Google Chrome – Low Bling, High Speed – Initial Impressions

I find the naming of Google’s new open source “Chrome” web browser to be ill-fitting to say the least. I dunno about you, but I associate “chrome” with shiny parts that do little to make things go faster or better – bling for bling’s sake and little more.

Thankfully, and perhaps unsurprisingly, Google have gone the other way with this browser. I have found it to be low-bling. Not terribly shiny and without any fuzzy dice or spinner rims to weigh it down. At first I thought having the tabs on top of the whole thing was a little too unconventional, but after spending some time with it, it kind of feels more logical that way. There’s no bottom status bar although a semi-transparent one makes itself visible to let you know if a page is loading, but then tucks itself away minimizing wasted space. Nice. I haven’t played around too much with the settings, but the settings dialog seem oddly simple and straightforward at first glance. Whether that’s a function of limited feature or not, I’m not sure.

And from the various mini-screenshots I had seen, I was expecting something typically Google-Ugly.. But y’know, this isn’t. It’s pared down to be sure. It’s not shiny. But it’s still attractive. Kind of in a subdued, purposeful way. Hard to explain really, but I like it.

Now I may be imagining this, but across just about all sites I’ve tried so far (and that’s probably 95% of the sites I use day to day), this thing is F A S T. I had assumed they would get their own sites optimized (Gmail, GCal, GReader etc.) but even other sites I’ve tried feel significantly snappier than in FF3. Pages load faster, and images seem to render faster. Again, maybe that’s part of the limited feature set. But I assume it’s a function of Webkit, which Google Chrome uses.

There are also major differences in the way Chrome handles multiple tabs (as separate processes actually) which is supposed to enhance security and stability

While a single afternoon doesn’t guarantee the browser’s success, I have to say that if the Mozilla folks are ‘not worried’ about Google Chrome, they should be.

Google Chrome can be had at: http://gears.google.com/chrome

Right now, it’s only available for Windows, but there are instructions at http://bit.ly/19mvDV for those who want to build it on Linux. This browser has impressed me enough that I just might give that a go.

4 thoughts on “Google Chrome – Low Bling, High Speed – Initial Impressions

  1. Hey Richard,

    I haven’t tried Chrome, my current setup would require me to run it in a virtual environment for Windows, but I’m not surprised that it’s FAST. Safari uses the WebKit engine and it’s one of the fastest rendering engines out there. WebKit was a great choice by Google.

    It’ll be interesting to see how and if Google adds “bling”…with add-ons like Firefox or something entirely new?

    Let us know if you get a Linux version built.

  2. Hi Earl,

    They’ve also done something with the javascript engine that has helped speed things up too. I’ve seen a couple of benchmarks already tonight and it appears it is actually significantly quicker than both FF and Safari. Not that these things are completely scientific though. It has after all, only been a half a day. ;)

    I know this is completely not going to happen, but it would be great if they were able to work in compatibility or at least minimize the cost and effort of porting plugins to work in Chrome. Let’s hope the ‘open-source’ part of this precludes yet another silo.

    As far as building it for Linux, the site now appears to have a very bold disclaimer that while submodules of the browser can be compiled, a complete working browser cannot be built at this time. Let’s hope that changes fairly quickly. Google has always been Linux friendly with most of their stuff, so hopefully it won’t take long.

  3. @Richard: Funny I just read that Walt Mossberg (WSJ)has been playing with Chrome about a week now and thought it was slower then FF or Safari:

    “Despite Google’s claims that Chrome is fast, it was notably slower in my tests at the common task of launching Web pages than either Firefox or Safari. However, it proved faster than the latest version of IE — also a beta version — called IE8.”

    http://ptech.allthingsd.com/20080902/first-test-of-googles-new-browser/

    I don’t know if his opinions were simply subjective or with definitive test data.

  4. Now Earl.. you know that Mossberg has clearly been assimilated don’t you? His team outfit is clearly a black crewneck shirt and jeans. Of course he’s gonna like Safari. ;)

    I saw some javascript test results that were pretty surprising. And most of the sites I tried it on today at work were likely javascript heavy. In real world use across the board it might not be so much quicker. It’s definitely got a smaller memory footprint (at least it appeared that way on my machine) which can’t be a bad thing.

    Interesting times once again. :)

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