Google Chrome’s launch misses the gold

By Walter Hickey

Google has attempted to expand its already growing dominance over the net by releasing an internet browser. Google released Google Chrome Sept. 2, and the tech community was eager to see and, inevitably, were disappointed by what it had to offer.

Google Chrome has an elegant but very basic interface. By “very basic,” I mean barren. Google, in its haste to get the cash cow out to market, elected to not include any add-ons that may involve the user with the browser. One of Google’s goals was to allocate maximum screen space to content, and in that they succeed. The interface is compact; however, any Firefox fan will be up a creek without a paddle due to Chrome’s crippling paucity of any type of add-ons or customization.

An in-depth analysis of the browser’s features does betray some innovative tools and other features. For all intents and purposes, however, Netscape Navigator has more nuances than this. Google calls this a feature. I call it laziness.

A closer look will reveal nothing altogether innovative. Chrome’s URL bar functions also as a Google Search box. For instance, typing the letter “D” into the URL bar recommends Digg, one of my bookmarks, and, a common Google search. Typing “J” recommends both common ”J” searches and items from my recent history like Juicy Campus — the only social cesspit that can rival the perennial septic system MySpace.

Chrome is eerily perceptive. It almost causes the user to fear, rather accurately, that someone is watching. It has a built-in spell check, just like predecessors Safari and Firefox. It can remember passwords if you desire. It knows what you read and what you watch. It organizes your bookmarks, makes suggestions and attempts to integrate itself with the user. It’s a bit like Facebook’s news feed meets Big Brother.
Compared to Internet Explorer, Chrome is superior on all counts. Chrome is at the very least low impact software — easy to install, easy to uninstall. Internet Explorer, on the other hand, is the herpes of programs. Once it’s on your computer, it digs deep and never ceases to aggravate you, no matter how hard you try to get rid of it. Chrome is next to uncrashable, whereas a website like MySpace gives Internet Explorer epileptic seizures. Chrome is minimalist and centered on stability, whereas Internet Explorer is infamous for its bulk and inability to perform. Putting Internet Explorer up against Chrome is like throwing a paper plane at the Death Star.

One of the few things about Chrome that surprised cynics is its stability. It did not crash a single time during my test drive, despite my very best efforts. A dozen YouTube videos at once made my processor wheeze, but Chrome soldiered. Even MySpace proved unable to crash Chrome, despite my fleeting hopes. This is because Chrome, essentially, passes the busywork over to your processor; Chrome can keep pushing through mountains of data without bothering to stop for breath. It also means that just about every other program will lag and crash, because the processor is too busy loading a video of an allergenic kitten to work on other things. All told, Chrome requires about 20 percent more memory commitment than other browsers.

Perhaps the most outstanding problem with Chrome is that it is, essentially, Spyware. Google logs every keystroke you make into the URL bar. Your personal viewing habits — what news you read, what links you click, what stories you like and your favorite type of picture — are analyzed. Google doesn’t distribute Chrome for free out of the goodness of its heart. It plans to capitalize, market and sell the data that defines the essence of “you” to advertisers. You’ll have a fan club.

Taken as a whole, Google Chrome was a disappointment. Firefox and Safari users will be hard-pressed to find anything that surprises them in Chrome, because most of the code has been around for a decade. Google just copied it, pasted it, stamped on a logo and released it under a Creative Commons license. Google can do better. Until it does, it’ll never be able to control the world.


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