Back in September of 2008 web browsing was basically restricted to Internet Explorer (IE), Mozilla Firefox, a legion of IE based offshoots and Safari, in particular on the Mac. Things were not bad, but boy things became so much better after Google introduced Chrome on that fateful September 3 in 2008. But over the last four years, Chrome has become much more than a web browser, it is not only the sole entity that binds an user’s Google life together on any device, but Google’s vision is taking to places where no operating system has gone before. Also Read - Google Chrome lets you check leaked passwords and fix them with this simple tool
But why was Chrome so popular?
Actually, part of the Chrome’s charm is its simplicity. Google adopted the same spartan UI design that has held the Google homepage in good stead. It eliminated separate fields for entering the name of a website or a search query. It introduced an unified bar, called the Omni-Bar which basically would handle both things. It would integrated Google instant search features and would start offering options as the user typed a query.
Internet Explorer had a long maligned history with viruses and Chrome was ‘like a glass of cold water to someone in hell’. One of the most important stability issues Google addressed was sandboxed tabs. Basically, each and every tab was its own app, and if anything would crash then it would be the faulty tab, rather than the whole web browser. This also meant if one had fraudulent software running on one tab, it could not steal information from another tab. Each tab became a jail of sorts, this took browser security to a whole new level. Having said that, Chrome still needs to improve its malware blocking skills, it is not in the same ballpark as Internet Explorer.
Google was quick to adopt the latest web standards and Chrome soon became the master of new technologies like HTML5, which places it perfectly, as Flash dies a slow death on the internet.
Another reason for Chrome’s success was its much loved privacy feature called Incognito. This was a secure browsing mode which left no trace behind.
Enter the Mac!
Initially when Chrome was launched, it was only available for Windows XP and Windows Vista. There was no version for OS X and Linux, Google was missing out on a large user base. Google took over a year to change this situation. It released the a beta version of Chrome for OS X in December 2009 and with the release of Chrome 5.0 in May 2010, the web browser was supported by OS X, Windows and Linux.
At the time it may not have been a big deal, but as the years have passed by, and Apple’s MacBook Pro and MacBook Air notebooks have become amongst the most popular notebooks in the world, the decision to bring Chrome to OS X was quite an intelligent one.
Google’s break-neck speed of updates really pushed other web browsers to improve their update cycles. Mozilla Firefox is a pretty good example, but the biggest push has come from Microsoft with Internet Explorer. IE on Windows 8 is built on HTML 5 base and HTML 5 is the very essence of Windows 8.
Google was also not shy borrowing ideas from popular web browsers like Firefox. In December 2010, it launched the Chrome Web Store, which became a haven for Chrome web apps and extensions. This enabled users to add functionality to Chrome, but this was part of bigger gambit on Google’s part.
Sunder Pichai of Google saw a future where the end-user will be basically use the web browser for everything and instead of having an OS powered by expensive hardware, one could have an cloud powered OS which would work in lock-step with basic hardware and Google’s advanced cloud back-end. The culmination of this though process was Chrome OS.
The idea was that on the basis of Google’s cloud, Google could create a faster, more secure and updated operating system for consumers which would also work on cheap hardware. Google would keep the ghosts out of the OS, as it ran on their back-end, while the user completed his/her tasks in the browser.
Google is continuously improving this experience and it adding capabilities one expects of a full-fledged OS including windowed work environments, but this gambit is yet to pay-off. However, in the future when bandwidth levels are adequate this could very well turn into a feasible solution, so it will be interesting how Google handles Chrome OS.
Chrome is your Google world
One of the reasons for the popularity of Chrome is that the user can log-in to his Gmail account on a Chrome web-browser on any computer and have his personalized Chrome browser appear almost instantly. This is the beauty of working inside the Google ecosystem. One’s browser history, tabs, YouTube, search history, Google+, Google Drive, Gmail and Google Docs can be accessed through a singular gateway, that is Chrome. One just needs to log-in and boom, everything just works like it did at home.
With a browser extension one can enable offline documents in Google Drive. One can save personalized keyboard shortcuts and if one has multiple Google accounts there is no problem, it will open separate windows for separate Google accounts.
If you have invested in the Google ecosystem then, Chrome is the web browser you already use, but if you love Chrome, then you will end up investing in Google. Microsoft is doing a similar thing with Windows 8 and all of its properties, but Google has already achieved this and it definitely has a head start over Microsoft.
The last piece in the four year long Chrome Jigsaw puzzle was mobile. For the last few years people could not understand why Google did not the name Android browser, Chrome. Google did that with good reason, as it was not Chrome. While it shared many components of Chrome, it was not Chrome.
On February 7, 2012, Google changed this and released Chrome beta for Android 4.0. It introduced the scorching web browsing speed desktop users were aware of to mobile users. But also it combined this with a downright beautiful and elegant swipe UI and seamless desktop synchronization.
With the launch of Android Jelly Bean, Chrome was made the default browser on the Nexus 7 tablet. The consensus was that Chrome for mobile was the best browser out there.
One day later, Google went ahead and announced an iOS version of Chrome for the iPhone and the iPad. This browser shared many benefits of its Android cousin like the swipe UI and desktop synchronization, but due to Apple’s draconian policies on the App Store, it did not use Google’s custom engine, but shared the engine from Safari on iOS. This meant that in-terms of pure-speed Safari still had the leg up on Chrome. Apple is unlikely to change this policy, but due to its brilliant synchronization and UI, we believe speed is a minor compromise.
Google has already announced that it is building a Metro version of its popular web browser for Windows 8 and Windows RT, so it is quite feasible that we might end up seeing a version for Windows Phone 8 as well.
The World’s most popular web browser
As of June 2012, Google Chrome became the most popular web browser in the world with 32.76 percent usage according to StatsCounter. This ended Internet Explorer’s long reign as the most popular web browser in the world. While no other independent authority has claimed or reiterated Chrome’s popularity, the fact the Google cites the StatsCounter statistic and Microsoft has kept shush about it is quite telling.
At the end of the day one has to hand it to Google. With Chrome it did not only make web browsing more simpler, but also brought a more secure and a more personalized experience that worked across an array of devices in a simplistic manner.
It also pushed competing browsers to step up their game to the benefit of the consumer. If Google has managed this only in four years, one can only be positive about its future.