The Google Chrome phenomenon

I have heard of Google Chrome for the first time on September 1st. A comic strip about Chrome was leaked on the Internet. At that time, there was no software download available. Rumors soon followed about the early availability of a beta version and a Google press conference the next day. This press conference actually took place and the software was then available for download in a beta version.

In the tech-oriented area of the internet, Google Chrome caused more heavy waves than any comparable event before. Reports and discussions surfaced everywhere. According to one source, Google Chrome already had a market share of over 1% after only a few hours – probably caused by curiosity like mine.

Google Chrome about box

Here are some topics – some with a link – I find interesting:

Installation and setup

Of course, I was curious too and have tried to download the software. I was able to download ChromeSetup.exe thru a proxy that required authentication, but the subsequent download of the software proper failed due to the fact, that ChromeSetup wasn’t able to handle a proxy that required authentication. It worked with a proxy that didn’t require authentication though. Strange enough, after installation Chrome is able to handle a proxy with authentication.

What I really don’t like is that Chrome is transmitting a unique Id back to Google, so that’s easy to track where the user has been on the internet. To prevent this, change two entries in the file Local State of the Google Chrome installation. Although I can understand Google’s motivation for this, a complete user profile is not something I want Google to have, as I don’t have any control over it.

Bug fixes and more from Google

Google has already addressed some concerns about the EULA and a security problem within a very short period of time, so I hope they will be equally fast fixing new problems as they occur. What they really should address before the first official release is the ability of the user to control in an easy way, what data he wants Google to receive about his surfing habits. If in doubt, don’t send anything. They should not only explain what data is stored on their servers, but give the users a choice.

On the same page, I don’t like how they handle the installation of GoogleUpdate.exe as a service, even though it’s mentioned in section 12 of the Google Terms of Service. It’s not mentioned during the installation of Chrome, that it doesn’t go away after I’ve uninstalled Chrome. It simply stays there and is started every time I log into my computer. Manually editing the Windows registry seems to be required if you want to get rid of the GoogleUpdate service. GoogleUpdate is installed and used by a lot of other Google software too.

It’s fast

After a couple of days using Chrome I’ve to say that I’m impressed by its speed. This doesn’t come from the benchmarks saying that it’s mostly faster than the competition, but from my experiences working with it. It’s not only starting up faster than Firefox 3.0.1, but feels a lot snappier too. Browsing the internet with Chrome is definitely fun.

It’s beta software and not finished yet

The current version of Chrome is an early beta version, so don’t expect that it will not have problems. It’s something you should use only if you’re aware of the risks involved in using beta software. It might have security problems and bugs that can lead to lost data. It shouldn’t be used in production environments.

It’s also missing a lot of features I’m used to expect from other browser like Mozilla Firefox. All the nice little ad-ons are still missing. Especially Adblock Plus is missed here, because only without it I’ve realized how ugly the internet really is. And have you tried to read a RSS feed? It doesn’t work yet.

Conclusion

Google Chrome looks like one piece of software I might love to use one day. Most features present today are impressive already. It will then be added to the list of software from Google I’m using on a regular basis today. I’m using Google software for:

These software products I use that come from Google are great, and I like to use them. Chrome is a little bit different as it comes with a price, that not everybody is willing to pay: you give Google the ability to create a user profile of you and you can’t control what they are doing with it. If Chrome has the ability to turn this off, then it might be for me.

2 Comments

  1. Posted 2008-10-06 at 13:37 | Permalink

    So far I have been using Chrome since its release. It is nice, but the lack of features makes it hard to use. With Mozilla Firefox you have all of the extensions in place to block ads, unwanted scripts, control web site styles, get weather updates, etc, etc. Chrome is SUPER basic.

  2. jack-of-all-trades
    Posted 2011-11-30 at 00:16 | Permalink

    One advantage of Google Chrome is that when you close a tab, you are virtually terminating the process. This seems to have some interesting implications on the security of the browser. If you corrupt the tab’s memspace then you will crash only that particular process. The browser and all other tabs should continue working just fine like nothing ever has happened. The advantages are obvious: the user experience is intact. The disadvantages are that pwning might get easier.

    Google Chrome also implements a new privacy feature. They call it incognito. Basically if you browse while being in incognito mode, nothing ever gets logged.

    Another interesting feature which I need to mention is that popups are not blocked but they open in a minimized window. If you want to see them you just drag the popup icon and there you go. However this may be abused. For example, it will make a huge difference if the rendering engine has already processed the content of the popup even if it is minimized. If this is the case, then this feature could turn into a very handy mechanism of hiding malicious activities.

    Google Chrome also provides sandboxing functionalities. Apparently each process is sandboxed. So taking over a process may not result into an immediate pwnage but it will certainly give the attackers some advantage.

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