Google Launches Chrome for Mac, Linux to Challenge Safari, IE

 
 
By Clint Boulton  |  Posted 2009-12-08
 
 
 

Google set out to make Dec. 8 a glorious day in the history of its Google Chrome Web browser by releasing stable beta versions of Chrome for Mac, Chrome for Linux and Chrome extensions.

Google launched Chrome for Windows on Sept. 2, 2008, and since then users who dislike or despise Microsoft Windows have clamored for versions of Chrome for Mac and Linux. Even Google co-founder Sergey Brin lamented the absence of Chrome for Mac.

Google Chrome Product Manager Brian Rakowski Dec. 8 in a Google Blog post said Chrome for Mac is speedy and includes animations and effects "to create a snappy and satisfying browsing experience" for the Mac OS X operating system. So, what took so long?

Google Chrome Engineer Mike Pinkerton in this video said he and his team had to build and rebuild Chrome for Mac OS X from the bottom up, from the WebKit-based browser infrastructure all the way up the stack to the user interface.

For example, the browser includes the Mac OS X spell-checking service, a fine OS feature by many accounts, and Keychain, which lets users store passwords even if they were created in other Web browsers.

Chrome for Mac also includes crash protection, so if a user has 10 different browser tabs open and one crashes, the other nine tabs will be preserved. This was one of the features that made Chrome for Windows so popular. Users can also hold and drag thumbnails of favorite Websites, just as they can with Chrome for Windows.

Meanwhile, Rakowski said most Google engineers use Linux machines, making it imperative to create a Google Chrome for Linux that integrated well with native GTK (GIMP Tool Kit) themes, and updates that are managed by the standard system package manager, among other features.

Finally, Google has brought extensions, which let users customize Chrome, to Google Chrome for Windows and Chrome for Linux. PC and Linux users can access more than 300 extensions in the gallery here.

One Chrome extension is the Google Reader Notifier from the Reader team. This application displays the number of unread items in a user's Reader account in Google Chrome's tool bar. When clicked, the tool bar icon displays a popup preview of the latest items in the account.

"They are as easy to create as Web pages, easy to install and each extension runs in its own process to avoid crashing or significantly slowing down the browser," Rakowski said.

That remains to be seen. You can bet developers will be playing with these extensions and letting Google know how they work. But the big news here is the new browser iterations, which when fully cooked and healthy have the potential to be solid winners for Google.

Chrome has gained 3.93 percent of the browser market since its launch, according to NetApplications. Having stable Mac and Linux builds for Chrome could boost its market share at the expense of Microsoft Internet Explorer and Apple Safari.

The move also takes on greater significance as Google readies Chrome Operating System  for placement on operating systems. Google needs to have many browser options to offer users who buy Chrome OS netbooks when they arrive, purportedly in winter 2010.

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