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Chrome: the Google VM

September 2, 2008

I have to admit, when I first heard that Google is releasing their own browser my first reaction was, “Who the heck is herding those cats?”  In a world where IE 6 still has more market share than Firefox (which has been out how long?), do they really think they can dethrone IE?  (Amusingly enough a poll in the SJ Mercury News shows that people in Silicon Valley think they can, which just goes to show how much of a bubble we live in.)

But then I went and read Scott Adams’ comic on Chrome, and what Google is doing became clear.  They’re building a virtual machine for running applications that’s disguised as a browser.  Multiple processes?  Check.  Memory management?  Check.  Fast code compilation and execution?  Check (in theory).  Improved security model? Check (again, in theory). In fact, what the comic reminded me of most was a discussion a colleague and I had last summer about how the browser was becoming a virtual machine that treated the Internet as a first class citizen (something the Java VM failed to do).

Seen in that light, Chrome is a logical move for Google to make since, let’s face it, web app capabilities are still a shadow of native app capabilities.  And neither IE nor Firefox are moving things in the VM direction particularly fast.  And since Google needs us to go there (otherwise Google Docs will continue having a hard time competing with Microsoft Office), it makes sense that Google is now trying to push the browsers there.

That doesn’t mean I think they’ll succeed anytime soon.  I already have enough browser in my life: Safari, Firefox, and (occasionally) IE.  I don’t need another one, particularly one that’s going to have fewer features than the others for the foreseeable future.  While I think Chrome is an interesting idea, I don’t therefore plan on installing it (it doesn’t help that the beta is Windows only, and I spend most of my time in Linux and OS X these days).  My personal bet is that they’ll get more traction trying to get other browsers to adopt their ideas, but even that’s going to be a tough sell.  Never underestimate the inertia of deployed code.

Still, it’ll be interesting to watch.

From → Musings, Software

  1. i’m willing to try it out just to see if it works more efficiently than FireFox… if it’s faster than Firefox, has tabs and isn’t IE, then i’ll use it

  2. drjpierce permalink

    I’m waiting to see some official benchmarks. I mostly use Safari, and I haven’t had many speed problems with it (but then, Safari typically beats Firefox in Javascript benchmarks).

  3. Matt Baker permalink

    It was Scott McCloud, not Scott Adams, that did the Chrome comic.

    • Jeff permalink

      D’oh! So it was; nice catch Matt. I was getting my Scotts confused (which is vaguely sad, since I’ve read Understanding Comics more often than I have Dilbert).

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