- The Washington Times - Monday, September 8, 2008

COLUMN:

Brother, this thing is fast. Faster than anything I can remember seeing. And, it’s free, although right now for Windows only.

It’s Google’s Chrome Web browser, (www.google.com /chrome) released last week, and it upstaged Microsoft’s coming Internet Explorer 8 browser, now in Beta release. Something “leaked” on Monday, and soon the Internet was abuzz. The announcement came Tuesday and after that, the deluge.

Chrome, which is promised shortly for Mac and Linux users, installs rapidly, boots instantly and offers incredibly fast access to Web pages. There’s one site I often frequent (name withheld to protect the guilty) which loads uniformly slowly on every browser I’ve tried. Fire it up with Chrome, and the page bursts into view. This is, frankly, how the Internet should work.

And it’s almost always how the Internet works with Chrome, a browser built on something called WebKit, which is an open-source browser engine at the heart of Apple’s Safari. But even unlike Safari, Chrome just blazes ahead. It seems unencumbered of much of the overhead of many browsers; what’s more, Google’s engineers have designed the thing intelligently. New Web addresses open in tabs; popups are blocked by default, but you can open the ones you want or need; and I’ve not run into many pages (make that “any”) where the display isn’t faithful to the attempted layout.

It even supports, I’m happy to say, the electronic edition of The Washington Times.

On launching Chrome, you get a visual menu of various Web pages you’ve visited often. Click on one such image and, boom, you’re there. Bookmarks are available, and when actually typing a Web-site location in the address bar, beginning to type it will have Chrome rush to guess your desired location. Most of the time, they’re right.

The screen display is clean; there’s not much to distract you here. A feature also said to be available on IE8 will let you browse “incognito,” as Google says, omitting any caching of history or images or Web addresses on your PC. Less-charitable folks have called this “porn mode,” while I’d rather see it as keeping-the-boss-out-of-my-business mode.

Chrome will definitely meet needs in the marketplace, especially once word gets out about how fast it is. I can’t mention this enough, and I don’t know how to put the speed into words, other than to suggest that if you blink, you might miss a Web page loading. Like I said, this is how the Internet should be.

Now the drawbacks: Even though Google touts Chrome as something that’ll run Web applications faster, forget, for now, about using Adobe Corp.’s Buzzword on it. I’m not sure how the online Photoshop Elements site will function there. Google’s own online applications, such as Google Documents, run very well there, as you might expect.

Press reports have suggested some security vulnerabilities. And, since this is running on Windows, it’s not unreasonable to think hackers will target Chrome.

But overall, this is one of the most amazing products and product launches I’ve seen in a very long time. A piece of software that lives up to the hype, mostly, and that supports users fairly well. I wish it did everything, and I wish it ran on every platform today, but think of Chrome as the Sarah Palin of Web browsers: emerging from nowhere and hitting it out of the park.

Microsoft will doubtless have its own accomplishments to tout with IE8 that, unlike Chrome, won’t be available on Mac or Linux platforms. And Safari is available, free, for Windows users. Toss in Opera and Firefox, and you’ve got plenty of choices in the browser market. For now, however, Chrome is brightly burnished.

What browser are you using?

E-mailMark Kellner