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February 24, 2012

Towards the Perfect Browser

Chrome is clearly the most Apple-like Google product. Many of its features are copied by other browsers: from the simple interface to automatic updates, powerful JavaScript engines, unified address bar and search box, shorter release cycles and much more. When it was released, Chrome's team had a clear vision and no feature was there by accident. While there are many feature requests, Chrome's team only implements them if they make sense and fit the project.

In an interesting response to Kevin Fox's question about the updated "new tab" button, Chrome's Peter Kasting said that "good design involves hav[ing] a clear and consistent vision for the product which is then informed by user input, not enslaved to it. I think Chrome as a whole shows a remarkable design consistency and focus that Google products as a whole have not always had. I don't think that's an accident. It's a direct result of a process that uses a small group of consistent leaders, rather than endless end-user trials of everything, to make decisions."

Glen Murphy, Chrome's design lead, makes it more obvious: "We're trying to sculpt Chrome down to the perfect browser, and sometimes that means making painful consistency changes in aid of that long-term vision. While we want to minimize disruption for existing users, most people on earth haven't used Chrome, and we have to make the best and most awesome browser possible for them."

Chrome is the browser that has great default options, few settings and an interface that hasn't changed all that much over the years because it was carefully thought out and reduced to the essence. Just like the iPhone and its OS.

15 comments:

  1. It's remarkable how different the attitudes are towards 'copying'.

    When Google and others adapt features/design from iOS people get very angry, and Apple gets very litigious (note that $100 million that Apple spent stopping HTC from using click to e-mail).

    On the other hand, I don't remember much of a fuss being made when other browsers adopted features from Chrome.

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    1. Chrome is essentially open source (based of Chromium and Webkit) hence the lack of law suits.

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    2. Chrome borrowed a lot of features from Firefox, which borrowed them from Opera, don't forget. But we shouldn't be pointing fingers, though, it's all quite healthy!

      The real trouble with the Chrome approach, for me, is that it doesn't actually fit the web-- it just fit's Google's vision for the web. What I mean by that is we aren't really in the age of web apps yet.

      You can (and typically do) navigate some sites purely using in-site controls, for example GMail or Flickr, so the browser controls are redundant. This is Google's idea of what the web should be; I like it, actually, but of course all sites aren't like this.

      As a result, Chrome actually can NOT live up to it's vision, which is most closely realised when you create an "app instance" of it for sites like GMail or Flickr. It just doesn't work in sum because most of the web still doesn't work this way.

      I was a Chrome early adopter and quite happy with it for a long time (over a year to be sure.) But I have switched back to Firefox and don't see myself coming back to Chrome.

      I'm glad Chrome exists, but Firefox is a tool for the web as it actually is, today.

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    3. Well said PsySal! I totally agree with your opinion. It is nice to read your opinion along with this post.

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  2. I absolutely could not live without all the Google services whose extensions and Chrome apps are built in to the browser. Having a Cr-48, Galaxy Nexus, and Windows PC, I'm constantly switching between Chrome sessions and I would not be able to LIVE without the syncing and cloud services.

    Chrome is and will continue to be the Perfect browser so long as the Chrome team stays focused on clean design and simple, intuitive functionality while not sacrificing speed.

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  3. Now if they could have put the same thought and effort into Android, instead of rushing out the door for marketshare...

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  4. I've always preferred Chrome above Firefox because of it's sheer minimalism yet power packed features. IE is not even in the race but I'm surprised to find the large mob who've still stuck to IE. Keep up the good work Google :)

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  5. So that's why it's been impossible to get them to implement such as simple thing as a disappearing bookmarks bar; or a download bar that disappears on completion. Those very sensible things evidently don't fit the "vision".

    I will say this for Chrome: it was the browser that was able to eclipse Opera in many ways as the technology leader. Opera has so many innovations to its credit, but of late it has done some following of Chrome.

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    1. Ctrl+Shift+B. Done.

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    2. Regarding the bookmarks bar, I actually meant auto-hide.

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  6. Design might be good. Security, privacy and user control are abysmal. There's no way on gods earth that I'll go near a product from a company whose business model is based on knowing everything it can about me.

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  7. Most of the core Chrome team was working on Firefox prior to joining Google. Though Chrome inherited design principles from Firefox, the team embarked on a mission to create a browser that had all the goodness of Firefox without its architectural shortcomings.

    When you have the liberty of starting something from the ground up, a backer with deep pockets, and years of historical information to know the pitfalls to avoid, it is easier to build something that is not bogged down by legacy. Software development is cyclical, and Chrome is starting to look long in the tooth already. As is iOS. We are not far away from the day when people start to complain about Chrome's bloat and memory usage.

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  8. While I agree with Chrome comes with great default settings, but Chrome also copies from other browsers.

    IE7 was the first browser to remove the Menu bar, though you could turn it "on" again, and it also come with buttons for settings, something Chrome copied.

    I like the new +-less New Tab button. I just wish the new tab page was better redesigned. Only 8 thumbnails?

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  9. Firefox is the best browser with customization, even for design. Chrome towards to the Perfect Browser by blocking others(ex flash on Linux) and with massive advertising.

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  10. I tried Chrome, and I really, really hated the fact that when hovering over links, the target URL appeared as a little pop-up bubble obscuring the lower-left corner of the *content*, because there's no status bar. There are a bunch of others who feel the same way (see http://code.google.com/p/chromium/issues/detail?id=38204), but no action by Google. I went back to Firefox.

    Then, Firefox aped Chrome by also removing the status bar from the bottom of the page! The same irritating bubble started appearing over content when hovering over a link, or when downloading a new page. But fortunately, Firefox is so extensible that someone came up with an add-on called Status-4-Evar, which restores the status bar, and makes it even more customizable than earlier.

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