Once upon a time, there was a goliath of a browser called Internet Explorer that no one really liked, but everyone used because it was the default web browser installed by Microsoft as part of their operating system. A plucky little start-up called Mozilla came with Firefox and tried to unseat this behemoth and it actually had some initial success.
However, somewhat out of nowhere, a new player arrived on the scene – Google Chrome – which complete took the world by storm and topped both Explorer and Firefox from their places at the top of the browser mountain. Chrome is now the de facto leader with other browsers struggling to catch up.
Our rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
👍🏻 The good
- It’s fast
- Incognito mode
- Working with tabs
👎🏻 The bad
- Memory usage
What is Google Chrome?
Google Chrome is a web browser. Web browsers translate HTML (Hyper Text Markup Language) and other web technologies (CSS, Java, Flash etc.) from computer code into a format that is more easily utilized and readable by humans.
Chrome was launched in September 2008 as a beta release (similar to most of Google’s products) but by the end of the year, it was publically available as a stable release. Initially struggling to break into the browser sector dominated by IE (Internet Explorer) and Firefox, it did not surpass 1% usage in its first year. However, by November of 2011, Chrome finally overtook Firefox and its rise to the top seemed to have no end in sight. It overtook IE by June of 2013 and its current domination of the sector is seemingly unassailable with close to 62% ownership of the desktop market space.
Chrome continued its domination of the Internet market by releasing web browsers for all of the popular smartphone vendors and even created its own operating system. The look and feel of Chrome was so popular in fact that Google rolled out a whole range of products built around it – Chromebooks, Chromecast etc. – and while they weren’t all built completely on the OS, Google is putting more and more effort into making this the linchpin of its strategy.
As a web browser, Chrome is hard to beat. It has either created (most) or copied (some) of the innovations utilized by other browsers and its speed is exceptional. It’s lightweight – especially in comparison to IE – smart, has lots of plugins/extensions and is well supported. Its integration with Gmail is a huge selling point and makes using it across platforms extremely easy.
Pros and Cons
- It’s fast. When it first came out that was definitely a key selling point and there are many webcomics devoted to the difference in speed between Chrome, IE, Firefox, and Opera, with IE always losing! If any one tab seems to be slowing things down – simply close it and as each tab runs separately, you won’t crash your whole browser.
- Talking about tabs – Chrome takes this to even greater extremes than other browsers by allowing you to move tabs from the main browser window into their own space, or you can even do the opposite and drag and drop tabs from different windows into a single space to combine them. Saving your commonly used tabs so that each time you open your browser you have them ready to go is a life saver!
- Incognito mode makes browsing the Internet private. Nothing is stored here, including your browsing history so you can safely search for and navigate a host of sites you would not otherwise visit. If you are worried about Google tracking all of your activity, well this is the mode you want to use.
- Sync and store all of your bookmarks and login information across multiple devices with your Google ID
- A built in PDF reader simplifies your life once again, however, the key here is that if it’s not available by default, there is probably an extension that can do it for you. Chrome has a huge library of extensions available and most of them give you an option of running them in Incognito mode too.
- Privacy – The biggest negative for Chrome is probably its perception in terms of the privacy element. Chrome being a Google product has the same limitations as its search engine and by using some of the more advanced features of Chrome, you simply leave a larger footprint for Google.
- Memory usage – Chrome can be a memory hog at times as while each tab is separate from the whole, they each take up space in your computer’s memory. You could find this slowing down your overall speed and in addition, there is a significant battery drain in comparison to the other browsers.
One of the best features of Chrome is its ability to sync bookmarks and login id’s across devices simply using your Google account. This is a huge time saver and to be honest memory saver. While it does admittedly leave you vulnerable to attack/compromise if your Google account is actually hacked – as long as you follow standard security guidelines with respect to changing your password regularly you should be fine. I will also state for the record that you need to be selective with the information you want to allow Google to share between devices – for me, bank/credit card information is something I am OK to manually enter!
Another, great feature of Chrome, of course, is its ability to search directly from the (Omni) address bar. Again, this is simply a huge time saver and if you like your extensions (like I do), it gives them more space at the top of your screen.
However, probably the best feature of Chrome is not something they’ve already done, but the fact that they exist at all. When it first came out, Microsoft really had no reason to innovate or create anything exceptional. People were stuck with IE and aside from some IT folks (and perhaps their families), Firefox was continuing to fight an uphill (and losing) battle. After Chrome, however, Microsoft realized that if they wanted to keep people on their tools, they’d need to do something different. In fact, not only Microsoft but many others now compete in the Browser space and its really only thanks to Chrome that they are there. The choice is the best feature that Chrome could have given us!
Some Tips and Tricks
- Add some specific sites to Chrome’s search engines. There are default ones like Wikipedia already installed and setup and due to this fact, you can search Wikipedia directly from the Omni bar – simply hit your tab key. You can add other sites in a similar fashion including your Gmail account from the manage search engines window. While it’s not a huge time saver, it does definitely save some steps.
- The Omni bar is not just for searching the Internet. You can actually do (simple) math directly in the address bar.
- Save your open pages so that you load them on launch. This is a quick and easy way of getting to the information you need quickly and easily. Simply click on Settings and click on “Open a specific…” in the On startup section.
- Use your Google account. The seamless integration across devices is exceptional and quickly becomes something you cannot live without. You will have access to all of your bookmarks, extensions, and password information – you can also choose how much or how little to sync from the “Advanced sync settings …” option in the settings menu.
- You can setup Chrome with your commonly used information (Name, Address, Phone number etc.) so that you do not need to enter it each time you are browsing. Simply go back to settings, click on advanced settings and then “Manage Autofill …”
Chrome deserves its place at the top of the heap. It’s super fast, super easy, and super clean. While perhaps no longer on the “cutting edge” in regards to innovations, if Google hasn’t developed it, they are very quick to create a matching feature with similar functionality.