Have you tried Chrome?

Unless you’re a “click on the internet-button” kind of person, you’ve probably heard of the Google Chrome (which I’ll refer to as just Chrome) web browser by now. In September, I switched from Firefox to Chrome as my default browser. What follows is why I love it 99% of the time. (There is that 1% that I’m pissed off.)

Chrome e-book image

From official ebook (Used with permission from Google)

Google Chrome was released in September 2008, along with a 38-page ebook overview with clever illustrations from Scott McCloud (image from page 33 above). As with most Google products, the browser’s market share has steadily increased (currently 6.8% according to StatCounter), so it’s clearly not just a flash in the pan. It’s already surpassed Safari, the built-in Mac/iPhone browser.

Minimalist design of Google Chrome

Before reverting to geek-speak, here are a few reasons why you, the common user, should or should not check out Chrome. Wikipedia has a huge browser comparison page, so I won’t go into too many feature specifics. The official Chrome blog has great tips and news every couple of weeks, as well.

  1. Only one process/tab crashes, not the whole browser. I’d be surprised if anyone told me they’d never had their browser crash because of Adobe Flash. Flash is a whole other can of worms, but having to restart your browser after having 5 or more tabs open is just a nuisance. This alone is enough of a reason to switch to Chrome as your primary browser. It even has its own task manager (Shift+Esc) to help you diagnose what process is slowing things down.
  2. It’s fast and pretty, like a cheetah. Chrome doesn’t let you customize its interface very much; that this hasn’t bothered me is an ode to its minimalistic design. I didn’t even mind it not allowing extensions in its early releases. I’ve always felt comfortable using Chrome because it’s fast, even on slower computers. In contrast, Internet Explorer (IE) and Firefox are more like 600-pound tigers… and, arguably, beached whales.
  3. Works on Windows, Mac, and Linux. The latter 2 are in beta, but it’s been nice to have a common interface when I’m on my desktop (Windows XP) and laptop (Ubuntu Linux). You can also configure Google to automatically sync your bookmarks between computers.
  4. Drag tabs out of the browser, creating a new window. One of the little things I really like about Chrome. This is now available on Firefox, but it’s not nearly as smooth as Chrome’s design.
  5. Incompatible (the 1% negative mentioned earlier). One big advantage IE and Firefox have over Chrome is their bigger user base. I get into this more below, but basically, most web designers make sure their sites work on IE and don’t worry about other browsers. They’d rather paste a “Your browser is incompatible” message on their site than design it to work properly on more platforms. I find myself having to research ways to get certain plugins to work on Chrome, too. It’s usually not that big a deal, but most Internet users don’t have the patience or know-how to remedy these problems.

To get into some more philosophical and technical details, there are two main reasons I use Chrome: performance and progressive design. I’ll admit that it is not a browser that “just works” (unlike IE). Instead, it is a browser based on how the web should work. New releases of Chrome support Internet technologies of the future. Microsoft (MS) creates more and more “bloat” (huge program file size) with every release of IE because they don’t want old websites to “break” when viewed in their browser. This is generally true for MS operating systems, although they’ve done a better job of starting fresh with Windows 7 (likewise with Windows Phone 7 Series). I haven’t done any solid research to back up this claim, but I’d say there’s a generally positive trend in the computer industry lately to release products that perform better without having to cater to old technologies. As a systems professional, I understand the hesitation to upgrade because of budgetary and compatibility constraints, but it is because of these constraints that systems professionals exist.

Since I’m giving a brief overview of the state of browsers, Opera (the big red O) deserves a nod. Opera has always been forward-looking, but to the extreme. It runs on just about any platform, but unfortunately, it breaks even more websites than Chrome (in contrast to IE). I check out the latest release once or twice a year, and I am always impressed with its features. Still, it’s not as pretty as Chrome…

I recommend that you download Chrome and give it a whirl. You’ll love its use of Gears if you’re already a Google fan. You will also enjoy the ability  to test cutting edge features like HTML5 (e.g. SublimeVideo). I’d be curious to know what features you like or dislike in Chrome.

P.S. In other Google news, I had a friend work through a draft of this with me in Wave. It’s quite a fun way to collaborate! (I have Wave invites if you want one.)

  • Amber

    I heart Chrome, but you know that. I always pitch a fit when I run across a site that doesn't support it. GoDaddy is SO tired of hearing me fuss, I'm sure! I dig Opera, too, but haven't found it nearly as satisfying as Chrome. Still have to find a good purpose for Wave. Problem is other people have to have it and get the point of it to use it…Good synopsis, JJ!

  • ledcrowe

    Good post. I've been rocking the Firefox train for a while now, but I'm not married to it. I will take Chrome for a spin and see how I likes. Also, good job staying on schedule with your Tuesday posts. BTW, Love Buzz is playing on my Pandora radio right now.

  • thanks for the tip about shift+esc with chrome.

    both firefox and chrome keep getting better. firefox doesn't hog my ram like it used to and chrome has most of the extension i use everyday.

    if i didn't feel the need to be able to be signed in to two accounts (gmail, twitter) at the same with, i'd switch to chrome as my primary browser, too.

  • I'm a big fan of Chrome going back to the first release. The tabs, the process-per-tab design (which is one way to finally get more use out of multi-core CPUs on a desktop/laptop), the very speedy JavaScript support, and the clean uncluttered design were all reasons from the start. With extensions support and bookmark syncing between my Mac desktop and Windows laptop in the latest version, I have no reason to use anything else. Unless required by a particular website.

    Apart from specifics about feature sets, I find working with it and using it to be a less frustrating, less in-the-way-of-what-I'm-doing than either Firefox or IE. IE is just awful, and Firefox, while very functional, is not as cleanly and elegantly designed as Chrome. Neither is it as fast.

    One thing to note- Gears is going away. Google plans to phase it out in support of HTML5's spec calling for lightweight client-side data storage and syncing. Gears was a way to handle something that proper web standards didn't exist for at the time. http://gearsblog.blogspot.com/2010/02/hello-htm

    What don't I like in Chrome, now that it's evolved to this point? That's hard to say. Now that the Mac beta has reached feature parity with Windows, I'm pretty happy about it. A 64-bit version would be nice- Apple's Safari on Snow Leopard shows just how fast a JavaScript engine can be when compiled to fully use a 64-bit cpu.

  • Jolly good article. I'm a Chrome man as well but because of that I find myself designing with Chrome as my principle test browser. IE is actually on the bottom of my test list. I guess I'm a weirdo. Ha!

    I'm also really amped about some of the new extensions that have come out in Chrome that are very Firefox-like. The ones that I missed when I started using Chrome full-time.

    I think within the next year or so there will be fewer and fewer sites that are Chrome unfriendly as web dev loses dependence on plugins and HTML5 gains traction. It's going to be a faster, sexier interweb for sure.

  • Another little thing that I really like about Chrome is that you don't have to restart the browser whenever you install an extension. Smooth and elegant.

  • Thanks for the Gears heads up! I need to do some pro/con research on 64-bit systems; I'm kind of out of the loop.

  • Rock on, good brother. I appreciate the encouragement and Nirvana love, too.

  • Thanks for the comment and compliment. Yeah, you're a Google evangelist. I try to keep Wave in the back of my mind. Even if I only use it once in a blue moon, it's such a handy tool. I keep telling people to take just 30 minutes to read through The Complete Guide, particularly the “Wave in Action” section http://completewaveguide.com/guide/Wave_in_Action

  • Yeah, that's a big bonus. Firefox was usually pretty good about restoring sessions but what a pain. Not to mention that it would open up a new browser window from the extension itself. “You've just installed Xmarks! Here's how to use it…” Annoying. Granted, there are crap tons more add-ons for Firefox and some are pretty cool but the real question is, Do you need them? Most likely not.

  • Ahh, managing multiple email accounts, etc. Good point. So you keep both browsers running concurrently?

  • yep. i don't always have the browsers active, but they're usually open at the same time. i do use chrome on my netbook almost exclusively.

  • I've found that you can open multiple gmail accounts by opening up an incognito window, and more tabs within a incognito window. Perhaps they should call it a Truly Separate Process window?

  • Good thinking! You're my hero. Don't tell Lynn – she'll be jealous.