Chrome: Do we need a Google browser?

The reliably excellent Philipp Lenssen at Google Blogoscoped has what appears to be pretty solid confirmation of a Google browser — known currently as Chrome — that is apparently in development at the Web behemoth. Phil got an email that included a comic from Scott McCloud, which describes the new browser in some detail: it includes several features that borrow from Opera (tabs above the address bar, a “home page” that features most-browsed pages and links, etc.), as well as what appears to be a new approach to the browser engine.

According to Ionut Alex. Chitu at the Google Operating System blog, the new browser will isolate each website in its own “sandbox,” so that if something goes wrong with one page it doesn’t crash the whole browser. Among other things, the browser will also have a “privacy mode” (known in some circles as “porn mode”) in which data about the browsing session won’t be recorded on the host PC — something Internet Exploder 8 is also supposed to include — and will include a built-in phishing and malware filter, as well as an enhanced Javascript engine.

Apart from all of these details, however, the thing that really interests me is the larger point made by Ionut, which is that Google clearly sees the browser as a form of operating system — just as I think the Mozilla group does, as I wrote recently after word of the new Ubiquity alpha announced by Aza Raskin, which is a kind of plugin that tries to tie a number of different Web apps together. Much like Mozilla’s “Prism” feature, the Google browser will also allow Web applications to run in a separate window that mimics a desktop application, and will include support for Google’s “Gears” service, which allows offline caching.

Although there will likely be some concerns raised about Google — the prism through which many people see the Internet — developing its own browser (will it build features that render its pages and search results better than others?), I think competition is overall a good thing. I can hardly wait to see some of the other features that Mozilla and Google and Microsoft come out with as the browser becomes a kind of OS for the webtop or “cloud” desktop.

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