Google to Launch its Own Web Browser ... Today

Prodded by the feature-list of the recently released Beta 2 version of Microsoft's Internet Explorer (IE) 8, Google has prematurely announced its own Web browser entry, which will appear today on Windows only. The browser, called Chrome, appears to offer functionality very similar to that of IE 8, though of course Google will integrate more tightly with its own Web services. "Because we spend so much time online, we began seriously thinking about what kind of browser could exist if we started from scratch and built on the best elements out there," a posting to the Google blog reads. "So why are we launching Google Chrome? Because we believe we can add value for users and, at the same time, help drive innovation on the Web." It's actually a lot more self-serving than that. Google's rationale for building its own browser predispose the reader to believing that people actually "edit documents" and "send email" only through a Web browser, and not with best-selling Windows applications like Microsoft Word and Outlook, respectively. This world-view further assumes that the cloud computing trends that are just now emerging are already the standard method of computing, which they are not. (In fact, Microsoft's hybrid approach, called Software + Services, arguably is a bit more realistic for most users. Under this model, yes, we will be doing more and more online. But users also require best-of-class desktop applications for interacting with Web services in the richest possible way.) In any event, it's equally clear that Google must have been shocked to see the list of new features Microsoft unveiled last week as part of IE 8 Beta 2. That's because virtually all of the new features in Google Chrome first debuted last week as part of IE 8 Beta 2. These features include: Tab isolation. Google Chrome's tabs will each run in their own process, so that when one crashes, only the tab crashes and not the entire browser. This feature appeared first in IE 8 Beta 2. Revamped JavaScript engine. Google Chrome features a new JavaScript engine called V8 that will dramatically improved Javascript performance. One of the new features in IE 8 Beta 2 is a new JavaScript engine that dramatically improves performance. Better security. Google Chrome features "architectural changes to disadvantage malware." IE 8 comes with numerous security advances, including a SmartScreen filter, cross-site scripting (XSS) filter, enhanced Delete Browser History, domain name highlighting, Data Execution Prevention (DEP) support, easy browser toolbar removal, a new Safety menu, and more. Incognito. Google Chrome features a privacy mode called Incognito that hides everything you do in the current browser window. IE 8 Beta 2 debuted this feature last week, calling it InPrivate. Omnibox. The Google Chrome address bar handles more than just URLs: "It also offers suggestions for searches, top pages you've visited before, pages you haven't visited but are popular, and more" Google says. That's how the Smart Address Bar in IE 8 Beta 2 works as well. To be fair to Google, they also stole some ideas from Mozilla Firefox (like chrome-less Web application windows) and Apple Safari (the WebKit rendering engine), though claims of theft in such cases are, of course, less relevant in the open source world. And Google Chrome will offer some unique new features of its own, including an interesting looking home page (albeit one that appears to ape the Quick Tabs features from IE 7) and simple a tabs-based UI that allows you to do such thing as rip a tab off one browser window and drag it to another. So what are we to make of Google Chrome? We won't know much until the beta appears later today, but my early take on this is that Google has the market power to make WebKit a top-tier Web platform, alongside IE and Firefox. For more information about Google's Chrome browser, and of course the surprisingly similar feature set of IE 8, please refer to the SuperSite for Windows. I've written about both in the past week.

TAGS: Windows 8
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