all that jazz

james' blog about scala and all that jazz

Chrome - a new rich client platform?

Just when I finally got a mobile device that was (just) powerful enough to use most websites without pain, what does Google do? They bring out a new browser, which raises the bar for the minimum requirements needed to run websites. Ok, sure, there doesn't currently exist any websites that take advantage of Chromes performance. But I think you'll find that Google will start releasing enhanced versions of their apps targeted at Chrome, and, if Google are lucky and play their cards right, people will flock to switch to Chrome in order to use the cool new features of the Chrome version of their apps. And then what use will my the browser on my iPhone be?

But the thing to note about what Google have done here, is that they have created an improved new rich client platform for the web. As a response to the difficulties of using JavaScript and HTML to create rich client interfaces on the web, Adobe released Flex and Sun released JavaFX. These technologies have a chance at success due to the existing widespread availability of Flash and Java, respectively. But what they have against them is that they don't play well with the existing web ecosystem. For example, a search engine can't index a Flex or JavaFX site. However, it can index a well written AJAX site. The back button doesn't work on Flex and JavaFX sites, but again, can work in a well written AJAX site. Copying and pasting URL's is a similar issue.

Google have addressed the exact same problem that Adobe and Sun have tried to address, but Google has taken the opposite approach. Rather than rewrite the protocols and standards used in web based applications, they've beefed up the client to make better use of the existing protocols and standards. If V8 is really up to standard performance wise, who knows, you may find soon when visiting YouTube with Chrome, that you don't need a flash player, the videos are rendered by JavaScript1. You may also find something similar for Google Street View.

1 Maybe this is a little far fetched, but, if they were to write some JavaScript extensions, which they can do now, and everyone would love because then they can ditch Adobe and Flash, it just may be possible.

Google Chrome

When I first heard about Google Chrome, I was very skeptical. Why does this world need another browser to contend with in producing cross browser websites? If open source is what you want, what's wrong with Firefox? So I had to read the Google Chrome comic, and I must admit, it has got me excited. But there is one feature in there that has got me concerned.

Google has suffered a large amount of criticism over the years in relation to privacy. From keeping information on your searches indefinitely, to reading your email, and most recently, getting too close for some with Street View.

One feature that intrigued me in Google Chrome is its location bar searching. It's very cool, it goes above and beyond the recent trend of other browsers to offer past url's based on title searches, it supports full text searching of pages you've visited. But, it also offers suggestions of popular pages that you've never visited. This is cool and convenient, but what does it mean? Everytime you type something into your address bar in Google Chrome, those words get sent to Google. This means that even without using Google's search directly, they can still see what you are typing into your address bar, and most users won't realise it. While that scares me a little, I'm more interested in seeing how the critics will respond to that, are Google up for another onslaught of bad publicity over privacy?