Google Launches Chrome Beta for Adventurous Browser Users

Google opened a new channel onTuesday to distribute its latest beta release of the Chrome browser.The company also began on Tuesday a blog devoted exclusively to theChrome browser.

Google launched Chrome as a beta in September of 2008; a final-release 1.0 version come out in December. By last month, it had grabbed 1.12 percentof the market behind Internet Explorer, Firefox, and Safari, according to data from Net Applications. Since then, Googlehas issued 29 updates, each revision finessing Google Chrome’s speed,stability and usability, according to a post in the new blog by JasonToff of the Google Chrome team.

Speed is clearly the most noticeable improvement in the latest Chromebeta release, Toff noted. Compared to the current stable version, thisnew Chrome beta is some 25 percent faster on Google’s V8 benchmark and35 percent faster on the Sunspider benchmark, he said. Itis nearly twice as fast as the first Chrome beta version, he added.

“I can’t think of a single reason why Chrome won’t be accepted. Wemight see some success with it,” Zippy Aima, analyst at ABI Research,told TechNewsWorld.

Channeling Attention

Until Tuesday, Google maintained two regular outlets for its betaversions. Since taking the beta tag off Google Chrome in December, thecompany has been updating its browser on two release channels,developer and stable, according to Brian Rakowski, product manager.

Now Google will use the new beta channel to regularly update GoogleChrome with new speed enhancements, features and bug fixes, Rakowskisaid.

The goal is to turn out new features quickly as they are ready insteadof waiting for occasional major releases, he explained. However, faithfulbeta users yearning for the latest new adornments should expect flawsand problems, as the software is still a work in progress. Those bugs are justwhat Google’s Chrome developers want to hear about. The new Chromechannel will provide a system for rapid user feedback.

Featured Features

Better speed performance aside, the new Chrome beta version introducesseveral new features. These additions focus on convenience andusability factors. They include form autofill, full page zoom andautoscroll.

Perhaps the snazziest new feature is a new way to drag tabs out to geta side-by-side view. Preeset docking positions quickly resize thebrowser window. Dragging a tab to a pre-defined location snaps it tothat docking position.

Clicking the middle button or mouse wheel activates auto-scrolling. Asusers move the mouse, the page automatically scrolls according to thedirection of the mouse. New zoom options increase or decrease the sizeof text on a Web page.

The form autofill feature keeps track of visited Web sites and thecontent entered in text boxes there. On return visits users canautopopulate the text field with the saved information.

Room for More?

Google’s push to grow a user base for its Chrome browser comes at atime when rumors abound about Microsoft possibly ending development of its Explorer browser. Also, Google recently joined the European Union’santitrust case against Microsoft. The EU has charged Microsoft withabusing its dominant market position by bundling its Internet ExplorerWeb browser with its Windows personal computer operating system.

“It’s almost mind-boggling, all the excitement that is developing overWeb browsers. They are the new gateway to the Internet,” Al Hilwa,program director for application development software at research firmIDC, told TechNewsWorld.

Google faces a market with five popular alternatives bashing it out,he said. Browsers are becoming the new operating systems for computerusers. Today’s browsers have their own languages and programmingstyles.

‘Vigorous Competition’

Google’s activities in the browser battles are a good thing forconsumers, according to Hilwa. The competition is providingbetter performance, features, speed and security.

“What we need is vigorous competition to keep innovation going,” He said.

The prominence of open source in the browser space is also highlysignificant, noted Aima.

“Anything based on open source is interesting to see,” she said.

Likes and Dislikes

Google’s various Web-based applications have drawn mixed reactionsfrom users. The same could occur with Chrome.

Bill Trifiro, an account executive for Matter Communications, has beenusing Google Chrome since the launch of the beta browser. In general,he prefers it over some of Google’s other products. The browser iscleaner, more intuitive than the rest of the pack and pulls up pagesmore quickly, he noted.

“I have the big three browsers on my desktop, and Chrome gets themost use,” Trifiro told TechNewsWorld.

Early Problems

Still, Chrome has its drawbacks. For instance, Chrome and InternetExplorer do not play well together and will sometimes lead to freezinghis computer, he said. He experienced this problem on three differentcomputers, each with decent processor speeds and RAM.

“I sometimes have to have IE and Chrome open at the same time becausethere are still Web pages that run applications that do not work withChrome. For instance, it was only a couple of weeks ago that Hotmailbegan to work with Chrome, and even now there are bugs, so I use IE orFirefox. Some video apps on, say, Hulu work with Chrome, some don’t. Ihave the same problem if I go to Fox.com or any of the other majornetworks and try to watch a show,” Trifiro said.

The other big issue Trifiro has with Chrome is its download function.Chrome tends to force the download to the Download folder. An Icon atthe bottom left side of the screen allows users to click and drag thefile to the desired destination folder. But this is an extra step thatessentially wastes hard drive space because the same files save to twodifferent places instead of just one.

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