Google unveils Chrome 3.0, touts 25% speed gain

Google launched Chrome 3.0 today as the browser's engineering director set ambitious goals to double its market share within 12 months, then double it again within 24.

Chrome 3.0, which is available only for Windows, moved from beta to what Google dubs its "stable" development channel, meaning that the browser is suitable for use by the general public, not just developers or testers willing to put up with crashes or bugs.

According to Google, Chrome 3.0 is 25% faster in rendering JavaScript than Chrome 2, which debuted in May, and 150% faster than the original Chrome that launched a little more than a year ago.

Other improvements Google touted Tuesday on a company blog included a revamped, cleaner New Tabs page that resembles those found in Apple's Safari and Opera Software's Opera, and additional support for HTML 5, particularly the "video" tag.

Google also patched a pair of security vulnerabilities before shoving Chrome out the door. Google ranked one of the flaws as a "medium" threat, the other as "high," and said both could be used by hackers to attack unwary visitors to malicious or already-compromised Web sites using rigged JavaScript or a malformed SVG image file.

At the same time that Google debuted Chrome 3.0, its top engineering executive spelled out aggressive goals for the company's browser. "If at the two-year birthday we're not at least 5% [market share], I will be exceptionally disappointed," Linus Upson, Chrome engineering director, told the Reuters news service today. "And if at the three-year birthday we're not at 10%, I will be exceptionally disappointed."

Although Upson was not available late Tuesday, a Google spokesman confirmed his comments to Reuters.

That would put Chrome on a steep market share climb; the latest data from Web metrics company Net Applications put Google's browser at almost 3% during August.

One analyst thought the two-year plan to boost Chrome to 10% was doable.

"It's an achievable goal if they hit on all cylinders," said Ray Valdes of Gartner Research. "Google has a massive footprint on the Internet landscape, but they'll have to do more than what they've been doing. They'll have to take on multiple initiatives."

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One of those initiatives is already in motion: Google struck a deal with Sony to put Chrome on the computer maker's Vaio line, a move Google confirmed two weeks ago.

Another, said Valdes, is Google's plans to port Chrome to the Mac OS and Linux, efforts that are ongoing. Mac and Linux versions are under development, but neither has been released in a stable edition. The latest Mac version, designated, for instance, has remained in Google's "dev" channel since June, indicating its not even ready for official beta testing.

"Having Chrome on Linux of Mac is not about numbers and market share," said Valdes. "It's about credibility and getting Chrome in the hands of more technology influencers."

Google is also trying to leverage its dominance in search to push Chrome, noted Valdes. When users running Microsoft Internet Explorer 6, an eight-year-old browser that even Microsoft wishes would go away, use Google's search engine, they sometimes see an offer to switch to Chrome.

"Five percent by this time next year is attainable," Valdes said. "But they have to step up their game."

Chrome 3.0 for Windows can be downloaded from Google's Web site.

Copyright © 2009 IDG Communications, Inc.

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