posted by Georgios Kasselakis on Wed 3rd Sep 2008 15:14 UTC
IconIt appears that Google scored a PR success with their Chrome browser. In short, the promise is a web experience where web pages are allowed to behave more like desktop applications. This is done by boosting the abilities of common web pages in terms of performance, while also allowing 'plugins' to enrich the user experience of certain other pages. As it seems, the announcement shot at the heads of people who've been holding their breath for the fabled Google Operating System. However in the following text I will demonstrate that Chrome [based on what we are allowed to know] puts strain on the Designer and Developer communities, is not innovative (save for one feature), and copies ideas liberally from Google's worst enemy.

In order to explain the product, Google has appointed Blogoscoped to create a cartoon story that explains the product. I really feel that the explanations given in it do a disservice to the public, by making them want things that they don't fully understand. I also feel that if they did, they wouldn't want them anyway.

My greatest problem with the cartoon strip is that while it's supposed to explain how Chrome works, it really explains how all major browsers work, implying that these features were invented for Chrome alone.

So I'd like to count pages with you dear reader and comment on what I read.

This is the first fallacy, and it's being introduced early because it's fundamental to the rhetoric that follows. Web pages, are fundamentally still html (presentation markup) and javascript (behavioral logic). Javascript especially, while being quite capable, is still several orders of magnitude slower than code running in the OS. Therefore it almost always is used to process the presentation of the application, while the actual processing is done at a web server.

Next up, a figure wonders if it would be great to have a new browser. Apparently, it could be great. On the other hand designers, that will have yet another browser to test their pages against, wouldn't be delighted. Neither would plugin developers such as Adobe, Sun and Microsoft that would have yet another environment to support for their Flash, Java and Media Player + Silverlight plugins.

Next up an engineer is suggesting that it would be great if every browser page was isolated in a different process. This would mean greater memory consumption, but on the far end better stability and so on. Further along, they suggest that this requires more headstart memory but leads to less memory use further along. This is exactly how tabs work in Internet Explorer 8. Each tab is isolated in a process, it can't even communicate with other tabs and so on. Furthermore, when a tab crashes, it alone is eradicated, the memory is freed and the tab is rebooted. By chance, Google's Chrome does the same.

This however flat out leads to greater memory consumption. There is no way that the end overhead is smaller, except if a browser's javascript engine or a plugin attached to the process is leaking memory. Google is willfully misguiding readers when stating this. There is no way that this would lead to less 'bloat'. IE8 also uses a lot more memory than IE7 precisely because of this.

As mentioned, Google banks on the idea that browser tabs are leaking memory. Thankfully there is an easy fix for this. Either use IE8, or when loading a demanding web page, do so in a new browser window, which operates on a separate process.

Next up a process manager is suggested. This is indeed a useful idea, and a beneficial one. It remains to be seen if users want their browsers to be as complex an experience as managing their desktop. A big part of the success of the web lies in the idea that there is less management to be done. Google's idea here is that pages will be very demanding in terms of processing either because the html + javascript combination is so inefficient that it can't even handle the presentation layer of an application, or because they plan to move more business logic to the user end.

Then the authors suggest that there is extensive automated testing done to ensure that Chrome works with a great deal of web pages. This implies two things: either they want to ensure that it doesn't crash, or that the browser may introduce rendering or javascript incompatibilities. So Google is deliberately putting it's weight behind a project that will put even more stress to Designers who are debugging their CSS and Developers that produce popular javascript libraries such as JQuery, Dojo and so on.

The next page explains clearly that Google has indeed modified the webkit renderer and therefore is indeed a new platform that will have to be tested against.

Table of contents
  1. Google Chrome, Page 1
  2. Google Chrome, Page 2
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