Google announces browser via comic book

Google (NASDAQ: GOOG) announced Monday, in the unconventional guise of a 38-page comic book, its new Web browser project, Chrome. According to the comic, drawn by acclaimed comic artist and writer Scott McCloud, the forthcoming open-source browser is based on the open-source rendering engine WebKit, the same engine used by Apple’s Safari browser and Google’s own Android mobile-phone operating system.

According to the comic, which appeared in the mailboxes of some European writers and developers today and was rapidly scanned in and posted under the Creative Commons licensing regime.

The open-source browser, called Chrome, first appeared on an unofficial Google blog in the form of a comic book. “As you may have read in the blogosphere, we hit ‘send’ a bit early on a comic book introducing our new open source browser, Google Chrome,” the company said in the official announcement that appeared late Monday afternoon after the Internet began buzzing about the comic-book site. The blog posting was by Sundar Pichai, vice-president of product management, and Linus Upson, engineering director.

The browser window is “streamlined and simple,” they said, describing in words what can be seen visually at the unofficial blog, Google Blogoscoped. “To most people, it isn’t the browser that matters. It’s only a tool to run the important stuff — the pages, sites and applications that make up the Web. Like the classic Google homepage, Google Chrome is clean and fast. It gets out of your way and gets you where you want to go,” the blog posting said.

Chrome will run Web applications “much better,” they wrote, with tabs kept in an isolated “sandbox,” which will prevent “one tab from crashing into another and provide improved protection from rogue sites.” Better speed and responsiveness are also part of Chrome, which features “a more powerful JavaScript engine, V8, to power the next generation of Web applications that aren’t even possible in today’s browsers.”

The comic describes the Chrome browser as one designed to take advantage of today’s Web, which features rich applications that run within a Web-browser interface. It features a tab-based interface with the tabs on top, above the browser’s URL window and control buttons. According to the comic, the browser features a fast JavaScript engine from “the V8 team” in Denmark. Each browser tab runs as its own process and is sandboxed for stability and security reasons.

The Chrome browser will also feature a default home page that’s automatically constructed by the browser based on the sites you visit and search frequently, presenting your favorite sites in a 3×3 grid on the left side of the screen with a list of frequently-searched sites on the right.

“WebKit is the open source rendering engine we used for Google Chrome,” the comic depicts Google Software Engineer Darin Fisher as saying. “We were impressed how fast it is…. [The Google Android Team] said it uses memory efficiently, was easily adapted to embedded devices, and it was easy for new browser developers to learn to make the code base work. Browsers are complex. One of the things done well with WebKit is that it’s kept simple.”

According to the comic, Google has been testing early development versions of Chrome by using Google’s own catalog of sites to automatically stress-test the browser. Included in the browser will be Google’s existing Google Gears system, which allows browsers to store and access information on local computers, allowing (for example) Google Docs to create and edit documents when a computer isn’t connected to the Internet.

The comic only explicitly mentions Windows Vista, in the context of its security model. It’s unclear what platforms the browser will support when it’s released.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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