Google's Chrome browser focuses on speed, not extras

Google's Chrome browser focuses on speed, not extrasMunich, Dec 21 - Google threw its hat into the browser ring back in 2008. Chrome is what they called their new product, now available in its third iteration. A beta version of the fourth generation is currently making the rounds as well.

While Chrome itself is clearly rapidly changing, one thing seems constant: the developers at Google have their sights on a portion of the market share held by titans Internet Explorer and Firefox.

Google favours a purist approach, says Claudio Mueller from Germany's Chip magazine: the browser isn't going to score many points for frills, but its speed does turn heads.

"It's trimmed down for that purpose and it beats Internet Explorer and Firefox in that

area," Mueller says. That extra zip is noticeable from the first time the programme is used, especially for complex web 2.0 pages, which load faster than on other browsers.

The core of the approach is the multi-process technology, says Mirko Schubert from online magazine Netzwelt. The rendering and JavaScript engines and plug-ins don't run in sequence as is the case for other browsers. They run parallel to one another. Even if one tab is running slower, it won't bring the entire browser to its knees.

Another advantage comes through the memory management, Schubert notes. As soon as a tab is closed, the process is closed with it. Its memory is then available again for use. That's helpful for users who keep a lot of browser windows open at once.

The multi-process architecture also makes it more difficult for malicious software to get a toehold. Browsers where all the tabs work in one process make it easier for malware to make its way into the system, Mueller says. The threat is significantly reduced by the use of individual processes, a system also known as the sandbox principle.

The protection is only effective against certain types of attacks, says Jan Steffan from the Fraunhofer Institute for Secure Information Technology (SIT) in Germany. The damages are limited if a hacker leverages a vulnerability in the browser itself. As with all browsers, though, the greater danger may well come through holes in add-in components used to depict web content: Flash player and Silverlight are major culprits here.

There are also disadvantages to keeping the browser overly trim. Several of Chrome's functions are limited to the point of making them useless, Mueller says - such as the print function. A password manager and mouse gesture controls are also missing.

Another annoying omission is the inability to micromanage what JavaScript blocks and what it allows, Mueller says. JavaScript is an almost unavoidable element in the depiction of most pages, but it is a security risk. "Attackers can use malicious script codes to sneak viruses onto the PC or automatically redirect the user onto other dangerous pages," he says.

Google's browser has also drawn criticism for weak data security. Information like web searches are sent to the company with an identification number, Mueller says.

"That's the biggest problem: the user is simply not told which data is transmitted," he adds.

If you're willing to overlook that and enjoy the services of a lean and quick browser, then Chrome is worth installing. (dpa)