Google's highly anticipated web browser, Chrome, is out and earning good-to-mixed reviews:
Google says its new Chrome browser, launched just a week after Microsoft unveiled an updated version of Internet Explorer, is designed to be faster, easier, more stable and more secure in an era when users are increasingly turning to the Web to run complex applications—from watching video to crunching data and running other sophisticated programs that were once housed exclusively within a PC's hard drive.
The new browser has a single box to type in search keywords and Internet addresses. It's designed with "tabs" that access individual Web sites independently, so if one stalls it doesn't crash the others. And like the new version of Microsoft's browser, it offers an "incognito" feature that lets users surf online without storing cookies or a history of which sites they visited.
I'll probably give it a whirl at some point, though I find most of the complaints about Microsoft's products in general overblown and animating from a vague, misplaced animus than actual operational issues. The intertubes world does seem to be going Google's way, as it delivers on an old promise from the early 1990s among some visionaries that computers would be relatively simple machines that worked as gateways to massive online activity, storage, and whatnot. Google's calendars, documents, and (obviously) mail are incredibly powerful and easy to use.
Here's the vision that Google has for its browser:
By developing its own browser, Google can design it to maximize the features of its other online applications, UBS analyst Ben Schachter wrote in a note to investors Tuesday. He suggested the browser may also give Google more data on users' habits and trends, which it can use to deliver more targeted advertising.
Be careful what you wish for, Google. It's a very different legal context, of course, and a very different world, but tightening the connections between its machines and its software, especially its web browser is what got Microsoft in big trouble with the feds way back when (doesn't the Microsoft antitrust suit seem like it happened in a different…century?). Microsoft's Internet Explorer (new version of that out too!) kicked Netscape's ass (doesn't that seem like two centuries ago?) and has now lost about 20 percent of the market to Firefox. There's clearly a demand for more browser choices and as reason.tv will tell you, competition is good, whether we're talking about coffee shops or computers.
As for Marshall McLuhan: He stressed that the mode of communication was more important than the content being communicated. In that sense, any browser is a minor change from the PC/networked computer revolution, but his thought gets more interesting with every passing year.