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Oct 17, 2011 at 04:05pm
Age: 2 yrs
Category: Web Technology
By: Steven Holms
Google Chrome: A Web Developer's Take
Google Chrome has become the default web browser for many people around the world. Starting in late 2008, Google released their open source browser for all to use. When Google Chrome launched, all of the mainstream browsers were slow, unwieldy, and had a lot of "chrome," which is the browser's interface, minus the web page (things like the address bar, tabs, toolbars, etc). Google Chrome was named for its rather small chrome footprint, reducing the browser chrome to an absolute minimum, which does two very important things. First, having less chrome means more room for the website to take up. This means that you can use the web as it was designed, as its own platform. Second, it actually makes Chrome much easier to use. Because there aren't thousands of little menu items and buttons floating everywhere, Chrome is quite easy to use and doesn't get in the way of your web browsing experience. In the last two years, Internet Explorer and Firefox have both copied this idea of reducing browser chrome to make their browsers more appealing, though Chrome has continued to simplify it even more over time.
Built for Speed
Security, not obscurity
Chrome's security comes from many different places. Starting with its rapid release cycle, where not only are new features pumped out quickly, but also security issues are fixed in a timely manner. Google encourages independent developers to find bugs, report them, and even submit code that will patch the holes. Google does two things to foster this kind of collaboration from the community. First, Chrome is open source, which means anyone can see, copy, and edit the source code to make the browser even better. This means people outside of Google can change the code that is causing the security risk, compile it on their own and make sure their patch works. They can then submit the patch to Google, which will then release the patch in the next security update. The other way Google encourages the community to contribute to bug fixes is by paying a "bounty" for any major security related bugs in Chrome. If someone finds a security issue and submits it to Google, along with a possible fix, Google will pay them between $500 and $3733.70 (which is "elite" in numerical form) depending on the severity of the bug. This helps outside researchers have reason to contribute to Chrome being made more secure, which benefits every Chrome user.
Sandboxing, keeping little processes happy
Another major security feature of Google Chrome is sandboxing. Sandboxing is when software is isolated from other system resources. In Chrome, this means that each tab, extension, and app is running in its own separate process, which means it cannot interact with any of the other processes, unless it has been given explicit permission. This also means that if one site crashes, the rest of the browser can continue to run without a problem. This means fewer, full browser crashes, which means less chance of you losing important information if one site causes a crash. From a security perspective, this also means that malware can't jump from one process to another, which keeps it bound to that specific tab: close the tab, and it goes away. And to protect users from malicious applications and other downloads; Chrome will automatically warn you if a site is trying to download an executable file to your system (.exe or .msi for Windows, .app for Mac, .deb for Ubuntu, etc.) It will ask you in the download bar if you wish to keep the file, and will not complete the download unless you confirm you want it downloaded. This brings us to the third goal of Google Chrome: ease of use.
Look Ma! It's easy...
Crossing the Channel
I mentioned earlier that Chrome has 4 different stability channels: Stable, Beta, Dev, and Canary. The stable channel is the one that most people download. This channel is only updated when the next version of Chrome has been thoroughly tested by Google, and all the upstream channels. This is the best browser for daily use, as it is least likely to break and is also the most secure. The beta channel is a great compromise between stability and new features. You can test the latest features being added to Chrome before they hit the stable channel, and it is generally a very stable channel itself. The Dev channel occasionally breaks things and is not very good for everyday use. It does give you a great sneak peak at some of the new technologies the Chrome team is working on, but it does come at the price that things may not always run smoothly. The Canary channel is the bleeding edge of Chrome. This channel is updated at least once a day, and often times the releases on this channel are not human tested (They are built by computers and pushed out automatically, which means sometimes you are lucky to be able to open a website). The canary release channel runs as its own version of Chrome, so you can use it with another channel at the same time, allowing you to peak at what's coming in the future, while still having a more reliable browser for your day to day browsing activities.
Developers, developers, developers...
We at RapidFyre, Inc. are using Chrome more and more for testing our websites and working on design work, thanks to its amazing developer resources. It speeds up our work, and makes our lives easier. Chrome arguably offers the best browsing experience with great features and standards compliance, making our development work for it much faster and easier. We encourage everyone in the Walla Walla valley and beyond to test Chrome for themselves. You will find that your browsing experience will be fast, reliable, and easy.