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Google Chrome – browser, web operating system, or web desktop?

Looks like Google Chrome was launched a bit earlier than desired yesterday. The official Google Blog following-up “iterate often” with a link to their online comic book explaining their new browser works. And while some may only see “Yet Another Browser” – those of us looking under the hood are beginning to ask ourselves, it this really just a browser – or is this actually Google creating a web desktop and/or web OS that will finally put the nail in the Microsoft Office coffin?

From the few screenshots I could glean from TechCrunch, Chrome seems to be a browser that Gina Trapani over at LifeHacker describes as “borrow[ing] parts of Mozilla’s Firefox and Apple’s WebKit to build Google Chrome, which sounds like it might be similar to Prism (but with tabs)” – in other words, clean, simple and fast so it gets out of your way and gets you where you want to go.

However, what intrigues me more, and what has me asking whether or not we’re really not looking at a web operating system or web desktop is Google’s own description of what’s going on under-the-hood:

Under the hood, we were able to build the foundation of a browser that runs today’s complex web applications much better. By keeping each tab in an isolated “sandbox”, we were able to prevent one tab from crashing another and provide improved protection from rogue sites. We improved speed and responsiveness across the board. We also built a more powerful JavaScript engine, V8, to power the next generation of web applications that aren’t even possible in today’s browsers.

What’s this all mean? More importantly, how does this answer my question? Glad you asked.

First let’s consider two definitions:

  • Simply put, a Web Operating System, or  WebOS for short, is a virtual operating system that runs in your web browser (Frantic Industries)
  • A Web desktop or webtop is a desktop environment embedded in a web browser or similar client application integrating web applications, web services, etc … (wikipedia)

Now let’s consider some of the ‘under-the-hood’ elements that has me thinking that Google Chrome is anything but “Yet Another Browser.” I think C|Net has the best enumeration of the elements that I’ll paraphrase for brevity:

  • Stability - Each tab will run in its own process.
  • Speed - The browser is being written with WebKit.
  • Scalability - browser is also getting a new Javascript virtual machine, V8, making both on and offline use zippy fast.
  • Search - who does it better than Google? Now it’s built in, feeding you suggestions based on your browsing history and live search results.
  • User experience – the default start page will show thumbnails of the user’s most frequently visited pages and a list of their top searches.
  • Security – Along with a private browsing mode (as IE 8 has) – each Web page, or tab, runs in its own process, and is blocked from accessing other processes on the computer
  • Standards – the browser will be released as an open-source project.

Now note “Scalability” wasn’t on C|Net’s list – at least not explicitly. However it is V8 that has me thinking that eventually, Chrome will eventually answer the question “How do I use Google Docs when I have no internet connection?

Sure one can currently use Google Gears to employ limited offline access, however it’s not something the average church secretary and/or field missionary is likely to understand and implement without the help of the congregational geek. Most can however use whatever gadgets and/or services are supported and/or enhanced by a browser such as Chrome out-of-the-box – mostly because it appears to them all under one roof.

This is where I believe this is where Google is truly going to eat Microsoft’s Internet Explorer lunch … and that of Microsoft Office as well.

It’s still all a long way off, but hey just remember what Google Apps was a couple of years ago. And considering the cost and fuss over the forced upgrade to Vista, then your computer’s RAM, then Office, then your computer’s disk …imagine the liberty a WebOS or WebTop will buy laypersons and/or church staff running any variety of computers on a mix of Mac, Ubuntu, or even Windows 2000 systems, no problem.

That and think of the gas everyone will save when you can hold meetings via products such as Skype and collaborate on documents remotely via Google Apps Education Edition; the later provided to registered non-profits with current 501(c)(3) status free-of-charge.

UPDATE - looks like ZDNet is on the same page: “Google Chrome: The enterprise playbook


  1. Pingback: Google Chrome - browser, web operating system, or web desktop? | blogs4God

  2. I just downloaded it today. I love it. It’ll take some time to get used to, since I’m hooked on Firefox 3. But I love the idea of being able to run Google Docs, etc with this browser. Integrating makes life simpler.

    And Yes, I do hope it puts an end to MS Office! Next is the Google OS to replace Windows for sure!

    I only wonder if they will get too big like the people who built the Tower of Babel?

  3. webos is very good to use but i thought that it is heavy soft dont’t run faster on sharing web hosting…dedicated is required….

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