Yesterday Google made the the beta version of the Chrome Web browser available for Mac and Linux users. This is almost exactly a year after the browser was launched (in beta) for Windows. Why the long delay? Nobody knows. It's very likely the case that Google was concentrating its efforts at aiming at Microsoft's Internet Explorer browser, which has been the bane of many Web developers with its quirky non-standard Microsofty way of rendering code.
A year ago, when Chrome was only available for computers running Windows, it seemed like an oversight to many. At the time Windows was still the dominant OS, but it wasn't quite as popular as it once was, owing to the resurgence of the Mac OS and a significant number of users who prefer to use Linux. Even more curious is that Chrome was built on a code base that is native to both Mac and Linux called Webkit -- the open-source browser code that is the foundation for Apple's Safari browser.
The advantage to Google Chrome is that it comes with a Java script engine that's optimized for Google web apps like Gmail, Google Voice, Wave, Docs and Spreadsheet. All Google's tweaking to both the Webkit code and the new Java script engine has made for a very snappy browser that only Windows users were able to enjoy until yesterday.
So really, that's Chrome's main feature: it's fast -- it starts up fast and it renders pages fast. It not only makes Google sites upload faster, it makes browsing almost any site faster. Other features include a simplified interface in which Google has dropped the search bar found in other browsers in favor of a single field that can be used for both search and web addresses. This is probably a smart move since research has shown that most users are confused about the difference between typing an address and searching for something.
Actually the same research shows that a lot of users don't know the difference between a search engine and a web browser.
Chrome also opens links in new tabs rather than new windows. Another thing you can do with Chrome is change the theme, which isn't something anyone is likely to want to do any time soon since the themes available right now are UGLY.
Should you change your default browser to Chrome? It couldn't hurt, Chrome makes moving all your bookmark information and even history from other browsers pretty easy so it's not a big deal to switch. It can't hurt to give it a test drive at least, and if Safari and Firefox seem too slow for you, it might be worth it. But don't expect it to be life-changing -- it's just a browser after all.
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