Thursday, 11 September 2008


Google Chrome was released earlier in the month.  At first I greeted the news with trepedation as all the world doesn't need is yet more browser chaos.  

However, I was really impressed by the comic style of the documentation.  I was suckered in and decided to give it a try.

First impressions were good - it starts up fast.  I'd say about 3 times faster than Firefox 2 just based on casual observation, but about the same as Internet Explorer 7.  It feels fast when I use it and it's responsive, more so than Firefox, but again about the same as IE7.  It feels clean cut and modern, compared to Firefox 2 which now feels clunky and I never liked IE's interface anyway.

However, after using it almost exclusively for a while there are a few things about it which annoy me.  

Firstly, I admit it, I'm a Facebook user (don't bother adding me, I only add people I know in real life).  Chrome is hit and miss with Facebook and seems to only work about 50% of the time.  I've been told this is because Facebook delivers Ajax/Javascript appropriate to the browser being viewed and doesn't know what to do about Chrome.  I'm not convinced since it seems to work some times and not others.

Next up - Google's own homepage doesn't even show up right.  The radio buttons to allow me to choose to search my location (UK) just aren't visible, though they do seem to be there.  In fact, radio buttons ahve gone missing all over the Internet, from what I can see.   Then the biggest shock was that right mouse button support in Google Spreadsheets doesn't work at all when trying to get up a context menu for the rows and is fiddly at best on the cells.  It is a little shocking that Google's own applications don't work with their very own browser, it would seem logical to me that is where they would start.

I wouldn't have minded so much except that the marketting propoganda documentation states that they have a massive server farm testing all the most popular sites and have this almost miraculous approach to working how a web page should "conceptually" thus reducing the number of human testers required.   Smells of BS to me.

Next is how they say they've "redesigned web browsing" from the ground up.  Well not really, all the usual things are there... well nearly.  Most things you take for granted in Firefox (or even IE) are generally there - if you can find them.  I've not really noticed anything special that Chrome does the other browsers don't, apart from ...

Process per tab.  This is actually really good and makes Chrome feel really stable.  In fact, Chrome probably uses more memory than Firefox for the same kind of browsing, but the fact that when I close a tab I know I'll get that memory back (and it really does seem to work that way) makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside.

Finally, Webkit.  A few people I know go on about how cool this is - I don't see it's much different from Firefox 2's rendering or even IE's.  I'm still trying to work out what makes it "cool".

So in conclusion, I'm still using Chrome primarily, but sometimes I really have to switch back to Firefox 2 to do some stuff (editing spreadsheets and adding friends in Facebook mainly).  I can only imagine that it will improve over time, though I am slightly worried that I am still "up to date" even after using it since it came out.  Perhaps the rumours about automatically downloading self-updates are true ... ?  

But anyway, if you haven't tried Chrome yet I'd recommend it so long as you remember that's still very new compared to Firefox 2 and especially Internet Explorer.


jockielugs said...

Of course if you had a Mac and used Camino you would see what *real* browser speed means ;o)

Simon Proctor said...

Umm you do know Firefox released a version 3 a while ago? And is currently working on 3.1?

Or have you taken a dislike to it for some reason? ;)

Chris Brind said...

@simon I knew, but what's so special about it?

Simon Proctor said...

Well it's faster than Firefox 2 for one thing. The new 'Awesome Bar' is kinda cool and the bookmarks intergration is neat.

The Tracemonkey code for 3.1 looks like it might give a run for it's money on the speed stakes too.

I'd advise upgrading if you use Firefox at all. For security purposes if nothing else as they are going to stop supporting 2 at some point soonish.