A friend at work recommended I have a look at Google’s explanation of Google Chrome as illustrated by Scott McCloud [via Google Blogoscoped where they were kind enough to scan the comic they received] and I couldn’t wait. You see, Scott McCloud is the author of two of my favorite books, “ Understanding Comics” and “ Reinventing Comics” … both must-reads if you’re interested in comic history, the vocabulary of comics, or even just in thinking about how we communicate and interact with things on pages.

The Google Chrome strip [via Google Books] is an engaging 38 pages which lightly explains what they’re trying to accomplish and how they’ve gone about it so far. Amusingly, it seems the comic went out a bit earlier than planned, but Google is taking things in stride, with grace and good humor, showing the rest of us how it should be done.

Some of the more interesting choices:

Webkit-based: Google Chrome is based on the Webkit browser engine, which is also used by Safari, Android, and a number of other mobile device browsers. Google’s developers liked it because it’s fast, memory-efficient, embeddable, easy to adopt, and generally keeps things simple.

The V8 Javascript Virtual Machine: written by “the V8 team in Denmark” specifically to address the shortcomings of previous JsVMs in a number of ways, including compilation to machine language and real garbage collection. I’m pretty excited about this, particularly that they’ve made V8 browser-independent.

One process per tab: They’ve implemented this as a protection from crashy apps as well as a way to clearly reveal what’s chewing up resources in your browser. This concept also seems to be foundational to their anonytabs and anti-popup measures; it’s definitely the basis of their sandbox security measures.

The New Tab Experience: When you open a new tab in Google Chrome, they assume you want to go somewhere rather than see your default page (or a blank page, which I’ve used for years to avoid unnecessary page loads). A nice UX touch that shows the depth to which they’re thinking about this.

Gears Inside: It’s no surprise that the Google Chrome browser builds in Google Gears, which has been aiming to bring the Web 2.0 experience even when offline for over a year now. I couldn’t find any estimates of how widely installed Gears has become in the past fourteen months, but I’d guess it’s low at present despite MySpace and Windows Mobile having jumped on board in the past six months.

There’s lots of other good bits in the strip, like the anti-phishing measures page (which makes an analogy between malware and dog poop which couldn’t have been made nearly so excellently in any other medium, imho) and a late appearance by Chris DiBona to sum up the open-sourcedness of it all.

I have some minor concerns about the extra resource consumption and possible need for interprocess communication (IPC) in their model. However, this is probably because my last significant experience with IPC dates back almost a decade to SGIs running IRIX. It was my experience then that IPC is hard to implement cleanly as well as the most frequent source of race conditions. It’s likely times have changed since then. I hope.

The biggest disappointment? When the beta is officially released tomorrow, it’ll be Windows only for now. The official blog post notes that they’re working hard on versions for MacOS and Linux, too (and I suspect they would have liked those to be available on launch day), so when the Google Chrome project page lights up tomorrow, it won’t be for the rest of us quite yet.

But I’ll be eagerly watching, just the same. You don’t see a new browser born every day.

Update: Paul Thurrott’s WinSuperSite has screenshots purported to be Google Chrome [via Blogoscoped]

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01 September 2008


engineering testing web 2.0