Google Launches 'Chrome' Web Browser Internet search giant Google unveiled Chrome, a new piece of Web browser software on Tuesday. Danny Sullivan, editor-in-chief of SearchEngineLand.com, explains what Google's open-source browser can do, and why a search engine leader wants to get into the Web software market.
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Google Launches 'Chrome' Web Browser

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Google Launches 'Chrome' Web Browser

Google Launches 'Chrome' Web Browser

Google Launches 'Chrome' Web Browser

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Internet search giant Google unveiled Chrome, a new piece of Web browser software on Tuesday. Danny Sullivan, editor-in-chief of SearchEngineLand.com, explains what Google's open-source browser can do, and why a search engine leader wants to get into the Web software market.

IRA FLATOW, host:

This is Talk of the Nation: Science Friday. I am Ira Flatow. A little bit later, we'll be talking about the most sought after fish for top sushi meals, the bluefin tuna. But first, just when you thought the browser wars of the 1990s were over, out comes Google this week.

Now, you know Google as that search engine that most people use to find stuff on the Web, but this week, Google unveiled it's new Internet browser, Google Chrome. And the folks at Google say they wanted to rethink the browser, because these days, we use the Internet to read the news, to go shopping, to check the calendar, even listen to the radio, of course, it's too soon to know if Google's new browser will lure Internet sufferers and surfers away from Firefox and Internet Explorer.

And right now, it's only available for Windows, so we Mac folks have to wait a little bit for that, but just how different is this browser? And might it favor Google's searches, you know? Hmm. Joining me now to discuss these questions and give us his take on Google's new browser is Danny Sullivan, editor-in-chief of Search Engine Land.com.

And he's been covering the news on search engines for over a decade. He's on the phone from California. Welcome to the program, Danny.

Mr. DANNY SULLIVAN (Editor-in-Chief, Search Engine land.com): Thanks very much.

FLATOW: Are we entering a new decade of surfer wars? Browser wars?

Mr. SULLIVAN: Very, very much so. This is definitely Google firing a shot back at Microsoft, I think. We even had Google CEO Eric Schmidt yesterday talk about of being a defensive move. They see the browsers very important to all the businesses that they do, and that they need to be out there playing in that space.

FLATOW: Why do we need a new browser?

Mr. SULLLIVAN: Well, Google argues that the browsers that we had were fine for displaying the pictures that we see on web pages and the text that's out there, but we do a lot more when we go to websites these days. They're much more interactive. They're basically mini computer programs that we're running on them.

FLATOW: Mm-hm.

Mr. SULLLIVAN: And that existing browsers weren't built with that in mind. So they've built a browser that they say is designed to be like a mini operating system, if you will, for going to different websites.

FLATOW: Well - you've used it, how was it? Is it living up to those claims? Is it revolutionary? Is it different? Take your choice.

Mr. SULLIVAN: It's interesting. It does seem to be faster on some of the sites I've gone to. We maintain a forum website that we run, and it has a lot of JavaScript. A lot of things are load up there and I definitely felt like it was a lot faster than when I've been using Firefox. I've seen different kinds of stats that are out there, I think it tends to weigh that it seem like a faster browser.

But it misses some of the things I'm used to in using Firefox, where I had a lot of extensions and plug-ins enough to make Firefox useful.

FLATOW: Mm-hm. So it's not wowing you yet?

Mr. SULLIVAN: Wow-ish.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. SULLIVAN: If I could get the same plug-ins I have in Firefox...

FLATOW: Right.

Mr. SULLIVAN: I probably would move over into Chrome, because it does feel a bit faster. I do especially like that ironically, they've got rid of the browser Chrome. The stuff that surrounds the actual windows where you're interacting with you pages. They've gotten rid of a lot of that stuff.

So it's very clean. You could see a lot more screen real estate with it. So that's the only thing really kind of holding me back at the moment.

FLATOW: Mm-hm. There is this something called Incognito Mode. You work incognito on that browser. What does that do for you?

Mr. SULLIVAN: Well, sometimes you're at a - say a public computer, or you're using some else's computer and you may want to log in and check your mail. And you're wondering, oh, are they going to see my password, or am I going to see where I've gone to. Maybe you're going to some websites you don't want people to know you're visiting.

FLATOW: Like porno. Some people have dubbed this the porno mode.

Mr. SULLIVAN: But none of your listeners, I'm sure.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. SULLIVAN: But they may have friends who want to go into porno mode and so, that's what incognito could do for them. It'll basically let you go out and browse, and not have anything recorded at the computer at all. When you shut that window, it's gone away and it's done.

FLATOW: Mm-hm.

Mr. SULLIVAN: Although, Google jokingly warns, it doesn't protect from somebody standing behind you, and looking over your shoulders seeing where you go.

FLATOW: Mm-hm. 1-800-989-8255. Of course, Google loves to make money, and all the ads it puts up on everybody else's browser. Are they going to be using their own browser for - as an ad campaign?

Mr. SULLIVAN: No, kind of.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. SULLIVAN: They don't - I mean they don't put ads into other browsers, but of course, they have ads on a lot of the content...

FLATOW: Right. Right.

Mr. SULLIVAN: You know when you go to the browsers. So, when Google was asked that, the response was, no, we don't have all these tie-ins. We don't have like a little special area where we're just showing ads. And it fact the browser is very untied from Google.

You don't push buttons that automatically take you to Gmail. It isn't going to put you into Google search by default, if you have another default search engine on your computer. But they do say that what they hope is that more people are using Chrome, and having a better experience, then yeah, they're going to see more Google ads along the way.

FLATOW: Mm-hm. Let's go to Jeff in Washington D.C. Hi, Jeff.

JEFF (Caller): Hi, how are you?

FLATOW: Hi, there.

JEFF: Well, I have a question about compatibility issues. I'm actually looking at the Science Friday website right now, both using Chrome and Internet Explorer, and I was wondering - I was trying to look at Google maps last night, and using Chrome, and it wasn't able to render the maps.

FLATOW: Hmm, that's not a good thing.

JEFF: No, it's not.

FLATOW: Especially because the maps are made by Google.

JEFF: Exactly. I was really surprised. So does your guest have any information on any compatibility issues?

FLATOW: Good question. Danny?

Mr. SULLIVAN: Well, Google's using as part of its rendering engine, what's called web - I think it's called Web Kid. It's what Apple uses for their Safari browser. So, they're using the same exact code to my knowledge, which means that, if you could get to a website in Safari, and see it all display and do well, it should be doing just as well in Chrome, and because many people do use Safari, there shouldn't be any major compatibility things.

I've loaded up Google maps right now, this very second, and that seem to be fine.

FLATOW: Mm-hm.

Mr. SULLIVAN: I would suggest trying to reload it, and giving it another go. I haven't seen a lot of reports like that, and it's been out there and it has had some usage, so...

FLATOW: Mm-hm.

Mr. SULLIVAN: It sounds like it's more perhaps a particular glitch you're having. And you give Google the feedback. I am sure they'd be very, very interested to see what's going on with it.

FLATOW: Yeah. I fooled around a little bit with it yesterday. I noticed that it allows you to use the Google apps very easily. Their own apps, you know, the web bro - the applications that they make that you use in the clouds, so to speak.

Mr. SULLIVAN: Mm-hm. And that is indeed their intent here. If you are looking for a sort of a Google tie-in, it's simply that Google is making a big business out of providing applications that run off the web, rather than running off, you know, software you've installed on your computer. And they really want to make sure that you have a good experience in that.

And as you can imagine, a lot of the testing that they would have done with this would have been using their own apps and tweaking it and tuning it. It should work fine for a lot of other web apps that are out there as well, if you go with what Google is saying.

FLATOW: Mm-hm.

Mr. SULLIVAN: But for people who are making a lot of intensive usage of websites, and a lot interactivity, this is definitely something you want to take to look at.

FLATOW: Mm-hm. Is this an open-source browser?

Mr. SULLIVAN: It is and it isn't. So, when Google put it out, they said this is open-source, and I think a lot of people had a real feel-good thing off of that. Look, it's - Google's not tying it to themselves. But they actually have released two sort of things. Google Chrome itself is Google's browser, and it'll get changed, and altered, and fixed in whatever way Google decides it wants to do, and then people use it.

They also released the code for anybody else to use the code and incorporate. So potentially Microsoft could say, hey, Internet Explorer 9, we're we're just going to use all the Google Chrome code, and build it up that way. So it's open source in that regard that anybody can make use of it, but it's not exactly open in that not everybody is going to suddenly change the distribution that Google puts out.

And for the people like with Firefox, that, you know, this - the rival browser that you have a whole community that's been building, it's not like they just can instantly take Google's Chrome and plug it into their existing browser.

FLATOW: Mm-hm.

Mr. SULLIVAN: You know, they would have to do lots and lots of reengineering and make use of it, so it doesn't just sort of flow into it that way.

FLATOW: Mm-hm. David in Auburn Hills, Michigan.

DAVID (Caller): Yes, Hi. Thanks for taking my call.

FLATOW: Mm-hm.

DAVID: I just - I had a comment and a question. First, I want to just add that I - say I that I just started using Chrome the other day, and I really like it. It's really fast and that is really, really helpful.

But I wanted to ask you're guest what he thought about the Google end user license agreement, where if you're not in incognito mode, at first, they said anything you put into the address bar up top was basically there's to keep and to do whatever with, and I'll take his response hereof the air. Thanks.

FLATOW: Thanks.

Mr. SULLIVAN: They quickly took that out, and also said that they would resend it for anybody who used it. It seems that what happen was Google - they have this thing basically as you said, whatever you go to, we get a copy right to it as well, and we can do what we want with it.

And it turns out that they used the same kind of licensing agreement there that they used for other products or maybe that is more applicable, and they just kind of did a copy and paste. So, you know, it's kudos to them for when people pointed that out.

Quickly getting it removed and trying to reassure everybody, but it's still a little bit alarming, because you're thinking, you've put this browser out there, you told us you've done all this thought, all this concern. You look at all these different types of things and then you'd...

FLATOW: Yeah.

Mr. SULLIVAN: Nobody looked over your legal agreement that you put in their...

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. SULLIVAN: So did you miss anything else that we need to be covering along the way.

FLATOW: Right. Right. Is this a sneak attack on Microsoft's applications like Word, and Excel, and things because, you know, this may send you toward the cloud ones that Google makes.

Mr. SULLIVAN: Well, it doesn't cause you to automatically use their thing - their application. So it's not like you load it up and it says, hey, you should be using Gmail and Google docs, there's no buttons or anything.

FLATOW: Right.

Mr. SULLIVAN: So it's not, I guess, a sneak attack in that respect. But it' certainly is Google getting even more behind those products, by trying to ensure that you have an operating system if you will, your browser, that runs dependably for them. And what I think you'll see happen down the line is, you'll be a user of one of those products.

You'll go to say Google docs and you'll see something that says, hey, try Google Docs or Google Chrome, it runs faster, or design for Google Docs. So you'll download that without really realizing your downloading a browser.

You may just feel like this is an extension to Google Docs, and suddenly now you're using another browser, and a browser that you may like. And if you were using Internet Explorer...

FLATW: Mm-hm.

Mr. SULLIVAN: Perhaps it starts tempting you away for the particular application...

FLATOW: Mm-hm. than attempting you away from it period.

FLATOW: Mm-hm. Because you say this is used with the same kit that Safari - the Mac browser - is made with. Can the two be eventually ported to one another, or additions and modifications made in one pack, perhaps show up in the other?

Mr. SULLIVAN: Oh, between Safari and Yahoo?

FLATOW: Yeah. Yeah.

Mr. SULLIVAN: Potentially, you can move stuff and that goes back to the open source thing that Google's saying, anything we put out there, you can use. But they've also said that they've built this entire new browser from scratch, so I guess it's kind of like saying, hey, you know, your - that model T you're driving, well...

FLATOW: Yeah.

Mr. SULLIVAN: We've got this new, you know, full - fuel injection engines, so if you want to drop it in, feel free.

FLATOW: Right.

FLATOW: And we're still in Beta on this, where we actually have the product in real numbers?

Mr. SULLIVAN: Yeah, we're in Beta, and it's, you know, the typical Google Beta where they might as well just call it, you know, version 1.0.

FLATOW: Yeah.

Mr. SULLIVAN: At some point they'll take the Beta label off. It may not make any difference, they may not have changed anything. It just kind of gives them an excuse if there's glitches to say, oh well, you know, it's a Beta.

FLATOW: Yeah.

Mr. SULLIVAN: And we don't - as you pointed out - have a version for the Mac or for Linux yet. They've promised both of those, but there's no timeline for when they'll come.

Mr. SULLIVAN: Apple's having some big announcement on Tuesday or something like that. Maybe they'll have part of that in there.

Mr. SULLIVAN: We'll see.

FLATOW: OK, Danny. Thanks for taking your time to be with us.

Mr. SULLIVAN: You're very welcome. Thanks for having me.

FLATOW: You're welcome. Danny Sullivan, editor-in-chief of Search Engine Land.com. He's covering the news all the time on his search engines. We're going to take a break. Switch gears and talk about tuna with Richard Ellis, author of "Tuna: A Love Story," a love story about a fish. You'll find out why. Stay with us, we'll be right back.

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Google's 'Shiny' New Web Browser

Google created a comic book to help explain the features of Chrome, its new Web browser. The browser has some privacy features that enable a user to surf without creating a history and without collecting cookies. Courtesy of Google hide caption

toggle caption
Courtesy of Google

Google created a comic book to help explain the features of Chrome, its new Web browser. The browser has some privacy features that enable a user to surf without creating a history and without collecting cookies.

Courtesy of Google

Top Five Web Browsers By Market Share

Internet Explorer – 72.2 %

Firefox – 19.7 %

Safari – 6.4 %

Opera – 0.74 %

Netscape- 0.72 %

 

Source: Net Applications

The opening page for Google's new Web browser brings users to nine of the Web sites they've visited most recently. hide caption

toggle caption

The opening page for Google's new Web browser brings users to nine of the Web sites they've visited most recently.

Tabs are one of the key features of Google's new browser. Courtesy of Google hide caption

toggle caption
Courtesy of Google

Tabs are one of the key features of Google's new browser.

Courtesy of Google

When Google unveiled its new browser on Tuesday, it was touted as a faster and more reliable experience for those using the Web for everything from e-mail and word processing, to music and video.

The new open-source browser, Google Chrome, is an alternative to programs like Internet Explorer — which enjoys a 72 percent market share, according to Net Applications, and is pre-loaded on many PCs — as well as Firefox, Safari and Opera.

Here, some first impressions about what the Google Chrome experience offers.

Why has Google created a new browser?

"We're moving towards a Web-centric world, where the operating system means less and the browser means more," says Tom Spring, a senior writer for PC World magazine. The growth in the number of people using Web applications spurred Google to develop Chrome over the last two years.

"We saw an opportunity, given how much the Web has evolved, to rewrite the browser from scratch," says Sundar Pichai, Google's vice president for product management. The goal, he says, was to create a simple, yet powerful user experience with no interruptions: "The user should enjoy surfing the Web, and the browser should stay out of it."

Many applications that people now run in their Web browsers, such as Google Maps, require intensive processor power. Chrome is designed to help handle this and to prevent crashes by effectively segregating each open browser window into a distinct "sandbox." This unique setup is also advantageous from a security perspective, because Chrome will prevent a rogue Web site from reaching into your computer by keeping any activity restricted to the browser, Spring says.

Google posted a comic book on the Web to help explain Chrome, which can be downloaded and used with any search provider.

Dan Bogaard, an associate professor of information technology at the Rochester Institute of Technology, says Google is "almost begging other companies to use what they're doing. They're actually just trying to drive the Internet into a new place — a place where applications reign, rather than individual pages."

To create Chrome, Google says it relied on open source projects already developed by Mozilla in addition to WebKit — the engine behind Apple's Safari browser.

How will the look and feel of Chrome differ from a Google search as we know it?

Lightning fast speed and intuitive design are just some of the advantages, according to Spring.

"It has an elegant simplicity to it in its design, reminiscent to what Apple does," he says.

One of the real pluses is that the browser enables you to create application shortcuts on your desktop. With this feature, Chrome "attempts to blur that line" between Web applications and desktop applications, Spring says.

The centerpiece of Chrome is the tab, which is now located at the top of the browser. If one tab is loading a page, a user can switch to another tab to continue work without waiting. Similarly, if one tab crashes or freezes, you can close that tab without affecting other open tabs. This helps to keep memory jams from bogging down the computer or the whole browser. Google has also created a task manager, so you can monitor which sites or plug-ins are using the most memory.

The new real estate for tabs makes them stand out like a folder in a file cabinet. They also can be moved around just as easily. The size of the tabs also adjusts based on how many are open in the browser, but the "x" for closing the tab remains in the same spot on each one, so you can quickly close many of them without moving your mouse. You can also drag a tab out of the browser to create a new window.

When you open Chrome, the default page brings you to your nine most visited sites, giving the page a customized look and feel. It also displays your search history and recent bookmark selections.

One user-friendly feature is that the search and address window have been combined. Now there's just one box, and it has become a center of power — just starting to type any letter in the alphabet will bring up suggestions. These are culled from bookmarks (Chrome automatically imports bookmarks and passwords from your existing browser) and from popular searches that begin with that letter. This allows you to type in just a few letters — for example "n" and then "p," and NPR.org automatically comes up.

It's easy to bookmark pages in Chrome, but it's not a necessity. Chrome maintains full text searches in its history. If you've already searched for "elephants at the national zoo," Chrome will take you back to the page you found the first time you ran that search. With popular search sites like Amazon, Google and others, you can also run a search right from the address bar by typing the first letter of the site. Once Chrome recognizes it, you can hit the tab key and enter your search terms.

When will it launch, and will it be accessible on all types of operating systems?

Google launched a beta version of Chrome for Windows on Tuesday. The company said it is developing versions of the browser for Mac and Linux. Bogaard says the "beta" designation is worrisome because of the company's history of keeping everything in test-mode for long periods. A case in point: Two popular programs, Gmail and Google Docs, still have beta labels. "Beta scares a lot of people away," he says.

What kind of privacy safeguards are part of Chrome?

Google says that Chrome "continually" downloads lists of troublesome Web sites that engage in practices — including malware distribution and phishing — that could compromise data on your computer and warns you if you encounter one of them.

Chrome also has a privacy feature that users can summon called the "incognito" window, which enables users to browse the Web without creating any record or history on their local computer. When the window is closed, any cookies are also deleted. Spring says that users should be aware that this does not amount to "surfing anonymously."

During Tuesday's press conference, Google officials said that they hoped this feature would help prevent people from deleting the history on their computers, since Chrome works best when there is a record of searches.

Spring says that when it comes to privacy, consumers should keep their eye on what Google decides to do with Chrome going forward. Google has a record of tracking user searches and selling ads against that, he says, and now they have the ability to track what you do with your browser.

"They will own your experience from the moment that you launch the browser to the time that you shut it down," Spring says.

What implications does this have for other browsers?

John Lilly, the CEO of Mozilla Corp., said in a recent blog post that Google's entry into the browser universe "increases" competition, because it provides users with "another interesting browser" to choose from. He says Firefox "will keep getting better."

Bogaard says Chrome doesn't represent a threat against Firefox (Google has agreed to provide funding to Mozilla through November 2011), but he says the introduction of Chrome signals mounting competition with Microsoft, which plans a new release of Internet Explorer soon.

Internet Explorer has been "laying stagnant for a couple of years" without many updates, he says. Microsoft's Web site says its update — Internet Explorer 8, which is only available now as a test version on its Web site — will be "faster, easier and safer than ever."

In the meantime, Chrome has some bugs to fix. Spring says it doesn't support the very popular collection of extensions that Firefox users enjoy, and there isn't a print preview function. But he says it's too early in development to take them to task for a browser that "shows a lot of promise from the get-go."