Google launched a browser optimized to run Web applications on Tuesday, a move that some observers believe could help loosen Microsoft’s grip on personal computing. The new browser, called Chrome, has been built to enhance the performance, stability, and usability of complex Web applications. It could help broaden the appeal of Google’s many online services.
Members of the Chrome development team and company cofounders Larry Page and Sergey Brin unveiled the new browser and demonstrated its capabilities at a press conference held at Google’s headquarters in Mountain View, CA.
The announcement ignited excitement among technology bloggers and pundits, some of whom recalled the bitter “browser war” fought between Netscape and Internet Explorer (IE) during the 1990s. However, because Chrome essentially provides a platform for other applications, many believe that it may pose a direct threat to Microsoft’s core product–the Windows operating system.
One of Chrome’s most significant features is its ability to run Web applications separately, in different windows or tabs, just as an operating system can run applications as individual “processes.” This promises to improve the speed and stability of Web software such as Google Docs, a suite of word-processing, spreadsheet, and presentation applications offered by the search giant.
“If one tab dies, you don’t lose the others or the browser itself,” explains Darin Fisher, who led the project. This also delivers a performance boost, he says, and increases the number of Web applications a person can use simultaneously. “If one tab is busy, you can switch to another one and do work,” he says. “This is nice for performance, especially if you have a newer computer with a dual-core CPU,” because it can run separate operations using each of its cores.
Tabs also function as a prominent navigation tool in Chrome, since users can remove a tab and keep it running as a simplified, stand-alone application. Ben Goodger, lead user-interface engineer on Chrome, notes that people use Web applications differently than they do static Web pages. “We looked at browser interfaces and realized that some of those features–back, forward, and reload–weren’t relevant for Web applications,” he says. “We want to break Web applications free of the browser.”