The real reason Google is making Chrome

The real Labor Day storm wasn't Gustav, it was Google's announcement, by comic book no less, that it was releasing its own Web browser: Chrome.

So why is Google doing this? First, off let me tell what it's not. It's not an attempt to kill off Internet Explorer or Firefox. Google just renewed its partnership with Mozilla and that deal, which runs through 2011 accounts for 85% of Mozilla's income.

So what is it then? There are five reasons why Google is doing this, and, if you read the comic book closely - yes, I'm serious - and you know technology you can see the reasons for yourself. These, in turn, lead to what I think is Google's real goal for Chrome.

First, Google wants a browser where its applications like Gmail, Google Docs, it's just introduced Google Video will run as quickly as possible. To do this, Google is introducing a new multi-threaded JVM (JavaScript Virtual Machine), V8.

What V8 does is act as a JavaScript compiler rather as an interpreter, which is how most JVMs work. Anyone who's done a lick of programming knows what this means: compiled programs run much, sometimes as much as orders of magnitude, faster than interpreted programs.

Google also wants a browser that can run multiple applications at once. As it is, the mainstream browsers are single-threaded, single process programs. So, for example, if one JavaScript-based program is slow or hung, everything on the browser runs slowly or not at all. In Chrome each tab has not only its own thread but its own process. By using multiple threads and processes, each browser tab runs at full speed even if one tab's application freezes up.

Next, Google wants a browser that can handle large Web-based applications. To make that happen, Chrome includes better memory garbage collection for both its Web tabs and for its V8 JVM. The net result is a Web browser that takes up a bit more memory when you first run it, but doesn't have the memory leakage problems that cause other browsers to slow down the longer you run them as they slowly but surely eat up all available memory.

If you're going to be running a lot of Google applications, Google knows that you want to be sure that your work is secure. To help with that, Google is sandboxing tabs. Sandboxing is a tried and true security measure that gives an application, or in this case, a Web tab, only the permissions it needs to run. Google will be using a relatively strict permissions system, where a tab requires express permission before it can do anything with data on your system.

Finally, Google is using WebKit, the Apple/KDE-based open-source Web browser engine. WebKit is also what Google is using for its Android mobile phone system.

WebKit is best known for being small and efficient. That's one of the reasons why it's in Android, Nokia uses it in some of its mobile devices and Apple uses it in the iPhone.

Now, what do you get when you put this all together? You get Google designing not so much a traditional Web browser, but a Web application platform. And, it's not just a PC Web application platform, it's one that will work equally well, without any changes on mobile devices like the increasing popular mini-laptops and MIDs (mobile Internet devices).

You see, killing Internet Explorer isn't really Chrome's goal. No, killing Microsoft Office is Chrome's goal.

Chrome is open source. Its good features will soon be adopted by Firefox and other open-source browsers. Then, running on top of Windows, Mac OS, or Linux, Chrome, and the open-source browsers that take up its features, will provide the gateway on PCs and other computing devices to fast, efficient and safe Web-based applications.

Great free Web applications or pricey Office applications... Hmmm... Ballmer and the rest of the Microsoft crew should be worried. Very worried.

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Copyright © 2008 IDG Communications, Inc.

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