Digital Life

With Chrome's Launch, Google Enters Browser Wars

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Google has stepped into the Web browser market with the release of Chrome.

Google says Chrome is faster, more secure and easier to use than any other Web browser, especially Microsoft's Internet Explorer.

So, let's say you've been driving around in the same old Chevy for years. It gets OK gas mileage, but it's not that fast. Now, someone has come out with a sleek hybrid that gets great mileage and is agile on the road. That's how Google would like us to think about its new Internet browser in comparison with Internet Explorer.

"We have tried to build a browser which is modern and handles the applications of today's Web," says Sundar Pichai, one of Chrome's developers.

He showed it off Tuesday at the company's Mountain View, Calif., offices. Like Google's popular search engine, Chrome's front page looks spare.

"With Google Chrome we have attempted to create a very simple user experience for users," Pichai said. "Think of Google search, how simple it is for people to use, anyone from a very sophisticated user to people like my dad and mom who aren't necessarily that Internet-savvy."

Pichai says it's what is under the hood of the car that makes it run so well.

Brian Rikowsky, who also worked on Chrome, says what Google has done is build a browser that's right for today's Internet. Microsoft's Explorer, Apple's Safari and even Mozilla Firefox are older and were built when the Web was simpler and had more text and less audio and video.

"When you have a fresh approach and you can start from nothing, you can re-examine some of the decisions that were made and you can see how things work," Rikowski says. "It would be very hard to do that if you had to build it onto an existing product."

Rikowsky sits in front of a laptop and calls up Chrome in a flash.

"Here's the Chrome desktop short cut; let me double click on it," he says. "You can see just how fast it opens. It's there instantly."

Rikowsky opens several tabs on the browser — YouTube, Amazon, e-mail. Then, he shows what would happen if YouTube suddenly froze.

"You can see you get a little puzzle piece here with a sad face that shows that something's gone wrong with that plug-in," he says.

Other browsers would immediately freeze up every open tab, but in Google's browser each tab acts like it has its own engine.

"If one Web app misbehaves or one Web app is consuming a lot of your computer's resources, the rest of the apps can still act very responsively," he says.

No matter how fast or how much simpler Google's Chrome may be, however, it is still going to have a hard time grabbing market from Microsoft's Internet Explorer, which has around 70 percent of people online and comes pre-installed on most PCs.

"The general user population uses what they're comfortable with and what they know," says Sheri McLeash, an analyst with Forrester Research. "If you look at the e-mail example, most people keep e-mail accounts that they've had for years because they're familiar with it."

Still, McLeash says Google might be able to steer people to its browser by getting them there through its popular search engine. She says the good thing for users is that if Google's Chrome is really good, other browsers will be likely to adopt its features, and that will improve everyone's online experience.

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