Review: Google's Chrome, The First True Web 2.0 Browser

Google's new Chrome browser uses simplicity and some clever new features to bring Web surfing into the 21st century.

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Thu, September 04, 2008

ComputerworldGoogle's just-released Chrome takes the same approach to browser design that Google takes to its home page -- stripped-down, fast and functional, with very few bells and whistles.

That's both the good news and the bad news about this browser. Those who like a no-frills approach to their Web experience, and who want the content of Web sites front and center, will welcome it. But those who want a more fully featured interface with extras will prefer either Internet Explorer or Firefox.

That said, keep in mind that this is a first beta, and Google may well introduce new features in future versions. For example, this version doesn't have a true bookmarks manager, but it would be quite surprising if one didn't show up in future betas.

In fact, there's a very long list of features this browser doesn't have. There's no built-in RSS reader, like there is in Internet Explorer or that's available as an add-on for Firefox. You won't find a good bookmarks manager, such as you'll find in both Internet Explorer and Firefox. There are no add-ons like those you'll find in Firefox. Be warned — the list of what's not there can go on for quite some time.

That was all by design, though, and it's why Google calls this browser Chrome. The user interface of a browser is called its chrome, and Google set out to reduce the chrome -- in other words, simplify the user interface -- as much as possible.

In a comic book that gives technical background about the browser, Google explains its design philosophy this way: "We don't want to interrupt anything the user is trying to do. If you can just ignore the browser, we've done a good job."

If that was the goal, Google has succeeded. Chrome has so little interface, the content area of the browser is larger than those of other browsers -- it almost feels like full-screen mode. Nothing gets in the way of the content of the browser window itself. In the same way that Google puts search front and center on its home page, this browser puts content first.

Designed for consumers or enterprises?

A great deal of what makes Chrome different from other browsers is not what you see, but what you don't see. Chrome appears to be designed in great part to run AJAX and Web 2.0 applications. It's the only browser that has been built from the ground up for a world in which the browser is a front end to Web-based applications and services like those that Google provides, and like those that are used increasingly by businesses.

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