Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Google Chrome

It's not what I expected. I never read any of the hype about Google's new web browser because I assumed that it would just be Mozilla with a Google bar built in. And the name led me to believe that its main selling point was flashy appearance. I visualized a nightmare of animated partially transparent doodads rotating and sliding around the screen every time I moved my mouse. Google Chrome is the opposite of that. It's actually a very bare-bones browser with some nice features.

There's nothing amazing about Google Chrome, but I think Google is taking a page from Microsoft's playbook. When you are that big, you can be a lot worse than your competition and still grab a significant number of users. Then over time you improve the product enough that it actually deserves all of the users. That's how they did it with Blogger, which started out as a pretty stark blogging platform, far behind other products in terms of features. But Blogger has caught up to other blogging software over the years. Google Docs seems to be following that plan as well. It really isn't very good compared to Microsoft Office or Open Office, but it has some interesting features, it is just good enough to be usable, and it is from Google.

So I expect Google Chrome to follow the plan and gradually add features. They will be smart about it and only add features that users complain about not having. In the end they will be left with something that has all of the important features but is still leaner than the competition.

I like the idea behind Google Chrome. I downloaded it and tried it out, thinking that I might become a beta tester. But a half hour of experiencing the web the way website designers think it should be experienced put that plan away. I just cannot read web pages with moving things on them. It is so distracting to me that I have several Firefox extensions dedicated to shutting things down. If Google wants users like me to use a minimalist browser, they could make a single configuration option on it that stops all motion on web pages --all animated gifs, all movies, all flash, all Javascript animation, everything. Then they could have a single button that you press for a given page that allows the page to run. That would be my dream browser. But until Chrome gives me some control over how web pages are displayed, I'm afraid that I'll have to stick with Firefox.

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