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Recently I noticed the little plug on Google's home page: New! Download Chrome (BETA) - the new browser from Google. And my first reaction was, “Oh, great. Another Web browser.” But my feelings toward this new offering have warmed quickly.

Google ChromeA couple years ago, working on a Web application and trying to figure out this AJAX stuff, I encountered something like Zimbra for the first time. And although I was (and still am) very impressed with the complex applications being served through my Web browser these days, I started wondering how much further we'll be able to push XML and JavaScript—technologies that were conceived when the Web was a much simpler place. To think that we're now running HTML/JavaScript equivalents of applications that are normally run from optimized machine code is pretty amazing.

But they sure can be slow. Rearranging my pictures using that fancy AJAX-enable photo gallery brings a new meaning to click and drag. There are some pretty amazing apps online, but they really feel like they're online.

So I'm excited to see the innovative steps Google and some other groups are taking to improve the performance of modern Web applications:

  • Webkit engine: Google is basing its browser on a very small, clean, standards-compliant rendering engine.
  • Process per Tab: a somewhat radical design decision, Chrome will nearly be its own operating system, spawning a process for every tab opened in the browser. Among other publicized advantages, this should increase JavaScript performance, as multiple threads can execute inside each individual tab process.
  • V8 (JavaScript VM): Chrome compiles JavaScript into an intermediary bytecode, allowing dramatic performance boosts for sites that make heavy use of the scripting language.
  • I'm also interested in the Gears idea, though I haven't looked too deeply into that. Unfortunately the platforms I use on a regular basis (Mac OS X and Ubuntu Linux) are still waiting for a release of Google Chrome to take for a test drive. I've signed up for email updates.

Alternatively...

1 Response to Chrome: refreshing the Web browser

  1. I was curious about Chrome, but Michelle hates having to adjust to new stuff on our laptop (she doesn't even like me letting iTunes update to the newest version!). I use Firefox, based only on the nebulous (word of the day) notion that it downloads less stuff to my hard drive and generally leaves my PC less cluttered than IE would.

    I can honestly say I've never heard of Unbuntu Linux before...