Google is announcing Google Chrome, an open-source browser tailored to, amongst other things, the multimedia rather than text-oriented uses of the web according to this comic by Scott McCloud (warning – slow site at this point). Here are some screenshots – looks to me like they have taken ideas from Opera (thumbnail navigators) as well as Firefox (autocomplete, private browsing). A nice feature seems to be the memory leak monitor – some web pages can cause a lot of memory problems (Incidentally, I installed AdBlock Plus in my Firefox version, which helps a lot.) See Slashdot for the usual comments, Nick Carr has a discussion about this as an important step towards cloud computing (and the goal of Google being to upgrade all browsers). Mozilla says they are not worried about the new competition No points for guessing what is going to be the top search term and discussion topic in the blogosphere this week.
Google Chrome, if it is to take off, needs to become a real competitor not to IE or Firefox (they can easily implement most of the added features) but to Vista. And the only way it can do that is by integrating the various Google applications (search, Calendar, Docs, etc.) into the browser. It also needs to be faster than IE or Firefox, and to handle upgrades easily. My guess is some kind of offloading to server-based rendering, much like Opera Mini is doing, making it easier to provide regular HTML to cell phones and the like. If it displays Google apps faster (and more reliable – Youtube is not persistently good on Firefox) than anything else, then it could quickly become important.)
Another way to gain share would be to exploit the enormous collection of user stats that Google has, to produce something that tries to guess the intent of the user and provide suggested links and user-influenced interfaces. Information systems these days is more and more about guessing the users intent rather than having him or her specify it up front, and Google is well informed (too well informed, some would say) about what we like to do.
Update 8/3: Have installed it. Runs fine. Memory management as good as advertised. Won’t be switching over from Firefox soon, but we’ll see over time. As for the story behind Chrome, Steven Levy has a good writeup, as usual, in Wired.