While introducing Google’s new Web browser, Chrome, cofounder Sergey Brin was clear: Chrome is not a Web operating system. It could be the beginning of a Web operating system, but there’s a lot of work left. For instance, it’ll still be a while before Web apps are as complex and run as smoothly as desktop apps. Chrome’s mission is to speed that process up.
Meanwhile, plenty of technical stuff to drool about during Google’s press conference — check out our live notes below — but little in the area of specific business plans for Chrome. Google says they’ll look at bundling opportunities — obviously — and that Chrome is a “huge” investment for Google.
The browser is now available for download here.
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LIVE Notes from the Webcast:
2:00: Conference about to start.
2:02: The music stopped, but no conference yet
2:07: Conference started. “Thank you for coming down, Chrome beta will be available at noon (pacific today).”
2:08: Sundar Pichai, VP of product management: Hope you all had a chance to skim to the comic. How the comic came about. Scott McCloud is a legend in the comic world, as we were talking about how best to desribe, we were looking for a good way to describe. Scott was embedded with the team.
2:10: Full end-to-end demo of Chrome, followed by a Q/A in which Larry will attend.
2:10: The Web has evolved dramatically but the underlying browser is still very similar to Netscape. But we believe that browsers should evolve a lot more.
2:11: I do pretty much everything inside a browser — I run my spreadsheets, my documents, my internal HR systems, everything works inside a browser. When yous pend that much time inside a browser, you start thinking about what a browser can do.
2:12: Chrome is powerful because of a very sophisticated core, but it’s simple — just like Google search.
2:16: (Had a browser hiccup — looks like I might need Chrome). Chrome uses Webkit, same as Safari and the Android browser. In Chrome, each tab runs in its own process. This makes the browser much more responsive and faster. Even if something is happening in one tab, the other processes continue. In Chrome, if one tab crashes, your browser doesn’t go down or slow down because one application misbehaves. It enhances security, by putting each tab in its own process, we strip away priveleges so the application cannot do harm.
2:19: Chrome is available today on Windows Vista/XP, but Mac/Linux is coming soon. It’s available in 43 languages in 122 countries.
2:20: Chrome is fully open source. Today we are announcing Chromium, which is our open-source project that will be going live. Our entire code is available.
2:22: What we wanted to build was not so much a traditional content viewer but more of a window manager for Web apps. One of the first things we focused on was tab browsing. Not just a feature, but the primary element of browsing.
2:23: We think tabs are the coolest thing in the last 10 years to come to browser. It’s easy to select, grab and drag them. Easy to create new windows or consolidate. We try to design them for people who use tabs a lot. Dozens of litte subtle behaviours in the tabs that make this work really well.
2:25: The address bar: Where’s the search box? We did some research into how people were using their browser, it was pretty easy to confuse the two (address bar and search box). What you had to do is you had to decide what it was you wanted to do before you did it. We smashed the two boxes together. We call it the Omni-box.
2:26: Our goal was to only have to type one or two characters before it gets you where you want it to go. Just hit “A” and it knows that I like to go to Amazon. It’s really nice, it’s really efficent and it learns real quickly where you want to go.
2:27: What about all the other search engines on the Web? We know people like to do specialised searches, they like to search wikipedia, yelp, etc. Go to Amazon, and Chrome has noticed that there is a search on Amazon, so now when you type “A” it gives you the option to press a tab to search Amazon.com with Amazon’s own search.
2:29: We thought that we might be able to do a little bit better with bookmarks. Go to the new tab, and it shows you the nine sites you visit most often.
2:31: People visit sites that they don’t want other people to see that they visit. If you delete the history in Google Chrome, all of your personalised stuff goes away. In Google Chrome you can open an incognito video that doesn’t store any of the browsing data on your computer. Incognito mode is meant to keep information off your computer.
2:33: Another challenge for us was to try to create the invisible browser — one that doesn’t pop up things and ask you to do things. One example, downloading files. Our philosophy was you shouldn’t have to do a lot of stuff to make a download work. When you click on a download link, it puts the download right at the bottom of the browser and you can drag it into a folder or on your desktop.
2:35: What about the Web pages that act more like applications — like e-mail and calendar. What we realised is that some of the user interface wasn’t relevant for some of these applications — like the address bar, back and forward buttons, because you are keeping the browser window open all day. We created a new kind of window. Gmail: I just want this to feel like a real app. You can create an application shortcut and put it on the desktop, and you can launch it just like a real app, and it launches in an appview window that doesn’t have all of the browser features.
2:37: What’s under the hood of Google Chrome?: We were very interested in people who keep their browsers running for a long time, who tend to have a lot of tasks at one time. It’s really unfortunate in the process of going off into some other tab, somehow a bug results in you losing your whole browser. It seemed obvious to us if the browser were subdivided into multiple processes. When you use desktop apps and one of the desktop apps, you don’t expect it to affect the rest of the desktop apps.
2:39: This improves stability, performance — no delay or hiccup when switching from one tab to another — security. To render web pages doesn’t require a lot of privileges. Desktop apps have the ability to mess with your files, your registry, web pages don’t need those privileges. So we stripped that away. For a bad guy to get malware on your computer, he just has to find a bug in your rendering engine, but in Google Chrome, he also has to find a way out of your “Sandbox.”
2:41: Chrome Task Manager: Works just like Windows Task Manager, where you can see which tabs are taking up memory, and which processes are slowing things down. You can see which browser plugins are working as well. This means that if an ad is using Flash on a Web site and Flash fails, you could close down Flash and continue working on the site.
2:43: If one Web page is stuck, you can still switch to other tabs and close that tab. You can also use the task manager to close tabs.
2:45: We’re also interested in raw performance, which is why we’re using Webkit, which is fast and open source. The browser is about three times as fast when it comes to loading static content.
2:51: Bottom line — It’s faster. According to their test (using IE), V8 is running much much faster — about 80X.
2:54: Sundar’s back: Chrome has no tie-ins to major Google services. If you were a user that was using IE and had Live search, we migrate that preference over when you install Chrome. It’s been over two years of work. Larry was an early supporter of the product.
2:56: Larry Page: I wanted to just say a few things that the team hadn’t said. I’ve been using Chrome for quite a while and I’ve used it on a really slow old computer to really force them to make it fast on not a lot of memory. They didn’t go into a lot of detail on speed, but it’s a hard thing to measure. I think the team has done an amazing job. They haven’t heard me say that because I’m always hard on them on that (speed). Sundar just reiterated the Open Source aspect, but we really as computer scientists want to live in a world where our platforms are advancing. The Open Source model has really allowed people to do that.
2:58: Larry: We’re entering a new era where some of the advancement can be made much more quickly than in the past. I also just wanted to say how we decided to release this. It’s challenging to make a browser, but the criteria we used is we had a ton of Googlers who were using it and were happy. We had a ton of people using it internally like I have.
Q: At Defcon, they talked about anonymous browsing, I would like to see a feature where you could browse without someone recording your IP address.
A: We welcome innovations in user privacy. Our goal is to preserve user expereince while protecting user privacy. Can’t comment specifically.
Q: Based on my extensive testing, it’s easy to drag a tab to the desktop, but I quickly had too many tabs on the desktop. Is there a way to snap them back in place?
A: You can drag htem back in.
Q: How does Chrome fit into mobile strategy? Especially with Android?
A: Android team has developed its own browser, we share Webkit. But given that the desktop experience is much different from the mobile experience, the Android team is concentrating on developing to optimise for mobile.
Q: V8 going to different platforms?
A: It’s already being done. The compiler’s not very complicated so it would be very easy to port.
Q: Talked about the next-gen Web apps will be possible on Chrome? What kind of web apps can we expect? Is Chrome the OS of the Web apps.
A: Sergey: I would not call Chrome the OS of the Web apps, I thikn it’s a basic fast engine to run Web apps. I think we’ll see more and more Web apps of greate and greater sophistication. This is just step 1, we think we and the open source community can evolve it to make it even better.
Q: Around Mozilla, there’s a big plugin infrastructure, do you have a similar one?
A: Chrome supports plugins in the traditional sense (Flash, PDF, etc.). We don’t have an extension API in beta today, but we definitely plan to have one.
Q: Incognito feature? How does this fit in with ad efforts, if some searches can be hidden?
A: Incognito feature makes it a private feature for your computer, the Web still works the same. So none of the things you’re talking about will change. In Chrome, so many of the benefits you get is by having your history.
Q: Do you have plans for distribution beyond just having it for download? Will it be bundled?
Q: Why did you decide you need to do this instead of continuing to extend other browsers?
A: We care about making our products available to as many users as we can. We will definitely look at opportunities. Nothing specific. As Larry mentioned, Chrome is very small, and we plan to make it even smaller over time.
Q: What is the status of Google’s ongoing support for Firefox development?
A: We will collaborate and continue to work together where it makes sense to do so — like the malware detection. We’ve been able to pick up little bits and pieces from Mozilla that have been very beneficial to us. And there are bits and pieces that are on their way into other browsers from us. Sergey: I hope that big chunks of Chrome can make it into the next generation of Firefox. Larry: Without what they’ve (Mozilla) done, this probably wouldn’t have been possible.
Q: No integration between browser surfing habits and Google search results?
A: Google search continues to work the exact same way as it works on any other browser.
Q: What about location awareness?
A: We do have gears efforts which is around location awareness. Longer-run I see these technologies making their way into Chrome as well.
Q: Speed in video?
A: Basically the elements you’re talking about involve plugins. All those kinds of things run similarly as they run in other browsers.
Q: When did the project started, how many people, were Larry and Sergey involved directly? How many people use it in house?
A: Sergey: After a couple of years of those rumours, we decided it would be a good idea. We were involved just by using it. I use a Mac, and I’ve been temporarily using VMWare to run it. I think it stayed quiet because of the thoughtfulness of a lot of Googlers.
Sundar: We don’t comment on specific team sizes, but it is a huge investment for us. The effort has been going on around two years.
Q: In a perfect world, would Chrome just vanish and be incorporated into Firefox? In the terms of service it says that Google can put ads wherever they want, is there direct financial advantage with Chrome?
Q: What kind of market share, what will be your benchmark for success? Why should consumers switch to Chrome?
A: Sergey: I dont think we have a set number for what we hope will happen. We want to have several browsers out there that are viable choices. There’s still 80% market share in one player. We want to see more choices, and we want to see Web developers compelled to develop on open Web standards. If you want faster, more robust, safer Web experience. This isn’t meant to be a big decision. It’s a 7 MB download, and it starts instantly and makes you more productive. Worth the investment of making a pretty reasonable choice.
Q: How do you look at is as a business? How do you compete with Microsoft?
A: Larry: We’re competing with a product that’s given away on almost every computer. We have a good product.
Q: Were you worried about the threat of IE8.
A: Larry: We started this two years ago. I think having a world in which the main code in which you’re using is Open Source I think is very important. If there’s just one choice, there would be no advancement made.
Q: Would you consider it a success if IE9 was built on Chrome?
A: Sergey: We would consider that a success, and even if IE9 was much better, we would consider that a success. Our business is Web usage, and that’s why we work hard on making sure people can access the Internet on cell phones, that’s why we bid on the wireless spectrum. Any improvement to any set of browsers is good for Google.
Larry: If we make our site 20% faster, we can generate more usage. By actually making the browser faster, we get more searches.
Q: Isn’t there a concern that whatever share you’ll get will be at the expense of Firefox.
A: Our hope is by adding our voice, we expand the overall pie. Most users today don’t understand that there are choices. Our hope is that more people realise that there are choices.
Larry: Firefox market share has been anything bust static and we’ve been helping them do that, and we’ll continue to do that. I have not seen a great product that people aren’t using on the Internet.
Q: A hacker told me the Internet is unsafe, what are your thoughts about security and privacy in your new product?
A: Sergey: I think this process model, especially because each process is in a sandbox, really enhances security. I do think this model is inherently a much more secure browser. I think we also need to continue to be dilligent on security from an Internet-wide standpoint. We can do certain things like use https more but this is something that we have to contribute more, as an important partner.
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