Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Byte: Shiny Chrome

If you're a hardened tech-head like me, it won't have escaped your notice that Google have released the beta version of their browser, Chrome. If you don't know much about it, I suggest you read the comments thread on the BBC's first impressions article.

Obviously, coming from a large, wewanttotakeovertheworldinanevilcorporationykindofway corporation like Google, there are going to be some rather worrying things in the EULA - I particularly don't like the part which says:

"By submitting, posting or displaying the content you give Google a perpetual, irrevocable, worldwide, royalty-free, and non-exclusive license to reproduce, adapt, modify, translate, publish, publicly perform, publicly display and distribute any content which you submit, post or display on or through, the services. This license is for the sole purpose of enabling Google to display, distribute and promote the services and may be revoked for certain services as defined in the additional terms of those services." - essentially, "we can use whatever you post using the program how we like, and we don't need to pay you a penny... cheerskthx." Now, for most people that's not really an issue - and hell, Google already read my email to spam me with adverts and run the servers this blog is hosted on, but I'll be damned if I give them my photos to use in perpetuity, free of charge as well. So I won't be using Chrome for anything even mildly creative, but in terms of actual internet browsing, there's a lot to like.

It's not perfect yet by any means - when I was experimenting with it earlier today it was having trouble with Flash sites in particular (though obviously not with YouTube, since it falls under the Google Umbrella), and clearly no-one has done any tailoring for the browser yet, so there are a few formatting issues knocking around, but there are quite a few things that I thought were well implemented.

Firstly, the search/URL bar is rather nice - even if it is a clone of the Firefox 3 "Awesome Bar", and I really like the minimalism of the interface. I detest browsers that are 80% toolbar and 20% browsing pane, so Chrome's slender window frame is a joy. The "Most Visited" homepage is nice, though I prefer the version that Opera has, which allows you to pick your favourite favourites (so to speak) - Chrome does it rather more dynamically, which is cool from a functionality perspective, but I'm not so sure about the practicality of it yet. It might grow on me. The Incognito functionality (which hides cookies, searches and URLs from general view on your PC) is very nice if you don't want your wife/girlfriend/mother (delete as appropriate) to find out about your furry slash fiction habit (No. Just no.), and I like the caveat on the "what is Incognito mode?" page about how it's not a total safeguard for the privacy of your surfing habits and how you still need to be wary of people standing behind you... Someone at Google has a sense of humour.

So, a promising start for a beta version. My initial impressions are pretty good, though I won't be dumping Firefox just yet. However, I can see myself using it on my work machine for general surfing purposes, if only because most of the people in my office won't recognise the layout of the window yet... Though since I work from home three days a week, it's not that much of a problem to begin with.
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