Friday 25 September 2009

All that Glitters is Chrome

I doff my hat to Google - at a time when I thought computer technology was stuck in the 1980s, they are really pushing the boundaries. This week, Google have released a plug-in for Internet Explorer that turns Microsoft's browser into Google Chrome! Google programmers figured it would be less work to implement Chrome (or more specifically the WebKit engine -- on which the Safari and Chrome browsers are based) into IE than to have to keep writing around the bugs in IE's implementation of HTML. Furthermore, the browser within a browser doesn't create a performance bottleneck: independent tests boast that Chrome Frame is ten times faster than IE ! Microsoft were not impressed.

So how does this look for Google's plans of world domination? In the short term it probably won't make much difference to corporate computers. It probably won't make much difference to millions of non-geeks. At least initially. But it makes a difference to Google, who are allegedly about to pull the plug on IE6 support in YouTube. Web developers of the world will bow down and worship the Chromeliness of Google when IE6 is terminated.

But Chrome Frame is not about terminating Internet Explorer 6, nor really about terminating Microsoft. It is about HTML5, which is poorly supported in IE8, but which Google sees as the Platform of the Future. This is where Google are really pushing the boundaries, using a well-developed standard to do things that nobody's ever done before. When Google Maps came out, it was miles better than the competition: it used Ajax for image loading, and you could move around the map easier. Every other map service followed. When they added route finding, and you could drag the small circle to change your journey, I was seriously impressed (there is a lot of Javascript in there).

Google's clever peeps have realised that HTML5 will let them (and you) do things that you never realised you needed to do ... but once you've seen them in action you won't be able to survive without them. HTML5 opens the door to some really impressive graphical applications (like these, and especially this!) Just as you can't survive without Google Search and Google Maps today, so you'll crave their next thing, which requires HTML5 in your browser and you'll do anything - even installing Chrome Frame in IE8 - to get it. The world will be a different place.