Sometimes, using Windows does have its advantages. For instance, not having to wait before I could try Chrome. I didn’t get to be excited about software releases since I switched to mostly using Windows again, so this is a very nice change of pace. And who would have thought, that out of nothing a new web browser would appear, that actually does make a difference.
Even the installation made a nice impression, effortlessly importing my Firefox settings (for once this is not a mess) and even asking me if I would like to switch the default Google search to something else (nice touch).
The interface is definitely one of the slickest I have seen in a while, and one of the most consequent applications of the “less is more” mantra. There is not much, but what is there feels insanely smooth and polished. The titlebar is particularly elegant, with the integrated tabs. In fullscreen, the titlebar collapses and the tabs touch the screen edge, creating an OS-X menu-like effect with Fitt’s law benefits. Mostly it’s about the little touches though, like instant bookmark saving, being able to open the first autocomplete entry without scrolling down, not getting the dropdown cluttered with huge URLs I never typed in the first place. The homepage does not feel like a useless gimmick, but actually fits very well into the overall design. All in all it feels like an extremely well designed piece of software.
Equally impressive however has been the speed. It is hard to believe how light the application feels, and everything from starting the browser, over switching tabs, to loading pages feels perfectly responsive. This honestly beats every text editor I currently have installed (with the possible exception of Notepad), and it’s a bit of a mystery to me how this is even possible. Certainly WebKit has a large part in it.
Speaking of WebKit, it has turned into a very impressive engine. Not long ago I didn’t expect that it would ever get close to Gecko before Gecko would close the performance gap, but now I believe that I was probably wrong. Every time I tested WebKit recently it has impressed me with its accuracy on even the most complicated sites (and sites which I never tested for it), while still being lightning fast. Add to this advanced features like multiple CSS backgrounds or rounded borders (I have to say though, that the latter look much smoother in Firefox 3), and I got very interested in seriously trying a WebKit based browser. Now with Chrome I am certain that WebKit will establish itself as a serious alternative to Gecko, and I’m curious to see how this will play out. Mozilla might have to kick in a gear if they intend to keep the lead. 🙂
So far I am very impressed, even more so than I expected to be impressed, and unless further testing reveals some glaring deficits, I am very certain that Chrome will be a big hit (hopefully not just eating from Firefox marketshare, but also from Microsoft). This is the first time I have been so excited about a browser since the first releases of
Phoenix Firebird Firefox.