Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Ready for the Google Chrome web browser?

Google is releasing the beta of its first web browser on Tuesday 2 September - US time, and if the media information Google has released is accurate, the product could reshape the face of web browsing over the next few years.

Google Chrome is the company's first foray into the web browsing market - but represents a step to the left and a jump to the right of previous web browsing technologies.

The fully open source browser implements a range of new features to speed up browsing, reduce the impact of malware and prevent browser crashes - it's more of an operating platform for web applications than a window for viewing web pages.

Google's media release (shaped in the form of a comic) explains the features extremely well for a lay person, and has me quite excited as to the possibilities the browser opens for web developers.

The beta, set to be released on Tuesday - US time - appears to me and to others to be aimed squarely at Microsoft, taking the wind out of their build-up to Internet Explorer 8, which went into public beta last week.

Strategically, in my view, this is a great move for Google.

What does this mean for government web managers
More options requiring support
The first thing it means is that there are likely to be three major browsers to support over the next few years, Internet Explorer (in various versions), Firefox and Google Chrome - with some minor players including Safari and Opera.

Later note: Google Chrome is using the same (open source) rendering engine as Apple's Safari, which should simplify part of the process of supporting the browser.

Need to quickly review and align code to preserve user experience
Given Google's
search dominance I expect a fast initial take-up rate, with up to 15 percent of website users trialing the product in the next few months (I'll reflect back on this in two months to see how accurate I was).

This means that website managers need to take a look at the rendering engine used by Google (WebKit) and ensure that their sites are compliant. Otherwise they may see falling traffic or increased help desk calls as users struggle to use forms and other functionality.

More ability to move functionality online
The new browser opens a number of new possibilities for website managers, with multi-threaded javascript allowing more complex and faster web applications. This opens the playing field for better web-based tools, allowing more functionality to move online.

It also, in part, ensures that Google's own stable, including Google Docs, Gmail, Blogger, Youtube and Gears, will run faster and more efficiently (sound familiar? Microsoft has a similar ecosystem with Windows and Microsoft applications).

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