Google opens Web app store, revs up Chrome

Claims Crankshaft addition to JavaScript engine boosts start-up, page load speeds

As expected, Google launched its Chrome Web Store today, offering users of its browser free and paid Web apps.

The search giant also boasted of speed improvements in the roughest builds of the Chrome browser.

Currently the Web app store is available only to U.S. users, but the company said it would expand to other countries and support foreign currencies early next year.

Among a glut of free Web apps -- software designed to run in the browser using HTML, JavaScript and CSS -- were a handful of paid apps, almost all of them games. Prices ranged from $1.99 to a high of $4.99,

The Chrome Web Store supports only Google Chrome, which is required to install apps, a message stated when Computerworld accessed the online market using Apple's Safari and Mozilla's Firefox.

During a presentation hosted online at its YouTube subsidiary, Google also touted new speed improvements to its browser and claimed that more than 120 million people are now using Chrome.

"Speed is what people love most about Chrome, and we're always working to make the browser even faster," said Sundar Pichai, a vice president of product management, in a blog post today. "We've ... overhauled V8, Chrome's JavaScript engine [and] it now runs complex JavaScript programs up to twice as fast as before."

In an accompanying post to the Chromium blog -- Chromium is the name of the open-source project that feeds into Chrome -- a pair of Google engineers outlined the addition of Crankshaft to Chrome's existing V8 JavaScript engine.

"By using aggressive optimizations, Crankshaft dramatically improves the performance of compute-intensive JavaScript applications -- often by more than a factor of two," said Kevin Millikin and Florian Schneider.

The pair also claimed that Chrankshaft cuts Web application start-up times of Gmail and other JavaScript-intensive apps and inproves Chrome's page load performance by as much as 12% for pages with "significant amounts of JavaScript code."

"This is the biggest performance improvement since we launched Chrome in 2008," said Milikin and Schneider.

Crankshaft has been added to the so-called "canary" build of Chrome, and will later land on the more reliable "dev," "beta" and "stable" versions in that order.

Users can switch to the canary channel, which is available only for Windows, by downloading that edition from Google's site.

Chrome Web Store
Google launched its Chrome Web Store today, with free and paid apps.

Gregg Keizer covers Microsoft, security issues, Apple, Web browsers and general technology breaking news for Computerworld. Follow Gregg on Twitter at @gkeizer or subscribe to Gregg's RSS feed . His e-mail address is gkeizer@computerworld.com.

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