Chrome: Worthy, Largely Unexciting? [UPDATED]

Published on September 3, 2008
by John Paczkowski

Google’s Chrome browser has been available for just about a day and the first reviews are slowly beginning to hit the Web. They’re largely positive, although in that “worthy, but largely unexciting” sort of way typically reserved for new Microsoft (MSFT) operating systems.

Our own Walt Mossberg, who was the only reviewer to test Chrome for a week, found it to be a “smart, innovative browser that, in many common scenarios, will make using the Web faster, easier and less frustrating.” But not necessarily always faster than its rivals. Wrote Mossberg: “Despite Google’s claims that Chrome is fast, it was notably slower in my tests at the common task of launching Web pages than either Firefox or Safari.” He noted as well that this first version of the browser is “rough around the edges and lacks some common browser features Google plans to add later.”

Like most reviewers, eWeek’s Jim Rapoza had a just a short few hours to play with Chrome, but that was time enough to impress him. “Right now, based on [a] short amount of testing, Google Chrome may just be the most impressive new Web browser that I have ever seen,” Rapoza wrote. “While there are still a few beta hiccups, much of the experience of using Google Chrome just feels like the way that a browser should work.”

Gizmodo, too, likes what it’s seen so far in Google’s (GOOG) first browser. “Our first impression of Chrome is that it’s nice and fast,” Associate Editor Adam Frucci declared. “There’s very little lag opening pages and the entire interface feels very streamlined. Opening it is insanely fast, it’s noticeably faster to get running than either [Internet Explorer or Firefox].

Over at Technologizer, Harry McCracken says Chrome, while perhaps not as “uncommonly fast” as Google would have us believe, seems pretty zippy. He misses Firefox 3’s “Awesome Bar,” though, and notes some potential issues with the browser’s UI. “Google’s definitely trying to clear out clutter and preserve as much space as possible for the Web site you’re on rather than the browser UI–which is both pleasing and kinda ironic given that the name ‘Chrome’ comes from designer-speak for browser UI elements,” noted McCracken. “The tabs sit up in what’s normally the Windows window bar; as far as I can tell, Chrome doesn’t show you the title of the page you’re on, which is usually what sits up there. Potentially confusing? In theory, at least.”

BBC technology correspondent Rory Cellan-Jones, who admittedly had but a harried hour-long demo on which to base his assessment of Chrome, was decidedly unimpressed by it. “Overall, the browser does not feature anything that will blow the socks off a Firefox user–and persuading the mass of Web users, many of whom will be unaware of which browser they use, to go and download Chrome will not be easy,” Cellan-Jones predicted.

Finally, over at Ars Technica, Ryan Paul says that Chrome is surprisingly polished for a browser that’s still a bit feature-light. “Google has kicked off Chrome with a strong product,” Paul wrote. “Although the software feels polished and robust, the early stage of development is clearly revealed in its lack of support for advanced features like RSS integration and full bookmark management. If Google continues to invest in moving Chrome forward and manages to build up some community involvement, though, the new browser could quickly become a shiny new contender in the browser market.”

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