Tell me not in mournful numbers,
Life is but an empty dream.
Life is real! Life is earnest!
And the grave is not its goal.

When I go from hence
let this be my parting word,
that what I have seen is unsurpassable.

Saturday, 6 September 2008

Chrome continued

I finally managed to try out Google Chrome. It was not a good experience. First of all, let me clarify that I know it is a Beta release and is probably not a reflection on how the product will turn out to be in later versions. However, being a software engineer myself I am aware of the standards a Beta release from any decent self-respecting company should meet. This release does not meet those standards. My take is that Google never meant to release Chrome for at least the next couple of months. They were forced to do so because information about it leaked out. Given a choice they would have resolved some of the major problems, stabilized the product and then announced it to the world. This is borne out by the nature of problems plaguing this release. The problems are mostly related to memory consumption, stability, compatibility, etc. These are short-term problems which are typically taken care of during intensive testing cycles which this release missed. On the other hand, the design decisions that went into Chrome are fundamentally sound and should pay rich dividends later in the product life cycle.
I did not sit and go through every feature of Chrome. Nor did I consciously compare it with other browsers in the market. Here are my impressions of the basic product in isolation:

User-Interface - Chrome continues the Google tradition of minimalist product interfaces. Google has maintained this tradition in all of its products till date and has been the gainer for it. The Chrome UI is very elegant and it does not miss out on any major functionality. Combining the address bar and the search bar is a very cool idea. Of course, once Google unveils the API kit to develop add-on plugins for Chrome, everyone will be free to add his/her own bit to the UI and mess it up. But then it won't be Google's fault.

Separate process for each tab - This is one of the design decisions that will have long term gains. Having separate process for each tab will insulate them from one another minimizing browser crashes. It will of course add a lot of overhead in terms of resource utilization. So if you have a not-too-high-end machine forget about Chrome. Also, as of now the product is too unstable to show any benefits of this design. Browser crashes are pretty frequent.

Grouping tabs into new windows - Another great idea. Often when I use a browser for a long time I end up creating a lot of tabs which I subsequently want to move to a new window. This feature will let me do that.

Incognito - A special window whose activity cannot be tracked? Great for watching porn. But enterprises will probably want to be able to disable this feature on corporate networks.

Buggy product - Some problems that I faced:
  1. I had opened five tabs and was browsing through the Times Of India website watching news clips and reading articles. After one hour of browsing the memory consumption reached almost 300 MB and the machine became very slow.
  2. I closed the browser but one instance of the process continued to show up in Task Manager. I had to kill the process manually.
  3. On Vista, if a browser instance is running, the machine hangs when trying to hibernate.

All in all, Chrome has the potential to become a great browser in the future but I am not going to use it till it becomes more reliable.

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