Tom Petrocelli's take on technology. Tom is the author of the book "Data Protection and Information Lifecycle Management" and a natural technology curmudgeon. This blog represents only my own views and not those of my employer, Enterprise Strategy Group. Frankly, mine are more amusing.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Who Gives a Chrome

Google just came out with the beta of its new browser called Chrome. (Note to Mozilla: You have a browser technology called Chrome too. Isn't that trademark infringement? But I digress...). Predictably, a lot of tech writers went all agog over it. "It's so fast" they said with glee. That might be, in part, because it is unencumbered by features. "Ooo. Each tab runs in it's own process" they giggled. Like that means anything to the average joe. I get that an errant Javascript program won't hang your browser, but that's a problem that even a geek encounters with low frequency.

Here is the crux of the matter: Chrome is made by geeks and ultimately for geeks. It lacks the type of basic features that most normal people want and replaces them with features that normal people don't care about. The little task manager? Nice... if you are a geek. Most people don't know what the Windows Task Manager is and that's way more useful on a regular basis.

The flaws are more obvious then the features. Where's the stupid print button? Yeah I get the "minimal interface" philosophy but regular people doing regular things need a regular old print button. If I have to look for it or remember a key combination (which is sometimes like playing Twister with your hands) it's no help.

What is readily apparent is that this is not really a browser at all. It's an advanced web application and Javascript engine. Now that I understand. There, the minimal interface makes sense since the application is going to handle all the typical application cores. That's not a browser though. It's also not unique. A very neat application called Bubbles has done this for awhile. I'm using it right now to run my Zoho Writer word processor as if it were a desktop application. Mozilla has something like it, called Prism, as well.

Which brings me to the final point. If this is ultimately meant to be a browser, then why? We already have Internet Explorer, Mozilla Firefox, Safari, and Opera without even diving into the hundred or so specialty browsers. What is the point of another one? To stick it to Microsoft? That's not going to happen. Instead, Google is going to harm Mozilla, their erstwhile partner, the most. Why not, instead, contribute the technology to the Mozilla Foundation and get it into Firefox. That way you help your partner and stick it to Microsoft. If this is meant to be a next generation web application engine then "too late!" It's already been done several times over. Day late and a dollar short.

Or maybe Google's collective head has just swelled a bit too large. Perhaps, they are starting to think that anything they come up with is naturally better and should replace everything else in the world. More likely, they are callously trying to undercut their search partners so they can grab a bit more of the search revenue for themselves.

As we sit and view Google ten years after their inception, we see a company that may be losing its way. In the past year they have started to undermine their own partners, encroach on people's privacy with their obnoxious picture taking, and released ho-hum software that causes disruptions but adds little to the technology space.

Not too cool Google. Not too cool.

In the meantime, Chrome is pretty lame and its best features (from a user point of view) are already available in Firefox. If you like the interface (but with a print button!) try the Chromifox theme for Firefox. If you like the ability to peel off a tab to your desktop, you can do that already with Firefox. Get jazzed up by having a tab run as a separate process? It's called "Open in New Window". And try Bubbles or Mozilla's Prism for a Web Application engine. They are just as fast and easy.

And don't let Google screw Mozilla by undercutting the search revenue necessary to keep Mozilla alive. That's just wrong. And they call Microsoft the Evil Empire...

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