John Paczkowski

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Google Chrome: CliffsNotes on the Comic

Though its Simon-esque logo and unconventional announcement in the guise of a comic book might seem to suggest otherwise, Google’s Web browser, Chrome, proves the company is taking the browser war seriously.

Here’s a quick-and-dirty executive summary of the project’s highlights in advance of its Tuesday debut.


Chrome is based on the open-source rendering engine WebKit–the same engine used by Apple’s (AAPL) Safari browser and Google’s (GOOG) own Android mobile platform. WebKit is known for its speed, responsiveness and smart memory management. And Chrome will undoubtedly use it to render the full-blown applications we so often encounter on the Web these days, with ease. Adding a bit more speed to the browsing experience is a JavaScript Virtual Machine called V8, which specifically accelerates JavaScript’s in-browser performance.


Chrome is also multi-threaded, meaning it can perform multiple processes at the same time. Each application is given its own memory and its own copy of global data structures, just as it would be in a typical operating system. Applications will launch in their own windows. And if one should hang or crash, it won’t affect the others or crash the whole browser because it has essentially been partitioned off in its own sandbox.


Chrome features a tab-based design where the tabs appear above the browser’s URL window and control buttons. Each tab has its own controls and address bar called “Omnibox” with auto-completion features as well as previous and suggested search functions. New tabs will open with a display of a user’s nine most-visited pages.


On the privacy and security front, Chrome offers an “Incognito” window, which logs no browsing information whatsoever. Beyond that, it allows only pop-up windows that are user-initiated. And it maintains a continually updated list of harmful sites and warns users if they try to browse them.


Finally, Chrome will include Google’s open-source local runtime, Gears, and be released as an Open Source project.


It is an effort that seems to be striving for quite a bit more than Microsoft’s Internet Explorer 8 (MSFT) and Mozilla’s Firefox 3. In fact, with its view of the Web as a Web of applications, and its multi-process/multi-application design, Chrome almost seems more a Web desktop than a Web browser, doesn’t it? Funny, isn’t it? Google has long been rumored to be developing a browser and an OS/desktop environment. Who would have thought they’d be the same thing?