Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Chrome Fail

You may have heard the Google released a browser into the market today. Everyone is pumped about it for a myriad of reasons, but it's mostly a new pony with old tricks:
  • "I have a minimalist UI"
  • "I'm faster"
  • "I have a cool UI gimmick you'll love"
  • "My address bar does more than your address bar"
  • "I'm open source because open source is good"
  • "I have better security"
    and so on.

At the end of the day it's deja-FireFox 1.0 all over again. Now that FireFox is hitting v3, it's got add-ins and all kinds of bloat you can tack on to your browser to get it to do the things it could have done out of the box. Awesome, thanks Mozilla. These ideas aren't new, all Google has done is created yet another web page viewer. And I should note that despite their "rigorous testing" it still eats web pages like they're going out of style and poops them out when it renders 'em.

But that's just the thing, it's time for web pages to go out of style. This is where I hoped Chrome would be a champion. I read that it had features tailored to Web Applications and that's where I got my hopes up. Instead of a series of linked web pages, an application that has a state, that makes server calls to update parts of the content. No more does a single URL point to a single resource, but rather an aggregation of all kinds of information. It's what frames tried to do back in the 90's and the iframe tried to do afterwards. It's what Web Services are built for and what AJAX should be able to rock hard if cross-domain issues didn't get in the way.

Chrome does not do anything special for the future of the web. All it does is create shortcuts and strip out the forward/backward buttons and conceal the address bar. "Hold on, let me put on my party hat! ... hey wait! Couldn't we do that already?" The answer is yes. Now we're using the desktop/start menu/quick launch bar as a bookmark folder, neat.

For clarity, it's a decent enough browser. I'm all for the JavaScript virtual machine that should make it less painful on users when I want to write out a thousand list items in a loop, and I like Google products, and I like a lot about the memory management and security. What I don't like is that Chrome aimed to be something really good for the web, and it turned out to be just another player, not a leader.

We need a leader. Matt will sing the praises of architecture like Adobe Air and Silverlight try to accomplish. But they lack adoption. The web is stuck in a page being a page, and not an application. The world is stuck on "navigation" and bookmarks and addresses. It doesn't realize that if it just got out of the way that "Web 2.0" wouldn't be just a buzz word, and that you really wouldn't need software or storage or much of a computer at all to be able to do all of the things you do on a regular basis. Just a network connection, and we'll take care of the rest.

1 comment:

Matt Magurany said...

I do have to respect the fact that Google is trying to take the stateless nature of the web and hide it behind their browser, but it's a facade. Adoption is the key with this solution. If I could get away with telling all of my customers to start using Chrome and to drop any other browser of choice so they can use my app, they would laugh. All of my competitors will reap the benefits and continue supporting your favorite browser.
Will is right, though. I appreciate what Microsoft, Adobe and Google are trying to do. Because stateless programming drives me crazy. Too bad I'm stuck with it. The we is stateless and any attempt to make it otherwise is an abomination.