Does the world need another browser?

Wednesday, Sep 3, 2008 5 minute read Tags: chrome
Hey, thanks for the interest in this post, but just letting you know that it is over 3 years old, so the content in here may not be accurate.

So today Google released their foray into the web browser market with Google Chrome and I'm sitting here wondering does the world really need another browser?

Lets look at the big players in the browser market:

  • Internet Explorer
  • Mozilla FireFox
  • Apple's Safari
  • Opera

Then there's piles of smaller market share browsers (which argueably Opera and Safari fall into the category of).

Each browser offers its own pros and cons.

IE has the largest market share dispite some poor showing in the past. IE 6 is one of the worst things that happened to the web in recent years. But IE 7 isn't a bad browser, it's my primary browser in Windows, mainly because it has brought in the features from other browsers and it is very fast under Windows.
IE 8 is shaping up to be a very nice contender, with Beta 2 recently coming available there's some very nice features, tab crash recovery, address bar highlighting, etc. There's lot of other blogs covering its features.

FireFox has the enthusiest market down pat, with it being the number 1 Open Source choice. FireFox is great with its add-in engine, giving people the ability to customise it to their liking.
And then there's FireBug argueably the number one inovation in the world of web development. I'm hard pressed to find a day which I don't use FireBug.

But FireFox isn't without its critics, I for one am not a huge fan of it. I find it a real pain in the arse that every time I set up a new computer I have to go out and reconfigure FireFox for my personal settings, then there's the argument of memory usage.

Safari is Apple's IE, it hasn't had quite as ugly a past, but it is far from perfect. Like IE in Windows Safari is super fast under OS X thanks to Apple pre-caching the browser.
My biggest grip about Safari under OS X is how tied to the browser is to it. I can only use Safari 3 under OS X 10.5, I can't use any previous version, and thanks to Apple's license dispute with VM's it makes it very hard to test multiple versions. Something really useful as a web developer!

Last of the larger players is Opera, the browser for all devices, from mobile to Wii. I'm a big fan of Opera, I've used it for a very long time (since around v5) and I've always found it innovative in the market. From mouse gestures to a download manager to in-built torrent engine.
But it's not without issues, it's quite common to find problems with a site (eg, the Umbraco editor UI doesn't work with it), most commonly to do with how JavaScript is handled.

So where does all of this leave Chrome?

One of the most interesting things about the first release of Chrome is the fact that it's a Windows-only release. Interesting because it uses WebKit as it's base, which is what Safari is built off, and a fork of KHTML (and related KDE projects), so it's base is cross-platform by nature.
Most people aren't going to give a shit about this app, it's more the techy market that's going to have a look, have a play and decide if they will be back, so why ignore a large portion by only releasing to Windows?

I'll admit to not having had a huge play with it but I did install it, have a bit of a browse with it and then had to get back to the daily grind.
And it left me going "yeah so what?". People are saying that it's blindingly fast, but I didn't notice any speed differences between it, IE 7 and FF 3.x on Vista x32.

One of the big marketing points is that each tab runs in its own process. Now this is nice and does mean that if one crashes you don't loose it all. IE 8 also has this, but without running separate processes.
I'm a little weary on each being in their own process. I'll often have a lot of tabs opened, each with their own process, so there's a lot more processes fighting for CPU time. Sure not really a problem in a multi-core environment but I've often got a lot going on on my CPU already (compilation, file copy, SQL server, web server, etc) so more fighting is always something to be weary of.

Also, I didn't really see any feature to grab my attention. The address bar doubles as a search, but what browser does it not?! Can I change search provider though, now that's an interesting question (and one I'll have to look into!)? The new tab window looks a lot like Speed Dial in Opera 9, the UI is very WebKit/ Safari in its look and there's the obligatory FireBug clone.

So does the world need another browser?

In my opinion Chrome brings nothing we haven't seen before to the table, it looks a lot like a "me too!" release. I already have IE to address my large company pushed browser, FireFox for my obsessive need to tweak and Opera for my daily useage.
Chrome is just another anoyance, another chance for people to find start a fan club over, and another bloody browser to test against.