Google Chrome from a business and “techie” view

If Google will really deliver what it promises with its new Chrome browser plans (Google blog) (personally, I have no doubts about this), the line between web applications and standalone applications will further blur and hereby enable a better, seamless user experience and probably a whole new class of powerful applications.

Some thoughts:

  • From a technical point of view, Google’s Chrome will be the WebOS others have been dreaming about for a long time already. It basically offers memory management, process management, markup renderers, a GUI and a VM with a JIT compiler (V8).
  • It will finally unify the ideas behind the WebOS, “The network is the computer”, cloud computing, SaaSRIA and virtualization.
  • Actually, it’s astonishing it took so long for someone to come up with something like this. The concepts as such are not new at all, but the combination of all these different concepts is what makes the thing cool. It’s typical for a good idea that, once you’ve heard of it, you almost can’t imagine living without it anymore, as it seems all so natural.
  • Detachable tabs on top: Not a new idea either. For example, I remember that the Fluxbox window manager actually offered the same feature back in 2001/2002 (or even earlier) already. I remember it as I used it myself too (and I liked it a lot, despite of its “suboptimal” scalability), as illustrated in these animations:
    Fluxbox Window Grouping Feature (2002) 1/2 (small animated GIF screenshot)
    Fluxbox Window Grouping Feature (2002) 2/2 (large animated GIF screenshot)  

    I guess there were other window managers and GUIs that had the same features even before fluxbox had them.

  • With this move, Google will be gradually taking control and power away from traditional Desktop OS manufacturers such as Microsoft and Apple. Being open source, Chrome and its components like V8 will be the “Linux of the web” and thus a big threat particularly to Microsoft that still generates most of its revenue with Windows and standalone applications like Office.
  • The ongoing process, that (desktop) operating systems are becoming commodities more and more, will further be accelerated. Will there be an “unsacred” alliance between Apple and Microsoft to fight these tendencies or will they shift their businesses further into the “web” application (SaaS), content (music, videos, TV, e-books, multimedia etc.) and lifestyle (design, hardware, ethics) spaces?
  • Of course that’s in the best interest of Google (as their business is data/content and webapps/SaaS). I wouldn’t call this move an evil move, but it’s definitely not a friendly move in the eyes of the competition.
  • From a “techie” point of view, this move will enable many interesting applications in the future. As the framework will be open source, the dev community will potentially be as vital and dynamic as in other high-profile OSS projects (like Mozilla, Linux)
  • What about the Mozilla, Safari, IE, Opera camps? They will have to adapt themselves to the concept and try to top it. IE (and perhaps also Safari) might try to take the “embrace and extend” route.
  • With the birth of the WebOS, there will probably be a need of an open, standardized webapp GUI toolkit and webapp GUI guidelines soon (and there’s a big potential for conflicts here). Who will provide these? What will be the roles of the current big players? Also, standardized, open specs for user authentication and user data exchange will be required – here, there’s already some progress with OpenID, OAuth etc.
  • I like that Google communicates its plans using an easy-to-follow cartoon and that they give credit to individual internal and external contributors and players (though I assume there were much more people involved in the process than those mentioned)
  • The thing that disappoints me a bit is that when talking about V8, they only talk about targeting JavaScript. I’d prefer a more generic approach providing a VM and JIT for various languages (similarly to a CLI VM – why not re-use/extend Mono, for example?). Maybe that’s what V8 actually provides and they just don’t emphasize it at this point in order to not confuse or upset end-users, devs, big players etc..
  • Taking a look at the big picture, it seems that there’s a very pragmatic driver behind this whole development: It’s the laziness of us end-users (just as a fact, not meant in a negative sense – being “lazy” is usually quite rational). Or in other words: The information takes the line of the least resistance. And so far, that line for the “Network OS” happens to be the web, i.e. basically HTTP, despite of its known shortcomings.

[UPDATE 20080902: Corrected a typo. And here’s a statement regarding the Google Chrome news by John Lilly, CEO of Mozilla Corp.]