Quarter Life Crisis

The world according to Sven-S. Porst

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Google Tabs

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So the whole web is abuzz of Google announcing a browser of their own, Google Chrome. It is WebKit based so the Mac people can enjoy a bit of smugness, and it goes all tabs - as in each tab is a browser of its own but magically they all pretend to be a single browser application. Which sounds like a sweet idea because nobody loves their whole browser stalling because one tab is misbehaving (I do suspect though, that deinstalling the Flash plugin would solve many of those problems, but how would one procrastinate on YouTube without it?)

Google’s hype for their new idea is ‘communicated’ by a comic book. It reads like marketing drivel and I find it hard to see why people think it’s great. Apparently there’s some big name comic drawer involved, but who’d give a fuck in promo material?

The interesting question is, however, where this will lead us. In a way it’s freaky. Google already own pretty much all parts of the web that are not on your computer and now they want to come over and own the rest. Seeing that so far Google managed to create services that are far better than their competitors’ - thanks to both their ad billions and keeping their staff in a good mood, I guess - there’s a chance that this could actually work. On the other hand we have seen Google’s other offerings for local applications like their Google Desktop software which mostly suck. This is definitely uncharted territory for them. No risk, no fun, I guess.

With their cartoon thingy making a big deal about each browser tab being a process of its own (who’d care about such gritty details?) - and it apparently even bringing along something as idiotic as a process manager of its own - this sounds as if the whole thing may end up being an ‘interesting’ UI challenge as well. Is it possible to get a whole bunch of processes to present a smooth single application GUI to a user? Intuitively I would have doubted that. But I guess we’ll get an opportunity to check out the magic skills of Google’s coding wizards on this issue at some stage.

There is no doubt Google have done a lot for developing interactivity on the web. They had the balls to do big scale JavaScript stuff (Maps, Spreadsheets, …) with all the power, non-linkability and non webbish UI coming with that. And having those certainly gave an incentive for browser makers to improve their DOM scripting support and performance.

In my usual browsing experience the most common problems at this time are ads and embedded Flash thingies. And I am tempted to think that being able to rid web pages of those easily would considerably improve my experience of the web. Unfortunately Google don’t seem to be interested in those obvious and low-profile improvements.

Instead they make a big deal about ‘open source’ (whatever the advantage of that may be - let’s hope their assumed improvements to WebKit actually make it back into Safari), and about their fairly good knowledge of the web and popular sites to streamline testing (can other browser developer use those data as well?)

It will be interesting to watch this, but personally I am sceptical about putting the tabs outside the window. I am sceptical about browser windows opening with a lot of distractions in them when they are empty and I fear that its advantages in efficiency may be minimal on systems with their menu bar at the top of the screen. I like clever completion of things I type as well as instant searches. I am also amused by Porn Mode making it to to other browsers.

Also: official PR post • Lukas Mathis stating that this solves the wrong problemNo font embedding in there yet as well as lesser shadows and rounded corners. The maker of that last picture also notes that the user agent string of Google’s browser is Mozilla/5.0 (Windows; U; Windows NT 5.1; en-US) AppleWebKit/525.13 (KHTML, like Gecko) Chrome/ Safari/525.13 which makes you wonder whether by 2020 user agent strings will consist of the entire version history of a browser along with a copy of your DNA… • John Siracusa admires the boldness - the benefits of which I still fail to see.

September 3, 2008, 0:15

Tagged as browser, google, safari, software, webkit.


Comment by media boy: User icon

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 it should be perfect

September 3, 2008, 0:39

Comment by g: User icon

Is there some sort of plugin architecture or userstylesheet type function with this thing? I only mention it because I like noscript and adblock; a browser that fails to provide some sort of easy adblock function would delegate my filtering to the /etc/hosts, which can be a pain.

September 3, 2008, 11:36

Comment by ssp: User icon

I suppose /etc/hosts or some clever proxying will be the way to go. Apart from Firefox, no big browser with significant support seems to have an interest in letting you see the web in the way you want it. And even Firefox is on Google’s paylist, so one could speculate they won’t ever invest too much in such features either.

Call me a cynic. But the fact that ad-blocking isn’t on the top of browser makers’ feature lists is a bit strange. With relatively little effort it’d make web surfing much more pleasant today. Instead, people invest a lot of time and money into implementing stuff like SVG/MathML/embeddable fonts, each of which is probably technically much more ambitious and good for the future only.

September 3, 2008, 11:57

Comment by d.w.: User icon

The primary developers of browsers are in the business of selling ads (Google), trying to sell ads (Microsoft), wholly dependent on other people who sell ads and funnel money to them (Mozilla.org, Opera), or mostly interested in selling you shiny shit (Apple). I wouldn’t hold my breath.

September 3, 2008, 22:01

Comment by Niklas B: User icon

Love your ad hominem!

September 7, 2008, 19:11

Comment by d.w.: User icon

Niklas — I’ve been a mostly happy user of Apple’s computers for 30 years, Google’s infrastructure for 10 years, and various NSCP/Mozilla products for 15, but that’s no reason for me to pretend that their shareholders love me.

September 9, 2008, 16:24

Comment by ssp: User icon

Uh, I thought Niklas’ comment was directed at me. I also considered it a compliment…

September 9, 2008, 17:07

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