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More Choice For the Web: Microsoft's IE 8 and Google's Chrome

Anybody remember when we had this many Web browsers to choose from on our desktops? Seven years ago people were pretty much limited to Microsoft's already-aging Internet Explorer or the far-more-antiquated Netscape. But by the start of this year, you could pick from Mozilla Firefox, a rejuvenated IE, Apple's Safari and Opera.

Today's column describes two new alternatives: a preview of the next version of IE, Internet Explorer 8 Beta 2, and a beta release of Google's Chrome.

To summarize the column, I think IE 8 does much more to restore Microsoft's franchise to relevance. I find IE 7 outright annoying, but I can work with IE 8. Chrome interests me more overall, partially because of what Google's done to simplify browsing so radically and partially because of what this open-source browser could do for the Web in general.

Let me expand on that last point here.

First, Chrome's use of the open-source WebKit page-display code (which is, itself, based on an older open-source project, KHTML) from Apple's Safari browser should do a lot to ensure that we have three competing Web-browser engines on the market. The best way for Web designers to write pages that work with all three is to stick to Web standards. That, in turn, should ensure that any future standards-compliant browsers won't have as many "this site doesn't look right" issues as Firefox did when it faced a Web full of IE-"optimized" sites.

Second, Chrome's method of displaying each page in a separate computing process--done to ensure that one cranky site won't hang up the entire browser--also lets you see which pages take the biggest bite out of your browser. Chrome's task manager shows exactly how much memory and processor cycles each page (and browser plug-in) eats up on your machine. That ought to bring some overdue accountability to Web designers who haven't taken the care to write clean, efficient sites.

(If you'd like more technical details on these and other parts of Chrome's design, take a look at the comic book--no, really--that Google has released about this browser's development.)

I'll be online for my regular Web chat at 2 p.m. today, so we can talk then about these browsers--or anything else tech-related you've got in mind. Meanwhile, I'd like to see your own reports about IE 8 or Chrome, if you've tested either so far. The comments are yours!

By Rob Pegoraro  |  September 11, 2008; 11:09 AM ET
Categories:  The Web  
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Interesting about the multiple processes. But I've found that there are 2 Chrome.exe processes running when Chrome only has 1 tab of content displayed. The 2 combined processes take the same, if not more, resources as Firefox. Still some work to do....

Posted by: JkR | September 11, 2008 11:39 AM | Report abuse

I'd just like to point out that both chrome AND ie 8 seperate tabs into different computing processes. Having javascript crash a thread doesn't cause the browser to crash in either of them.

Posted by: Anon | September 11, 2008 12:30 PM | Report abuse

You &me

Posted by: Anonymous | September 11, 2008 12:48 PM | Report abuse

I hear what you say. But its still a crappy beta when I tried Chrome. The insertion of that Googleupdate.exe with the pack simply destroyed the whole experience because it annoyingly irritated my firewall which caused chrome to unceasingly crash and freeze up.

Posted by: | September 11, 2008 12:56 PM | Report abuse

Yes, may be Chrome will attract the users to have a look but not to survive. If you work with google chrome for few minutes you will understand how much does Chrome miss when compared to IE. Chrome has a long way to go before it is named as browser.

Posted by: Jebarson J | September 11, 2008 1:30 PM | Report abuse

I think Chrome's V8 Javascript engine is the most exciting part of it (though separate processes for tabs is also great). Firefox or others can adopt V8 also, since it's open source. Fingers crossed that Mozilla decides to do so.

Posted by: josef | September 11, 2008 1:33 PM | Report abuse

I like to have a few extra bells and whistles with my browser. I will stick with Firefox or Opera for now. I run Linux 90% of the time anyway.

Posted by: Lawrence Talbot | September 11, 2008 1:46 PM | Report abuse

I have limited data transfer (upload+download) internet. So I like to save my megabytes usage. Chrome consumes unnecessarily large amounts of my allocated megabytes. One page loaded in firefox with just 300kb consumed, the same page loaded in chrome eating up 2MB (and it was not in firefox's cache). This number varies from time to time but is never lower than firefox. Also chrome seems to keep chattering (sending data to and fro) in the background even when I am not loading any page. I hope it is not sending my data to google. Firefox with the same page loaded sits nice and quiet until I load another page. Also I would like some bandwidth saving features like blocking images and flash.

You might say, "Yours are very special requirements. Chrome is for the average user." But there might be other users with other requirements (like blocking javascript for security). The number of "exactly average" users is far too few. One size does not fit all. There has to be much more functionality. Making it minimalistic isn't such a great idea.

Posted by: ab | September 11, 2008 2:29 PM | Report abuse

Chrome is just a baby.It has long way to go to replace IE.
Features right now are not that interesting.

Posted by: Bhaskar | September 11, 2008 2:34 PM | Report abuse

"If you work with google chrome for few minutes you will understand how much does Chrome miss when compared to IE."

"I like to have a few extra bells and whistles with my browser. I will stick with Firefox or Opera for now. I run Linux 90% of the time anyway."

This is completely missing the point. IE and Firefox are both based on archaic technology. IE is dreadfully slow and although it does split its tabs into processes, Chrome's approach is much cleaner. Firefox is fast, but its memory model ensures that it will never be as stable as Chrome. Opera has some good ideas, but they don't have the resources to compete with Google long-term.

I am not a Google fan, but after working with this for a while, I'm convinced it will win. All they need is cross-OS support and plug-ins and it will beat all comers. The other nits (poor bookmark support for example) are so minor that they will be knocked out quickly. This thing is simply built on a superior technological model. It works where the others fail.

If you just check your e-mail and do a little surfing, it doesn't matter what browser you run. When you are using your browser to run applications that rival desktops in terms of functionality, you will quickly realize how sorry the existing browsers are and how critical it is to have a more robust architecture.

Posted by: slar | September 11, 2008 2:35 PM | Report abuse

I really wanted to like IE8 - at first blush it was quicker and more intuitive than IE7. but like clockwork, it crashed every 90 minutes if I had more than 5 tabs open. no thank you.

Posted by: a.k. | September 11, 2008 4:07 PM | Report abuse

Yep, as usual, a lot of "apparently" tech savy people contributing their two cents, and as usual, missing the boat entirely. Chrome's just a "beta" release" and already puts IE 7/8 to shame and even firefox 3. Its all good and I can guarantee that goooooogle is listening and will have mucho better releases coming out. SOMEbody here was on the money in saying that Chrome is really designed to handle web apps - those that are in the cloud or are herading for the cloud. Lets face it, more and more and more apps are going to squat on the web. That's were we are headed - and its great to see Chrome and Firefox coming out with tools that put MS to SHAME.

Posted by: Anonymous | September 11, 2008 4:19 PM | Report abuse

At first, I was very disturbed by the privacy statements made by Google. I did not like the fact that Google could access whatever you type into the address bar. Google uses this information to target adds at you. I realized that every program Google makes is simply there to target you with advertisements.

But then I started thinking: Is there anything wrong with Google knowing enough about you to target you with adds? I would rather have adds that are relevant to me than adds that I could not care less about.

So yes Google takes information about you, but does it really matter?

Posted by: James | September 11, 2008 4:19 PM | Report abuse

Google as your search engine. Google as your email provider - complete with ads. Google as your medical records repository. Google Desktop on your own computer - and with "search across computers" enabled, Google gets a copy of your index.

And that's just a partial list.

No thanks.

Posted by: pagun | September 11, 2008 5:57 PM | Report abuse

i hate google chrome it has no plugins or add ad ons i use fire foz about 80% percent op time and ie7 like 10% percent of the time

Posted by: aj cool | September 11, 2008 6:42 PM | Report abuse

Um, the WebKit link in the article goes to to IE8's page. Pretty funny.

Posted by: Kris | September 11, 2008 7:49 PM | Report abuse

i browse teh internets with chrome. chrome a "browser" now.

Posted by: gronk | September 11, 2008 8:20 PM | Report abuse

google is better (for search engine; advertising) not for browsers. chrome will be like bloggers and others such as knol...

Posted by: huuu | September 11, 2008 8:37 PM | Report abuse

Chrome is slower and its printing protocol clunky compared to Firefox. The browser is disappointing in itself and doubly so because one expects better from Google. The revolution in Web browsers is not here yet!

Posted by: Khurram Dastgir Khan | September 11, 2008 9:01 PM | Report abuse

Konqueror :)

Posted by: Just One Word | September 11, 2008 9:34 PM | Report abuse

Get real! Google Crome is not about making a browser that works better with web apps or freaking cloud computing. Its about stopping fire fox and its beautiful plug ins that can block many of not only googles crappy adds but every one elses. I thank the people that created firefox and the plug in adblock plus it blocks 95 percent of advertisements that I do not what to see.
It blocks many of Googles adds! When I use yahoo mail I seen no ads. CIA AND NSA take your 190 billion dollar bubble company and shove it up your la la la! Fire Fox is a counter sword to googles ad revenue plain and simple. Fire Fox gives me a choice and I love it. Open Source software is good. Google tries to act as if its a friend of Open Solutions, blah crap!

Posted by: HisName | September 12, 2008 12:02 AM | Report abuse



Posted by: brucerealtor | September 12, 2008 1:22 AM | Report abuse

I just browse, but there were a few simple sites that IE8 had to shut down on repeatedly. And I find all the new bells and whistles a little confusing. Also, it's slower. When does the real version come out?

Posted by: cbr1 | September 12, 2008 11:05 AM | Report abuse

1. Yes Chrome "seems to" have some great technical details. Definitely positive.
2. Repeat #1 for each technical advancement in Chrome.

1. It's a "beta". I think Google needs to remove the "beta" tag as soon as possible, otherwise many people will avoid it, since the browser is so key these days.

2. Google tracking everything I do. I'm an honest person, but I still value my privacy- what if some overzealous FBI agent wants to tie in the fact that I read all kinds of things to expand my knowledge, and not all of them are pristine, All-American, family values type of websites. What if there is a real terrorist who has the same name as I have? What if I happen to go to Al Jazeera to see what they are saying about McCain-Obama, and the FBI is currently watching. No Thank you!

3. Lack of plug-ins

4. Limited keystroke shortcuts- like (File-Close)

5. Huge resource impact for even the first page

'nuff said!

Posted by: GentleGeek | September 12, 2008 11:19 AM | Report abuse

Using Chrome I was unable to upload pictures to Photobucket. Switched back to Firefox and the problem was fixed.

After pasting my pictures into my blog I was unable to use the compose feature to re size them while using Chrome. Again, switching back to Firefox solved the problem.

Seems like there are a lot of issues that need to be addressed before Chrome becomes a viable browsing alternative.

Posted by: Dan | September 12, 2008 2:58 PM | Report abuse

Kris: D'oh! The link goes to the right page now...

- RP

Posted by: Rob Pegoraro | September 12, 2008 4:33 PM | Report abuse

Big Brother Google's primary business is the collection of personal information for advertising purposes. I'm not about to put their browser on my desktop. The company gives me the creeps.

I primarily use IE7, and also have FF3 installed on my system. Those are the two browser brands that I am sticking to. I don't need/want a third browser on my sytem.

Posted by: Tom1 | September 15, 2008 10:11 AM | Report abuse

Chrome will not display an interactive stock chart from The stock chart is Java. So, does Chrome handle Java well??

Posted by: Ron | September 16, 2008 12:59 PM | Report abuse

I don't like using any Beta versions so I will wait until IE8 is not one. But one question, will IE8 (like IE7) not allow me to use Outlook Express? I like sending stationery to certain people who reciprocate. Thanks.

Posted by: cager38 | September 17, 2008 2:16 PM | Report abuse

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