Google Chrome Turns 2, Chrome 6 Hits Stable Channel

Google celebrated the second birthday of its Chrome Web browser Sept. 2 by launching Chrome 6 into the stable channel. Chrome has proven a viable alternative to Internet Explorer, Mozilla and Safari.

Google celebrated the second birthday of its Chrome Web browser Sept. 2 by launching Chrome 6 into the stable channel with autofill capability and other user interface perks.

Google shocked the computing world Sept 2, 2008 when it unveiled Chrome as an alternative to Microsoft Internet Explorer, Mozilla Firefox, Apple Safari and Opera browsers.

Google touted the app as a speedy option for Web surfing equipped with a special V8 JavaScript engine. After a slow start, many users began to use the browser in 2009 and into 2010.

Chrome passed Safari in worldwide browser market share last year and has grown to 7.5 percent of the market, according to the latest numbers from stat counter Net Applications. Google counts 70 million Chrome users.

Today, the browser hit its sixth stable iteration, adding a few key changes to the UI.

Google Chrome Product Manager Brian Rakowski said he's particularly proud of the autofill functionality in Chrome 6 that allows users to fill out Web pages with just a few clicks.

Some folks use dozens of Web services, filling in details such as name, address, phone number and credit card number.

Autofill saves this information for users so as they begin typing it into new forms, the information will appear as suggestions people can click to submit.

For security purposes, credit card information is never saved without first asking a user.

"It's really nice to just type a few letters of your name and then be able to fill out your address and credit card information," Rakowski told eWEEK.

Chrome 6 also has some cosmetic changes to the UI, including "hiding some of the superfluous information," Rakowski said.

The browser build sheds the Go button and removes the "reload" button from its URL bar, combining it with the top buttons.

Chrome's new tool icon on the rightmost part of the URL field replaces the wrench and page menus with a single drop-down menu.

Speed is always a priority for the Chrome team, as it is for Google in general. Rakowski noted that speed is a bigger deal than great features, arguing that maybe 90 percent of users will use a feature if it's great.

"Speed benefits everybody," he said. Today, Chrome 6 sports three times the JavaScript performance it offered two years ago. Expect to hear more about JavaScript speed improvements from Google Chrome soon.

Google, which is launching a Chrome application Webstore this year, is ramping up Chrome development as the key access window for netbooks based on Google's Chrome operating system.

Chrome OS is a Web operating system geared to accelerate the boot process in computers.

Chrome OS netbooks are slated to reach retail shelves in the next couple of months. Chrome OS tablets may also be in the works for 2011.