Chrome still needs some polish

chromeBugs As pretty much the entire developer world knows by now, Google recently made a splash by introducing their own "home grown" browser called Google Chrome. The browser was introduced as "the browser that does everything right because it doesn't have legacy baggage," and it has largely lived up to its billing. The browser is fast. It's easy on the memory footprint. And it's definitely got Google's minimalist signature all over it.

That said, as I sit here typing this, I'm waiting for Google Chrome to respond. It seems one of my tabs has introduced some nasty JavaScript and completely hosed the entire, well, chrome. That's right. The sin which Chrome was supposed slay (one tab crashing the whole browser) still lives. And that's not the only sin that lives.

In the weeks since Chrome's introduction, I've been using it as my new primary browser (move over Firefox 3 and your continued memory bloat). Over that period, I have come to appreciate the good and the bad with Google's freshman browser effort, and I can definitely report that it has its issues. Not enough to make me stop using Chrome as my primary browsing browser, but enough take some of the shine off Google's glistening browser.

Among the observed problems, here are my top "complaints" (or "ways it could be improved" for you optimists out there):

  1. DNS Resolver is Weak: Don't know why or what this means, but on multiple occasions, sites that wouldn't open in Chrome could be successfully loaded in Firefox. It seems like Chrome has trouble establishing a connection with some sites and just quits trying (providing "UNKNOWN ERROR" as the most helpful of error explanations). This is a pretty big deal since it could mean users hitting this error think your site is inaccessible when, in reality, it may just be inaccessible to Chrome. The problem is magnified by the fact that the "error page" looks just like a normal Chrome 404 page, so it isn't entirely clear Chrome has encountered a problem. Hopefully this is on the top of Chrome's "must be improved" list.
  2. Rendering Not Perfect (or at least not same): This isn't a big deal to users per se, but as a web developer (and a web component vendor) it is rather annoying to have yet another slightly different rendering engine to support. True, Chrome is most like Safari, but it's not identical. That means another set of CSS hacks, JavaScript tricks, and browser testing scripts to manage. And yes, hacks and tricks have already been identified that are required to support Chrome. Thanks Google...
  3. Weak Developer Tools: Again, more of a developer complaint, but Chrome still lacks the powerhouse developer tools Firefox provides (albeit via its add-on market). Chrome does pack some interesting developer oriented tools, but they're not nearly powerful enough to replace Firebug or the Web Developer toolbar.
  4. Inconsistent Plug-in Experience: While this burden really falls on the plug-in vendors, it is annoying that plug-ins like Silverlight and Java don't consistently work in Chrome. Eventually I'm sure these plug-ins will catch-up, but for now, it's hit or miss if the plug-ins you need to browse the web work in Chrome.

What does this all mean? It means Chrome is a "really good" browsing browser, but it's not good enough to be your only browser (yet). You still need Firefox or IE around to load specific sites or perform serious analysis on web pages. A pretty substantial accomplishment for a "brand new" (its roots are quite established, really) browser, so Google should be proud. If I were Mozilla, I'd probably start to reconsider those lunches at Mountain View - Google is definitely poised to kill Firefox popularity in a few years time.

I still plan to use Chrome as my primary browsing browser going forward. It loads faster than any browser out there (from a cold start), and that alone keeps me coming back. I'm also a fan of the new "intelligent" start page and the super-effective "everything bar." In fact, I've grown so used to using the address bar for both search and navigation in Chrome that I cringe when I'm forced to use a separate UI for those tasks in IE, Firefox, and Safari. With a little more time and a little more polish, I'm sure Chrome will really shine and quickly become my primary browser for browsing and developing.

What do you think of Chrome? Have you become a Chrome convert or do think Google's missing the mark?


  • In fact the address bar in Firefox 3 is also smart. I can't fully understand how it works, but sometimes it resolves URLs from just a word (e.g. telerik), sometimes it performs a google search (I think if you type more than one word). You have to set Google as your default search provider, of course. The Chrome address bar experience is quite better, but I'm just saying that this is not a totally missing feature in all other browsers.

  • I've experienced it crashing if I open a new tab and close the tab....try opening gmail in a different tab and then closing it.

  • I gave Chrome a look. Sure it loads faster, but that means little when the thing dies so often. At least it starts up again rather quickly.

    Meanwhile, once started, Firefox stays running all day long. Significantly faster start time is easily achieved by configuring it to check for browser and plug-in updates manually (does it really have to check *every* time you start it?), as well as removing plug-ins you've tried but no longer use.

    I'll probably give Chrome another look after it's next major release. But for now, like the name says, I'm sticking with Firefox.

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