Google Chrome? Good for some people, not good enough for me.

A few people have since pointed out that there are developer tools available in the “page” menu. Sorry, it wasn’t obvious to me. So cross out the points below concerning the absence of such tools.

Concerning Google Chrome,

Right now, Blogs all over the world are reporting about the great new browser Google has and I too decided to take a look. After all, it’s Google we’re talking about here, so it has to be good.

And it is, kinda. Google is trying to create a browser for the “casual” crowd. People who spend less than an hour a day using the internet, people who don’t have a lot of tabs open and who freak out when a program crashes. People who don’t have friends who can help them set up their computer and are therefore stuck with Microsoft’s slow and buggy Internet Explorer. And for that purpose, Chrome is actually quite good.

Let’s start with the installation. Run, say whether you want to import your Internet Explorer favorites (it didn’t even give me an option to import my Firefox bookmarks). Done. It’s really that simple and straightforward. Of course I’d like to have more options, but I’m not really the one Google is trying to win over, so that’s OK.

Then it starts. And my first thoughts are “Man, this is ugly”. Where other browsers try to look like native applications, Google has chosen the opposite route. The buttons on the top look a bit like Vista’s, but that’s about it (besides, I’m not using Vista, so it would be the wrong OS anyway). Everything else is in a Google typical gray/blue theme that looks more like a webpage than an application. The fact that it integrates poorly with the OS alone is almost a dealbreaker for me, but once again, it might actually appeal to people who do little enough with their PC that they value glamour over consistency. However, it seems like usability was not really that interesting to the Google folks either: The grey/light blue color combination provides little contrast and my first few clicks where actually attempts to click on the nearly invisible scrollbar.

Next step. The welcome page has opened and greats me with what to expect the next time I come here (a list of most used pages). I already know that, but decide to take a look at the help anyway, which turns out to be a little page with a few UI tips. Sadly, the navigation breaks and pressing “back” doesn’t work as expected as it only changes the title of the page to “Untitled”. I have to admit, I expected a bit more polish here and while it isn’t really a dramatic bug, it’s not a good thing to present the user with it on his first launch.

The basic browsing functions work fine, after all WebKit has been used a few times before and by now is pretty good. The Javascript engine also is almost as fast as promised and generally does a good job. Nothing to complain about here.

So I decide to take a look at the taskmanager to see how Google’s idea to seperate the tabs into individual processes has worked out. Not to well for me as it turns out. Chrome is using 267MB of memory right now, while Firefox with the same pages open uses 186MB. Again, Chrome turned out to be very bad for my habits… I can’t even see any of my tab’s titles anymore, because there’s no tabbar scrolling. But would your typical “casual” surfer open 30+ tabs at once? Probably not. Again, a major issue for me turned out to be just fine for the target audience.

And so it goes on and on. No addons, no error console, no developer tools, nothing that a casual user won’t miss. And that’s really all there is to it. If you want just a simple browser, then this is fine.

The only question that remains for me: Why then not use Safari itself, instead of Google’s version?

Oh and one last thing. Whoever wrote that comic didn’t do Google a favour. Because to me, this “that’s how we do it and that’s the only right way to do it” talking sounds just terrible. Mockery doesn’t really inspire sympathy and when a friend asks me “which browser should I install?” it might be this bit that keeps me from saying “Try Google Chrome”.