New Google Chrome is a speed demon

Google launched Chrome 3.0 today as the browser’s engineering director set ambitious goals to double its market share within 12 months, then double it again within 24.

Chrome 3.0, which is available only for Windows, moved from beta to what Google dubs its “stable” development channel, meaning that the browser is suitable for use by the general public, not just developers or testers willing to put up with crashes or bugs.

According to Google, Chrome 3.0 is 25 per cent faster in rendering JavaScript than Chrome 2, which debuted in May, and 150 per cent faster than the original Chrome that launched a little more than a year ago.

Other improvements Google touted Tuesday on a company blog included a revamped, cleaner New Tabs page that resembles those found in Apple’s Safari and Opera Software’s Opera, and additional support for HTML 5, particularly the “video” tag.

Google also patched a pair of security vulnerabilities before shoving Chrome out the door.

Google ranked one of the flaws as a “medium” threat, the other as “high,” and said both could be used by hackers to attack unwary visitors to malicious or already-compromised Web sites using rigged JavaScript or a malformed SVG image file.

At the same time that Google debuted Chrome 3.0, its top engineering executive spelled out aggressive goals for the company’s browser.

“If at the two-year birthday we’re not at least 5 per cent [market share], I will be exceptionally disappointed,” Linus Upson, Chrome engineering director, told the Reuters news service today.

“And if at the three-year birthday we’re not at 10 per cent, I will be exceptionally disappointed.”

Although Upson was not available late Tuesday, a Google spokesman confirmed his comments to Reuters.

That would put Chrome on a steep market share climb; the latest data from Web metrics company Net Applications put Google’s browser at almost 3 per cent during August.

One analyst thought the two-year plan to boost Chrome to 10 per cent was doable.

“It’s an achievable goal if they hit on all cylinders,” said Ray Valdes of Gartner Research. “Google has a massive footprint on the Internet landscape, but they’ll have to do more than what they’ve been doing. They’ll have to take on multiple initiatives.”

Related blog by Preston Gralla

Chrome 3 is finally out, but the first reaction you might get when loading it is, “So what?”

Yes, Chrome is fast. But it doesn’t have much going for it beyond speed.

There’s no doubt that Chrome is a speed demon. Pages load faster than any browser I’ve yet used, including the new version of Opera.

But there’s more to a browser than speed. And that’s where Chrome falls short.

Google uses the same stripped-down design philosophy for Chrome that it does with the Google home page. For Web search, that’s a good thing. For a browser, it’s not. Where, you might wonder, is an RSS reader? Nowhere to be found.

How about add-ins, like for Firefox?No, they’re not here, either. Neither are features such as Web slices that you’ll find in Internet Explorer 8.

Chrome 3 does add a few new things, though. The page that appears when you open a new tab has been redesigned so that it’s more customizable, for example by hiding some parts of the page, or displaying frequently visited Web sites in a list rather than in thumbnails. You can see the new page, below.

The Omnibox — the powered-up address bar that’s called the Awesome Bar in Firefox — gets a few new trick as well.

As before, it does double-duty as an address bar and search box. In Chrome 3, it’s been tweaked so that icons appear next to the list of sites that appear, making it easier to know whether each is a search result, bookmark, suggested site, or from your history list, as you can see below.

Chrome 3.0 also supports HTML 5. And you can now apply themes to it. Below is a small selection of the available themes.

That’s pretty much all there is, though — if you want details, check out the Official Google Blog announcement.

With such a feature-thin browser, Chrome isn’t likely to gain many adherents. And if it’s a sign of what Google has planned for the Chrome operating system, it doesn’t bode well for that release, either.


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