It’s been a busy week for browser vendors. Microsoft has been busy patching IE, Mozilla released Firefox 3.6, and now Google has produced Chrome 4.0. The browser is available from the Chrome website or you can update an existing installation by clicking the tool icon, selecting About Google Chrome, and following the update instructions.
Chrome’s come a long way since it was introduced in October 2008. The browser has grabbed more than 5% of the global market share and it’s already in its fourth edition. Although Google has a reputation for keeping products in a long-term beta phase, Chrome version number increases every five months on average. The cynic in me thinks it’s a marketing ploy to overtake Firefox and catch up with Safari. But does anyone care about browser version numbers?
Cosmetically, little has changed between Chrome 3 and 4. The browser has retained its clean, minimal interface and its reputation for speed. There are two major new features:
1. Bookmark Synchronization
If you’ve got a Google Account (who hasn’t?), Chrome will upload your bookmarks to the web. You can access them via a Google Docs folder or synchronize them with any other installation of the browser. As far as I’m aware, Chrome’s the first browser to offer this facility without a plugin.
Extensions were supported in version 3 but you needed to add a command line parameter to the Chrome shortcut. Version 4 enables extensions for everyone and almost 2,000 are available from https://chrome.google.com/extensions.
Chrome does not have the same quantity or quality of add-ons offered by Firefox, but I suspect it may lure some users away from Mozilla’s browser. However, there are relatively few extensions for developers; possibly because Chrome does not offer the same level of integration enjoyed by Firefox add-on coders.
Other goodies to watch out for:
- Improved HTML5 support.
- Full 100/100 ACID3 pass. Chrome now matches Safari and Opera. Firefox 3.6 scores 94/100 and IE 8.0 … 20/100.
- Performance improvements in all areas.
I like Chrome. It’s a great if you’re surfing the web or using online applications and need a fast, stable browser. In my opinion, Firefox still offers a better all-round experience for power users and developers, but Chrome is catching up fast.
Craig is a freelance UK web consultant who built his first page for IE2.0 in 1995. Since that time he's been advocating standards, accessibility, and best-practice HTML5 techniques. He's created enterprise specifications, websites and online applications for companies and organisations including the UK Parliament, the European Parliament, the Department of Energy & Climate Change, Microsoft, and more. He's written more than 1,000 articles for SitePoint and you can find him @craigbuckler.