FAQ: Google polishes up its new browser, Chrome

Is it a Chrome-tastic browser, or just another app?

Google ended one of the Web's longest-running rumors today when it released Chrome, a Web browser it's been working on for the last two years.

But while Tuesday's news was all over the Web -- from Computerworld to just about every other technology site and blog that had a keyboard to shake -- the debut is only part of the story.

How, for instance, will Google's push into building a browser affect Windows, Microsoft's golden goose? Will other browser makers just roll over and play dead? Hint: don't count on it.

Those questions, like the ones that follow, simply scratch the surface. We're certain to revisit Chrome and Google's plans for it, in future FAQs. But this one will get us going.

Where do I get Chrome? You can download the beta from Google's Chrome page, which will only offer the download if rendered on a Windows XP or Vista machine, or in a virtual machine on a Mac or Linux running XP or Vista.

Chrome, a 7MB download, is currently available only for XP and Vista.

What languages? Out of the gate, Chrome is available in 39 languages, including English, Chinese, German, Japanese, Russian, Spanish.

But nothing for the Mac? What's up with that? All we know at this point is what Google has disclosed, which isn't much. "We're hard at work building versions for Mac and Linux," the company's heads of engineering and product management said on Monday when they confirmed that Google would be shipping Chrome today.

However, Google is collecting e-mail addresses from Mac users who want to be notified when a Mac OS X-specific version is available.

Chrome will run on a Mac using Apple's dual-boot Boot Camp utility, or in a virtual machine created with the likes of Parallels Inc.'s Parallels Desktop for Mac or VMware's Fusion.

How about Chrome for Linux? You're even more out of luck than people running Steve Jobs' operating system. Although Google's also gathering e-mail addresses from Linux users who want to be pinged when a version is ready, Chrome's developer notes spell out some bad news: "There is no [emphasis in original] working Chromium-based browser on Linux," says the build documentation, in red type within a bordered box, no less.

That must mean they're serious about "no" meaning, well, "no."

Should I bother? Computerworld's Barbara Krasnoff came away with mixed feelings, but in the end, she recommended that people try Chrome. "At the very least, it will offer a new take on the browsing experience," she said.

And hey, it's free.

(Attention, all hands: Our own Preston Gralla should have his take posted on the Computerworld site soon.)

What's under the hood? WebKit, the same open-source rendering engine used by Apple's Safari, also powers Chrome. And Google execs also credited Mozilla's Firefox with providing some unspecified "components" inside Chrome.

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