Look out IE, Firefox, Chrome is getting much better

I love Google Chrome. It's faster than fast and I really like the clean, but still helpful, interface. But, since it only runs on Windows and it didn't support extensions, I usually recommend Firefox. Google is making big changes to Chrome though and by the end of summer I may need to rethink my position.

First, while Google has been slow to support Mac OS X and Linux, they are finally getting up to speed. In particular, while the Mac version of Chrome is in no way, shape, or form ready for prime time, hardily a day goes by that Google's not releasing a new test build on the Chromium Mac site. Chrome for Mac isn't there yet, but it you follow it closely you can see it getting better day by day.

Chrome on Linux is also moving forward at a good clip now. I'm running the latest builds on my Ubuntu 9.04 system. In my opinion, it's getting close to beta status, which is to say it mostly works, but you can't trust it for regular work. To my mind, this puts it ahead of the Mac port. Keep your eyes open. I won't be surprised to see a real beta of Chrome on Linux out by the end of May.

In the meantime, if you want to sample Chrome on Linux or Mac OS, but you don't want to deal with the foibles of daily snapshot builds, you can give CrossOver Chromium. This is a one-off version of the Windows Chrome that, thanks to Wine, can run on Macs or Linux PCs.

What may be more important than these ports to Chrome's chances in becoming a truly popular Web browser is that, with the latest developer release, Chrome 2.0.180.0, Chrome finally supports extensions.

This is huge. I can't imagine using a Web browser without vital Web extensions like Xmark's multiple PC bookmarks and password manager and Google toolbar. I'm not the only one. A Web browser without extensions is like a car without air-conditioning on a hot, muggy day. You may get to where you want to go, but you won't like it.

Chrome developer, Aaron Boodman, explained in a blog posting, that "We can now put little bits of UI [User Interface] in the chrome of Chrome, and some of the APIs [Application Programming Interface] are starting to come together. There is still quite a ways to go, but if you're interested in building extensions for Chrome, this might be a good time to start taking a look."

Programmers immediately took Google up on its offer. There are also a handful of simple extensions that can do such things as report, via status-bar icons, if you've received new GMail or any new blog postings have landed in Google Reader.

As these changes mature, I really believe that Chrome is poised to become a major Web browser player by year's end. If you don't believe me, maybe you'll believe Microsoft. The Evil Empire is currently trying to convince the European Union that if they have to bundle Chrome with Windows in Europe, Google and Chrome will grab a monopoly-sized share of the Internet. Not bad for a Web browser that has less than a 1% market share at the moment eh?

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