Skip the navigation

Google toots browser birthday horn, ships Chrome 6

'Speed matters,' says Google exec on second birthday of company's browser

September 2, 2010 01:38 PM ET

Computerworld - Google today celebrated Chrome's second birthday by launching the sixth version of its browser for Windows, Mac and Linux.

Chrome 6, which Google released into its "stable" channel -- the upgrade mechanism for the production-quality version -- also included patches for 16 vulnerabilities and another crack at fixing a Windows kernel bug that affected the browser.

"The last couple of years we've been focused on speed," said Brian Rakowski, Chrome's director of product management. "A lot of things have changed in the last two years [in browsers], but the one thing we've learned is that speed matters. It's something Google's always believed in and it resonates with people."

One analyst isn't so sure. "Speed is absolutely important," said Sheri McLeish of Forrester Research. "But it's really just a horse race, with whoever comes out with the latest release generally the fastest."

Google introduced Chrome on Sept. 2, 2008, and set rivals scrambling to match its speed, particularly in JavaScript rendering, and then later, to mimic its minimalist user interface (UI) design.

Chrome 6 is three times faster at parsing JavaScript than the 2008 debut, Rakowski claimed.

"That's a pretty big deal," Rakowski said, "but we have a lot more speed improvements to come."

Hardware acceleration is one performance enhancer that Google is just beginning to show to developers. Rakowski promised end users would see it soon.

Browser hardware acceleration shifts some tasks from a PC's main processor to its graphics processor to boost performance, especially of graphics-intensive chores like rendering video or complex three-dimensional objects. So far, Google has included it only with developer builds of the open-source Chromium project, but the company will begin feeding the feature to Chrome -- first to the browser's dev channel, then as is its normal practice -- to the beta and stable builds.

Chrome for Windows and Mac will both see hardware acceleration, although through different technologies. Rakowski was unsure whether the Linux edition would see the feature as well.

Chrome 6 also sports a minor UI makeover, with some elements shifted -- the bookmark icon has been moved to the right of the address bar -- and others compressed. Chrome now sports a single menu, down from two earlier, that hides all but the most basic browsing command, such as page forward, page backward and page reload.

"Chrome did up the ante," agreed McLeish, "and kept others on their toes. They simplified the user experience, changing the browser interface to be consistent with the Google brand."

Mozilla has redesigned its UI for Firefox 4 to more resemble Chrome's, and Microsoft's Internet Explorer 9 (IE9) will likely take the same path.



Our Commenting Policies