Google Chrome: not shiny yet

Posted by Richard

After this forum post by Ella in the WordPress.com forums, and Teck’s comment here on this blog, I was about ready to change the title of this post to “Google Chrome: NOT ON YOUR LIFE,” but with a little time going by (and taking the time to try it out), and a post by Matt Cutts (Googler) on his blog, one of the two – the Chrome end user license agreement (EULA) – thorns have been removed, or will be shortly according to Matt. (Note to Google: One size does not fit all!) The other one – the potential piece of malware installed with Chrome that Teck reported – is still a concern although it was not installed on my computer when I did the installation. During installation I told it not to send information on crashes and such back to Google, so perhaps Teck did not disable that at install. And there are other concerns as well including some apparent security issues. I’m not going to repeat the sloothing of others, but will include links to things I think you should be aware of.

This isn’t going to be an indepth review of features and such, but simply my observations from several hours of use over a couple days. I’ll start with general impressions and then move into how it functioned with WordPress.com and the stand-alone WordPress software from WordPress.org. At the end of this post, I will list some good sources of information if you wish to look further.

Do keep in mind: Chrome at the time I’m writing this is in Beta, which means it isn’t finished. Hopefully the issues will be taken care of by the time it reaches actual “ready for prime-time” release.

[Update 1: Warning! There have been a few more security holes uncovered and reported by Information Week, and the security issues are not something that will be caught by antivirus software or spy software, so don’t expect them to keep you safe. Please read the article and be very careful until Google gets these issues resolved.]

General

I did my testing on an IBM Thinkpad with a 1.13GHz Pentium III processor and 768mb of ram running XP service pack 3. Yes, I know it is old, but it has an honest to goodness serial port, which I need for connection to some of my electronic test equipment, and it has been absolutely trouble-free since I bought it in early 2002. Besides, the bulk of my computing is done on a MacBook Pro.

Once I had a few websites and several pages cached, they loaded quickly when going back to them. In general Chrome is snappy, and starts up much faster than any other browser I have on this machine.

Page Rendering

Page rendering in Chrome needs work. What I was looking for was how text and lines were rendered. In Chrome, bold text looked thin, and on some pages there was almost no difference between bold and plain text side-by-side – take a look at the forum list on the left side of the WordPress.com main forum page in Chrome, and then in another browser). Of the 4 browsers I have installed on the laptop, my opinion is that Safari 3 is the best with IE7 and Chrome about tied for second, and Firefox bringing up the rear. Firefox has always disappointed me on XP when it comes to web page rendering; the text always looks pixelated instead of smooth and fluid like it does in Safari 3. On my MacBook Pro, Safari and Firefox are virtually the same when it comes to rendering, with Firefox a little worse by just a little.

WordPressing

I pounded Chrome on my WordPress.com blog and also on my self-hosted blog (2.5.1), making test posts, uploading and inserting images, changing themes, widgets, settings and such, and found no problems whatsoever. It was quick and trouble free.

[Update 2: There appears to be an issue with Chrome and the RSS. As Mark mentions in the thread, Google may not be to eager to fix it since they would rather you use the Google Reader. I never looked at a feed since I seldom read feeds and simply didn’t think to do so.

In another thread on the WordPress.com forum, Mark (staff) clarified, here and here, that WordPress does not typically do any “fixing” for Beta browsers.]

The Bad News

Google Chrome in this Beta version has a security hole you can drive a truck through. They are using an older version of WebKit which has not been patched, and malicious websites can actually upload and execute exe and javascript on your computer without you knowing it. This is a really, really bad thing. Hopefully this will be quickly remedied. I tested IE7, Firefox and Safari with the link on the site linked to above, and all of them came up and warned me about the file and asking me to confirm I wanted to download it.

It also has an issue with URL’s that have special characters in them such as % which will crash Chrome. I have verified this. Supposedly Chrome keeps the stuff in each tab in a “sandbox” and any bad behavior in one tab will not affect another tab, but that doesn’t appear to be the case. Perhaps they should make the box out of something more substantial than sand. This one I can’t believe made it out in the Beta release.

Chrome sometimes just stalls for no apparent reason and when it happens, I cannot even switch to another tab. Pressing the stop button also does no good. Basically you sit and wait until it again regains consciousness. Flash-heavy sites also give it some problems. I looked at several Youtube videos and a couple of them simply would not play.

If you are using Firefox and try to import your bookmarks from there, don’t expect them to show up. They simply won’t be there when you look.

Conclusion

For me, it is highly unlikely I will switch from Safari 3 and Firefox 3. There simply isn’t a compelling reason to do so; it is simply another pretty face. Each person will have to determine on their own whether Chrome is right for them. The one suggestion I would have, is to not abandon what you are using now. Chrome has some issues, and I am sure Google will get them ironed out, but in the meantime, I would not suggest putting all your eggs in a Chrome sandbox.

If Chrome has a target audience, it would definitely be Internet Explorer users. If Safari and Firefox did not exist, and all I had to use was Exploder Explorer, I would very likely switch to Chrome.

Related posts on this blog:
Google Chrome: A New Browser for Windows

Suggested reading on the web:
Another Google Chrome Security Flaw Identified
Video: 10 features of Google Chrome
Google Chrome Review
Google Chrome Review: first impressions not good

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25 thoughts on “Google Chrome: not shiny yet

  1. Hmm! I’ll do the needful. Chrome is indeed in the beta stage.:)

    Yet sometimes I wonder about the behemoth’s tendency to label things Beta for aeons (as if it will help them escape some blame or something!).:(

    Gmail still says it is beta! Ditto Orkut! Same with Google docs, Google Calendar, Google translate and whatnot! And Google Notebook has the label ‘new’ to it in the Google products page despite the fact that Google has shelved this project and new developments on this feature are closed (and people are shifting to services like Evernote)!:( :roll:

  2. Google Chrome is not compatible with the Google Indic transliteration feature (used to write in 5 Indian languages) on Orkut! Now that’s funny because Orkut belongs to Google as much! Poor planning by Google!

  3. thanks for all these info…i didn’t notice all these stuff. yeah, i downloaded chrome and used it for couple of days. it sure looks great but it doesnt work… thanks

  4. @computersake, thanks for posting that. Information Week covered the overflow issue on the 5th, and there is a link to their article in the “Suggested reading on the web” section at the bottom of the post.

  5. @thecandytrail, the security issues right now with Chrome will not be caught by antivirus or spyware software.

    I would suggest extreme caution until Google has a chance to fix some of them. I have edited this post and put in a warning with a link to a new article which mentions a couple more holes that are not at all difficult for a “less than desirable gutter dweller” to take advantage of.

    Please everyone, use common sense, and extreme caution with Chrome right now. It is not a finished product.

  6. Chrome has proved the best for me – so far, nice interface but needs a history button upfront but razor fast with Gmail and cached pages; IE would always jam up and get crazy; FF 3 was good but always crashed on my internet banking … With Chrome I have imported all bookmarks (after 3 attempts from IE & FF) ; As for security – my 3rd party software deals to that. And info to Big Bro – who cares – what’s to hide in this cyber-seen world ??? NO secrets here.

  7. Im writing this via chrome, and to be honest, i dont think its too bad, its pretty so to say and looks good in vista. Would i switch from FF3? NEVER!! Good post and thanks for the good read!

  8. @Richard,

    “@teck, I figured that the option to “Help make Chrome better by automatically sending usage statistics and crash reports to Google” might have been the problem. Thanks for confirming my suspicions.”

    You’re welcome Richard, :)

  9. @sayzlim, Thanks for the comment.

    The bookmarks were not there. There was no error, they simply would not import. When I went to bookmarks after importing them, it had none of my bookmarks.

    Yes it is Beta, and I did say that right up front (3rd paragraph), and I also said in my conclusion that I am sure Google will get the bugs ironed out.

  10. About the bookmark, I don’t know if you did really try all the feature Chrome have, but you can easily arrange your bookmark after pressing ctrl+b…

    And I do agree with some of your point, but understand Chrome is still in beta and not many plugin created yet for it, open source always bring us the surprise.

    Now I’ll just wait for the creative people to create a cool plugin and hoping the Google Chrome team will fix and release it.

    Nice artice…

  11. @teck, I figured that the option to “Help make Chrome better by automatically sending usage statistics and crash reports to Google” might have been the problem. Thanks for confirming my suspicions.

    I’m anti-big brother, so anything like that I always uncheck. If they had split it up to where I could have sent crash reports, but not had it send usage statistics, I would have left the one for crash reports checked.

    It’s going to be an OK browser when they get the bugs out of it, but there is nothing there to make me switch.

    One interesting irony, is that on their first release, Chrome works seamlessly with WordPress. IE on the other hand has always forced WordPress and other sites to make modifications and additions to accommodate their non-compliant browsers.

    MS has always thumbed their noses at standards, but now with them losing browser market share (and I suspect they will lose more, and more quickly now that Chrome is around), they are going to have to rethink things or become a footnote. The promises of IE8 being web standards compliant have certainly not materialized so far given IE8 sits right now at 149 errors.

  12. Hello Richard, I’m replying to you while I use Google chrome,
    First off thank you for the great informative post as well as the link credit…

    I got to reading your post about check marking the crash report box and I believe I did check mark that yesterday…
    now yesterday I got a installer icon on my desktop and when
    I clicked it about 30seconds into the download I got that warning from spy sweeper, but tonight I didn’t check mark the box for the crash report and the whole download took place in my browser (I didn’t get a installer icon on my desk top this time) and my spy sweeper didn’t detect anything now it could of been because I check marked that box yesterday or Google staff changed the download procces since it’s in beta stage and there tweeking things as the find stuff that needs to be changed…

    P.S> I downloaded the Google chrome from the Official page yesterday & tonight And I don’t like it… :)
    Teck

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