Ben Emson

Chrome is a Desktop Web Application platform

Google Chrome is not just a browser

Google Chrome was launched a few days ago on the 2nd September 2008, since then there has been much hype and articles written about it. So what is it? Well, Wikipedia describes it: "Google Chrome is a free and open source web browser developed by Google.", however it is more than that.

It comes dressed as a web browser but is actually a Desktop Web Application platform. It facilitates the creation of Web Applications that are desktop like in functionality. These Web Applications will, be much more responsive, secure and stable than the previous generation of web applications because these new technologies are forming a suitable infrasructure.

It's one of the technologies ushering in a new era for the Internet.

I wrote an article recently that describes how these technologies are laying down foundations for applications should use the web: Desktop web applications using SproutCore/

Why is Chrome significant

Recently a number of the big Internet centred companies have been making strides to enable the next generation of Web Applications.

Adobe with its AIR technology, Microsoft with Silverlight, Apple with its endorsement of the SproutCore JavaScript framework, and Google, until this announcement, Gears.

The problem is none of these offerings is perfect, and some of them are very much propietary, tying users into their technology.

The problem Google has is that Gears is actually a very good product, but why would anybody download and install it if there aren't may web sites using it? At the moment this is an additional step resulting in the fact that most users have no compelling reason to install it. In a nut shell nobody is using it.

However with Chrome Google is able to hedge its bets, it has merged several standalone technologies into one very capable and pleasing package.

Chrome is OpenSource and follows standards

This next era of the Internet is going to very busy. Everyday there are vast numbers of web pages and Web Applications created, and with this colosal amounts of data and information to sift through.

For an individual it is becoming harder and harder to focus and extract the useful information from all that data. In essance attention is a currency and with all these web sites and applications vying for our eyeballs how do we as users filter the wheat from the chaff?

That part of the Internet isn't completely written yet but for certain, by following Web Standards and by incorporating OpenSource technologies we are laying the foundations for future tools to help us do this. Chrome is one such OpenSource technology.

Chrome needs to follow standards as these will pull it along and it will evolve into something very powerful. Even if it doesn't some of its components may find there way into some technology that does. I dare say that Google will have a finger in that pie no matter. As a result it is a win win situation for Google.

This also highlights the point that Microsoft's Internet Explorer browser is gradually getting left behind. Admittedly standards aren't followed by all these companies but Microsoft has certainly been more relunctant to endorse them.

JavaScript is a key web technology

JavaScript is old, it appeared in the early browser wars and there hasn't been any significant changes since. Its been buggy, doesn't scale well, and there are differences on just about every browser implementation, but it is everywhere.

Recently, with Web 2.0, JavaScript has had a bit of a resurgance and some very useful frameworks have emerged which mitigate the implementation issues and improve its stability. However up until recently it has been slow. Too slow to be useful in terms of creating sophisticated Desktop like Web Applications.

It seems that in order to compete in the new Desktop Web Application arena companies need to implement a fast JavaScript engine. Apple's Safari is implementing SquirrelFish, and Firefox is implementing TraceMonkey and now Google has created V8.

John Resig has done a comparison of the relevant JavaScript engines and it seems that V8 is very fast. Matthieu Riou says that V8 is closer to a compiler than a traditional VM. It takes JavaScript code and converts it into low level byte code. It is still early days but we can expect this performance to keep improving.

Desktop Web Applications, Slickening the Web.

This era of the Internet is seeing a 'slickening of the web'. Web Applications are becoming more Desktop like. Platforms like Chrome are only going to push us faster along this path.

We can expect to see more applications like Gmail, MobileMe, GoogleMaps, GoogleDocs, etc. but Chrome puts Google very definately in one of the front seats for the future.

Its not fully there yet as its still missing features but it will evolve quickly. Google has vast resources and is able to test the browser against millions of web sites before it ever sees a user. This will only help to refine and improve it.

With Google Chrome, the Web is changing up a Gear.