Google Chrome

My current default browser isFirefox. I like how my add-ons are set up and I’m comfortable with it. I also have Safari and Camino on my MacBook as sometimes things don’t work in Firefox, and it’s nice to have more than one browser for troubleshooting purposes here in the office.

But a couple days ago (December 8th) Google finally released Chrome (Beta) for Mac (the Beta was first released for Windows last fall). For those of you running Linux, Chrome (Beta) has been released for these distributions: Debian/Ubuntu/Fedora/openSUSE.

First off, yes, it’s fast.

Here are some JavaScript benchmark tests for comparison. Why is it important for a browser to execute JavaScript quickly? Many Web 2.0 applications rely on JavaScript libraries.

Source Firefox v. 3.5.5 (Mac) Chrome (Mac)
SunSpider JavaScript Benchmark 1234.2ms +/- 3.0% 527.6ms +/- 3.3%
Dromaeo 68.65runs/s (Total) 207.03runs/s (Total)
*To fully understand the benchmarks, you can read the information on each of the source pages.

There are other benchmarks out there, but that gives you an idea of the difference in speed between Firefox and Chrome. Some of the neat features available in Chrome are the ability to type in a search or an address in the same location, but this brings up privacy concerns that you can read about in this CNET article. So, you might want to check the Preferences, if you decide to use Chrome.

There are also some nice themes, but that’s not anything new compared to some other browsers (I have Firefox in particular in mind). The nice thing though is that you don’t have to restart the browser for the changes to take place. Just click on a theme and it’s implemented right away. Same thing goes for extensions.

For questions about security, there is an article from August 2009 that was published in Communications of the ACM that you can find in the ORR titled Browser security: Lessons from Google Chrome. Two of the authors are software engineers at Google, but one is a postdoctoral fellow at UC-Berkeley and has contributed to other projects including Firefox. The article details three of the main factors Google is trying to safeguard against in order to up browser security in Chrome:

  • The severity of vulnerabilities
  • The window of vulnerability
  • The frequency of exposure (pp. 45-46)

There are some other concerns such as in my Activity Monitor when Chrome is running it also seems to have several entities called Google Chrome Helper running as well (I opened up a page in YouTube to see what would happen and two more helpers popped up). I’ve read that it is part of the fact the Mac version is still in Beta, but I would prefer that Google Chrome only have to run one process.

Support for Mac extensions is not currently available, but according to this TechCrunch article full support should come sometime during early 2010. For those of you who want to check out the Google Chrome Extensions page, the link is here.

So, at the moment, I have both Firefox and Google Chrome open. On Firefox I can still use my Echofon (what once was Twitterfox) add-on as I haven’t done much to mess around with the Chrome extensions and though I also have TweetDeck, I’m not a big fan of its interface (I’m thinking I might try Lounge). I have to admit though, the increased speed is noticeable and is almost enough to make me decide to make this my default browser. I’ll have to think about it some more when there’s more information available about extensions, and if I can get over my shared concern about Google taking over the world.

More information:
Google Chrome Blog
Google Chrome Releases Blog
Google Mac Blog
Chromium Blog (news for Linux users)
Timeline of Web Browsers (just kind of neat to look at)

Barth, A., Reis, C., & Pizano, C. (2009). Browser security: Lessons from Google Chrome. Communications of the ACM, 52(8), 45-49.

Reminder (courtesy of Dan H.): One thing to keep in mind though is that Moodle does not recommend using Chrome to look at your course spaces, in fact if you log in using Google Chrome you’ll get the following message at the top of the page:

“The browser you are using is known to have compatibility problems with this website. For a better experience, please try Firefox instead.”

Thanks, Dan!

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