Chrome is not a Browser, It Is the new Desktop

Yes, this is another blog post on Google Chrome. Deal with it. As we all know by now, Google Chrome was leaked yesterday by Blogoscoped, confirmed by Google later in the day, and officially released today. In accordance with “The Rules”, I have been playing with Google Chrome for a little bit today. One thing I did realize is that it is not in competition with Firefox or any other browser. This is competition directly aimed at Microsoft Windows. This is fairly obvious, when on the welcome page, creating “application shortcuts” is highlighted.

From the browser perspective, it is a good offering by Google. It is missing the highly coveted plugins, but the hope is that plugins will be available quickly so that they do not lose any momentum. By quickly, I mean a month or maybe two. People have a short attention span, and even less patience when it comes to their plugins. If Google does not move quickly, people will ignore it and maybe even forget that it is there. Thankfully, they did present Chrome in an interesting manner and gave some good technical detail in their comic book. Plugins will be critical if they want to get some of the Firefox users to switch permanently.

Until the plugins are readily available, I will not be switching to solely using Chrome. However, that is not really the point of Chrome. I will be using it extensively for the “application shortcut” availability. In just two short hours, I have created a GMail shortcut and a GReader shortcut that I will be keeping for a long time. I love the ability to launch these as an application, and that is what Google is hoping for. Granted, in a story at they do deny the “Chrome as operating system” idea:

Despite attempts by reporters to goad Google into spiking Microsoft, Google co-founder Sergey Brin denied that Google views its new Chrome browser as an operating system for Web applications.

“I would not call Chrome the operating system of Web apps,” Brin said after a demo of Chrome

Based on what an application shortcut looks like by default, I am assuming this is purely posturing. Take a look at my Google Reader.

It is not a full featured application with a bunch of toolbars, but it does not need to be. However, this positions them very well for Google Applications existing on the desktop. Remember, Google Gears is part of Chrome, so you get the ability to work locally on your PC. Combine this with the application shortcuts, and you have the makings of a desktop office application. That is what Chrome is about. Give Google a platform to run applications on the desktop, without being a slave to Microsoft Windows.

So, how well do the application shortcuts work? As you can see above, there is no address bar or toolbars. The idea is that the web application functions just as well without those additions. Google Reader and GMail are very well suited to the application shortcut model. More importantly, opening links as a new tab from these applications just opens a new browser if one is not already open, and adds a new tab. Your existing application is not changed in any way, thus keeping the application “feel” in place.

Obviously, this is not a complete review, just a first impression. It does look like they are headed in a good direction, but they have some very important things to fix before they get mass adoption. One thing I would really like them to do is buy Mozilla. If this occurred, we could ignore the Firefox questions, and they could integrate Ubiquity. It does look like there may be some “meta” concepts planned for the “omnibox”, but it is not as far along as Ubiquity and there is little discussion of third party development. So, yes, Chrome + Ubiquity + 1 year of development would be the ultimate hotness.

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14 thoughts on “Chrome is not a Browser, It Is the new Desktop

  1. This is what got me excited, Rob.

    I have already created apps for Rejaw, GMail, Google Reader, FriendFeed and Remember The Milk.

    I don’t know of any apps out besides Chrome that can handle this job without slowly choking your system.


  2. I’m using Chrome right now, and loving it. I can’t drop Firefox for the same reason you can’t. I rely on the extensions far too much. But, for friends and relatives who aren’t web-savvy, this is perfect. I will recommend it to them without a thought.

    And, if it can get extensions (specifically the ones I use for web design), I’ll drop Firefox.

    Oh, and incorporating Ubiquity into the Omnibar is an amazing idea, Rob.


  3. Rasheen,
    I am planning on taking a look at Google Apps with Chrome to further delve in to the topic of the desktop office suite. I had only done a quick glance before, but it is interesting.


  4. honest ape,

    I had not thought of the newbie angle at all. It may be too different than IE for “regular people” to use, but I will have to ask a few people what they think. Interesting idea.


  5. In my experience, people new to the web have no freaking clue what a web browser is. I know many people like this, especially older folks. They call the IE icon “the internet”. For them, IE7 can be intimidating, as can Firefox. Too many extra options and menu items.

    Many of these people google search everything. Even things like URLs they could put in the location bar!

    For these people, people like my parents and grandparents, a simple browser like Chrome is the best. They can use the location bar as search or to enter URLs. There’s no clutter or confusion.

    I also think it’s an ideal web browser for people like my wife, who are web-savvy, but don’t have any extensions or tweaks to their browser. Shit, if it weren’t for my addiction to my favorite extensions, I’d consider making it my default browser.


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