once I got it home, and plugged it in, it looked awesome. Really good colour. I guess because of the lighting in the store and since I’m using DVI.

Overall, this is a great Monitor!

(yes, I did take that picture of it in the top-left πŸ˜› )

ATI Radeon x1300 Pro

Sunday, February 11th, 2007

That’s right, I got a new video card! I decided to go with the ATI Radeon x1300 Pro AGP card. This thing has 256MBs of DDR2 VRAM (Video Card RAM, much faster than regular RAM), Pixel Shader 3.0, TV Out, HDTV or SDTV Out, and both DVI and VGA ports. It supports DirectX 9 and OpenGL 2.0. This thing far exceeds Vista’s requirements, so I now get the full Aero experience. So now I get things like transparency in Vista. Also, Flip3D (which is like Alt-Tab, just in 3D). Plus, all the windows now fade-in and fade-out when windows are opened, closed, maximized and minimized, respectively. Which is cool. I also updated my post on VistaΒ with some new/updated screenshots of Vista. Plus, I fixed it so that when you click on the thumbnails, you go to the image instead of a page, since that wasn’t working properly.

BlueFur Name Review

Tuesday, February 6th, 2007


Adding onto my previous post on BlueFur.Com, I’m going to review the name BlueFur (partly because they’re offering a free domain to the first 50 people to review the name BlueFur πŸ˜› ).

I think that MonsterHosting.Ca changing it’s name to BlueFur.Com was a good move, although too bad it wasn’t changed for more positive reasons. Them changing their name to BlueFur does open up their “service window” to include much more then just hosting based, as they’re no longer restrained by the “hosting” part in the name.

Also, their new name is quite ingenious, it has a good tie in with their “mascot” too, since the mascot does have blue fur. πŸ˜›

I think that MonsterHosting was a good name, but I think that BlueFur is an even better name. Although, I have noticed that they’re advertising BlueFur as BlueFur.Com and not .Ca as they had with the MonsterHosting name. But, that might open their market more because people from other countries besides Canada will probably choose BlueFur as a host because it doesn’t have a .Ca domain (well, maybe, it’s hard to tell). Although, I believe you can access BlueFur through .Ca and that you could have accessed MonsterHosting through .Com.

Although, to be truthful, the name BlueFur doesn’t make it at all obvious what sort of general services they offer, at first look of the name. But, their website does make it quite obvious, so if people are curious enough to go to BlueFur without knowing what services they offer, they will quickly find out.

Since BlueFur does offer the best hosting for the best price. It really doesn’t matter what their name is, it’s still the same great service, as always. They have actual 24/7 support, their servers are fast, they don’t load their servers up with thousands of accounts like some hosting companies like to do, they’re Canadian, they have servers in Canada, and I could go on for quite awhile.But, I won’t, because you can just go check them out.

Overall, I think the new name BlueFur will open up even more business for them and that it is a sweet name that also allowed them to check their awesome mascot. The name BlueFur is unique (you would’ve gotten barely any results for BlueFur on Google a few weeks ago), cool, different, and sounds smooth.