Google Serves Up an Open Source Browser: Chrome

by Ostatic Staff - Sep. 01, 2008

Google has officially confirmed, following rumblings in the blogoshpere, that it has developed an open source, Webkit-based browser called Chrome. The folks at Gizmodo, All Things D with this post,  and others got early wind of the project through links to a comic book-style discussion of what Chrome is. The comic talks about how browsers are single-threaded, and there is room for a multi-threaded browser. Tuesday morning is when Chrome goes live, in beta. What does Google have to say?

Google, of course, hands tens of millions of dollars every year to the folks at Mozilla to keep projects like Firefox going.  But given the amount of focus the company has had on search, browser-centric tasks, and open code, it's not a surprise to see the company delivering its own browser. Still, it remains to be seen how Chrome will affect Google's commitment to Firefox.

The beta version of Chrome launches Tuesday in more than 100 countries, and you'll find Google's discussion of it, along with the comic (which they admit they sent out too early) here.  "What we really needed was not just a browser, but also a modern platform for web pages and applications, and that's what we set out to build," says Google's post from Monday.The company also adds this:

Under the hood, we were able to build the foundation of a browser that runs today's complex web applications much better. By keeping each tab in an isolated "sandbox", we were able to prevent one tab from crashing another and provide improved protection from rogue sites. We improved speed and responsiveness across the board. We also built a more powerful JavaScript engine, V8, to power the next generation of web applications that aren't even possible in today's browsers.

Google advises checking up on Chrome early Tuesday morning.Our parent blog GigaOm also has a good analysis up on why Google is doing a browser, and what the move may mean for Google's commitment to Mozilla and Firefox. Mozilla's CEO John Lilly reports that he is not worried.

In all likelihood, Chrome is more directly aimed to cut into Microsoft's market share lead with Internet Explorer than it is to oppose Firefox. With Google's brand behind a new open source browser, the competition from Firefox plus Chrome could prove formidable for the Redmond giant. Chrome will initially be Windows-only, and will include Google Gears, but as far as Windows-only goes, this browser is based on Webkit, which is what drives Apple's Safari browser. (Google has acknowledged that Chrome draws on Firefox's code base.) Google also recently extended its funding of Mozilla by several years.

It's also worth noting that Chrome was kept under wraps tightly and is being delivered just before the first Android phones arrive. It won't surprise me if Google has its sights set on making Chrome a strong mobile browser (which Mozilla is also focusing on with its Fennec project).

Here are some of the under-the-hood things to expect in Chrome, reported and discussed in the above GigaOm post, and stay tuned for more from OStatic on Chrome on Tuesday:

  • It has a browser extensions framework that will allow it to make Adobe-AIR type hybrid apps.
  • It includes a Javascript Virtual Machine called V8 that was developed by a team in Denmark. It accelerates the Javascript performance and is multi-threaded.
  •  It has tabs, auto-completion, and a dashboard type start page that can help you get going to the web services you need. Opera has such a dashboard.
  •  It has a privacy mode that allows you to use the machine without logging anything on the local machine. It might be similar to a feature called Incognito in the latest version of Microsoft IE.
  • Malware and phishing protection will be built into this browser.