Technical Observations – Chrome, A Browser by Google

I am sure most of you know about Google Chrome. In its 57th version for public use, and published in 2008 as a direct attack on Microsoft’s Internet Explorer dominant market share, Chrome was an instant hit to businesses and consumers alike. (Chrome is actually in its 59th version, however this is for developers. There are three betas: CB, CD, and CC. We will only touch on the public version.) Looking at the usage tracking site, StatCounter, Chrome leads the way by far?taking 62% of all current browsing usage.

Chrome has many features that have made it a hit in the past years- from plugins and extensions to privacy and security features. It will soon become apparent why many users and businesses find Chrome a home on their computers.

On its initial release, Chrome was fast. It beat out other popular web browsers in speed, load times, and functionality. Since then however, the gap has closed, and in one test showing how browsers effect battery lifetime, Chrome slipped into 2nd place. Chrome is very stable, using “process isolation” to run each open tab separately from the rest- so if one crashes, the others will not be effected. Though this gives greater stability, it also makes Chrome a resource hungry browser, and it constantly tops out as the browser that consumes the most system resources to use.

Chrome has several different add-ins that users can use to customize Chrome. Extensions (downloadable through the Chrome Web Store) can greatly enhance a user’s experience. Popular extensions include Adblock Plus, Google Docs, Honey (an extension that helps you find coupons for online purchases), Lazarus Form Recovery (an auto save extension), Web of Trust (WOT) Reputation Ratings, Office Online, Google Hangouts, and LastPass (password manager), to name a few. Chrome also has plugins (these can only be disabled and new ones are added automatically), and can be customized via themes, which change the overall look of the browser. (You can get Chrome Themes on the Web Store).

Features that differ slightly from other browsers include the famed “Omnibox” search field, positioned in the middle of new tabs. And speaking of tabs, they make up the main portion of the interface, and are positioned, unlike some browsers, above the controls. They can be dragged around into new windows, duplicated, muted, pinned, and bookmarked. Another feature is “Incognito mode” which prevents the browser from storing browsing history and cookies from visited websites. don’t think you can get away with visiting sleazy sites though, developers can find ways to get into your browsing history despite having this mode enabled.

Last, Chrome is big on security within the browser. In a well-known hacking contest, Pwn2Own, held at the CanSecWest security conference, Chrome resisted hacks for three years. It did succumb to attacks in 2012, though, and has various times since. This was mainly due to the Adobe Flash element, a plugin Chrome has since disabled by default. Chrome uses two different updated blacklists to help protect itself against phishing and malware attacks. Users will also be warned if you visit a potentially malicious site.

As for what matters to AU students, for studies, and general research for studies, Chrome does very well. All tests with different websites within AU have been successful, and no errors were found in my experience. The IT helpdesk does support Chrome for various functions within the AU environment. Expect it to chew through your battery of your mobile device though; I would steer clear of this one for your phones and tablets, and mainly use it on the desktop.

PS: if you want to have some fun, disconnect yourself from the internet, fire up Chrome, and try to search something. An error will pop up with a little T-Rex (seriously!) Hit your space-bar and away you go on an infinite-running game!

Dakota Soares is an entrepreneur taking his BSc through AU, and has many interests including music, information technology, and chicken producing.

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