Google’s Chrome… It Doesn’t Suck

The blogosphere and Twitter are both ablaze today with talk of Google’s foray into the browser market with Chrome. My first impressions, and some accompanying screenshots…

Up until it was actually available, I’d not been following the story too much, so I hadn’t seen screenshots or read about any specific features. My first impression upon loading it up was, “wow… there’s… no chrome”. I haven’t messed around yet with configuration options, but there’s no status bar. No toolbar. It’s literally just an address bar (which seems to also serve as an integrated search bar), and tabs. It’s minimalistic in its look, as is standard with most things Google, but I like it. It’s uncluttered, but I’m not sure the general public will see it as such. The plain design that I see as a plus could easily be seen as… well, plain.

Which raises an interesting point. I’m not sure what market Google is after. Are they trying to be a mainstream browser and compete directly with IE and Firefox? I don’t know that I see that happening. But given some of the features that they’ve implemented, I definitely see them competing for the affections of techie geeks.

Most Web Developers that I know generally use Firefox for testing during development. Why? The Firebug plugin. This plugin is far and away one of the most useful tools ever created for debugging a web page’s display and behavior in a browser window. Out of the box, Chrome provides a tool that will allow you to introspect any page element, and its functionality certainly rivals Firebug’s… as far as CSS goes. As far as I can tell, there is not (yet) any functionality to debug scripts or to monitor network traffic (useful for debugging AJAX calls). Still, for core functionality, it’s very slick for what it does.

In further appealing to the geek, right-clicking above the address bar brings up a “task manager” window. The window shows you how many tabs you’ve got open, as well as what resources (memory, CPU, network) each tab is utilizing. Should you run into any issues with a particular tab, you can end that specific process. I haven’t had the opportunity to test that yet, but if it works, that’d be a pleasant change from Firefox, which generally crashes as an application if a single tab locks up. To further support my theory that Google is targeting the geek audience, the task manager window contains a link entitled “Stats for nerds”, which displays some fairly detailed data about the browser’s memory usage.

Overall web pages seemed to load noticeably faster than in other browsers. Of course, GMail seems to work a treat, which is nice as I’d sort of gotten used to GMail crashing Firefox (to be fair, this hasn’t happened in Firefox since the latest update. w00t!). I haven’t done extensive testing, but some cursory browsing seems to indicate that both JavaScript and CSS look as I’d expect them to look.

Bottom line is… I like it. I actually like it a lot. It’s sleek, it’s fast, and it’s got some nice built-in tools to satisfy your inner geek. Have you tried it? I know that a lot of folks seem to be hesitant, taking this as a sign of Google’s further intent to dominate all things Web (which is not inherently a bad thing folks, if they do it right and continue to not be evil), but I think it’s certainly worthwhile to give it a glance and judge it based on its own merits, rather than only a perception of the company that provides it.

*Update* It was just brought to my attention that CTRL-SHIFT-N will launch the browser in “Incognito Mode”. Yes, I can think of a situation or two where that could come in handy :)

Click on the thumbnails below to embiggen ‘em: