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Software Picks: Google Chrome

January 1st, 2010 · 53 Comments · Software Picks

Haven’t done a second one of these in far too long.OK, chances are you’ve heard of Google Chrome.  Let’s go over some of the alternatives before I tell you why I use Google Chrome.

First, we have Internet Explorer.  It comes with Windows so most people use it (hence why the EU has accused MS of using it’s monopoly on the OS to grab one on the web browser).  This also means it’s the most targeted by malicious individuals to hack, phish, or pass viruses around.  This isn’t helped by technology like ActiveX which allows websites to have full access to your computer with just a button press by the user, although fortunately MS seems to be trying to phase it out (Windows Update in Vista/7 no longer relies on it… seriously, the Windows Update WEBSITE is responsible for PATCHING SYSTEM FILES.  Who thought this was a good thing from a security standpoint?).  IE has also been benchmarked as the slowest browser, and the least compatible with web standards, another good reason to avoid it.  Unfortunately you need it around because a) some desktop applications embed it as a web browser inside their windows and b) some websites develop their sites for IE instead of developing sites for the wider internet.  When you must use IE, be extremely careful where you browse.

Also beware “alternative” browsers that are just IE in another skin.  If they claim they use the “secure Internet Explorer core”, STAY FAR AWAY (no joke, one product SAYS THAT).  Although it may be possible to lock down IE somewhat, chances are sooner or later an exploit for IE will hit you anyway.  At the core, you’re still running IE.

Next we have Opera and Safari, both I haven’t used much but they seem OK.  Safari seems incredibly bloated to me on Windows, so I wouldn’t recommend it, and it also installs some Mac-interoperability networking stuff which you probably don’t need if you’re not careful.

Opera is nice and speedy, and looks great.  Some may argue it suffers from feature bloat but who cares if it runs fast.  It started up incredibly fast on my Aunt’s old clunker (this was before Chrome so I can’t compare).  The built-in web server and other components (well it doesn’t work QUITE like a traditional web server but the end result is the same, and it even works around routers that block incoming traffic) are additionally an interesting experiment by Opera.  Check it out.

Firefox is by far the most popular non-IE browser, and with good reason.  The Mozilla team is careful to keep the browser at a core feature set and to allow the talented add-on community to fill in the gaps.  If you want Firefox to do something, chances are an add-on can do it.  Only downside is it can be a bit slow at times, but Mozilla is making speed a priority for the next few releases, in addition to a much-needed visual refresh which I am looking forward to.  Definitely try out Firefox if you aren’t already using it.

Last we have Google Chrome, my browser of choice.  It’s been built from the ground up for speed and security, and it excels at both.  The only place it doesn’t really excel in is extension support… where Firefox builds the entire UI on web technologies such as SGML and JavaScript allowing any add-on to change anything easily, Google Chrome is purposefully locked down and add-ons are no exception… there is a limited API list of things extensions can do, although some clever programmers have already found some cool things to do with them.  I expect the list of APIs to grow as Chrome continues to be developed.

Chrome is fast fast fast.  Window pops up as soon as you run the program, and you’re on the net in seconds.  If a plugin crashes, it only takes down the plugin and not the whole browser.  If Chrome crashes, only a part of Chrome crashes and you may lose a few pages, but the browser may be able to recover from it (occasionally the entire thing will crash but hey–that’s life, no app is perfect).  Chrome’s multi-process architecture automatically gives it great multi-core compatibility by default, making it even FASTER.  Finally… resizable textareas.  <3

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