Google Blogoscoped

Monday, September 15, 2008

Google Chrome Q&A

Via email, I’ve asked Google group product manager Brian Rakowski a couple of questions in regards to Google’s web browser.*

Chrome has been in development for 2 years... did the initial designs resemble what has been released now, or were there a lot of interface or conceptual changes to the program during implementation?

Of course there was a lot of iteration, but the first attempts are remarkably similar in spirit to what we ended up with. Tabs on top, one box for searches and URLs, multiprocess architecture.

Do you have some early Chrome design mockups, scribbles or notes to share?

No, sorry.

How was the experience working with Scott McCloud on the Chrome comic book? Were there any odd or especially insightful moments?

Scott was awesome. He was very excited about the project and did a great job. I think we were all a bit unsure about using a comic at first, but credit goes to Eric Antonow, who had the idea and convinced us to humor him.

Were there any heated debates on whether or not to release Chrome as open source, or was that decision at the heart of the project?

No, it was unanimous among everyone from the development team up to Eric Schmidt.

Chromium is the name of the direct, unbranded release of Chrome. How long do you expect the delay to be between new features making it from Chromium to Chrome? And who do you think might want to install Chromium mostly?

Chromium builds are the equivalent of Firefox nightly builds and unofficial alphas and betas. We only expect developers and testers to use those. We hope to have as short a release cycle as possible while still delivering a quality, reliable product.

What would be the process for a non-Google employee to make changes to the official Google Chrome release, considering it’s open source?

It’s pretty much the same as for any member of our team: get the code from, make a patch, and send it for review. Once it gets approval, it will get checked in.

Similar to above, if another company would release a faster V8 engine, would Google use that in their own deployment?

Sure! Of course, speed isn’t the only important quality of a JS engine, but we’ll use the one that works best.

During the presentation it was mentioned that Google wrote a mock press release before really starting the Chrome project two years ago, to define some of the features and goals. Do you have a copy of that press release for us?


Google says they improved JavaScript handling with the V8 engine. Different speed tests show different results when comparing browsers. What do you think is the most realistic speed test available?

We’ve published the test that we think represents the kind of javascript usage that will be most useful for application develops on the V8 project site:

Some features popular in other browsers are missing in Chrome right now. Will Chrome [...] offer a way to add extensions of some sort to Chrome?

We don’t comment on future product plans. However, this is an area that we are excited about and are watching closely.

Which plug-ins does Chrome support at the moment and what plug-ins will be supported in the future?

We support the most common NPAPI plugins: Flash, QuickTime, Java, Real, Acrobat, Windows Media, and Silverlight

What are some of the other big plans for Chrome in the future? And how much do you plan to integrate user suggestions and feedback?

A big reason for releasing the beta was to get some feedback on what we should be working on. Right now, we’re hard at work on versions for Mac and Linux.

What do you tell people who say the omnibox, in its default settings, is a privacy problem because it transmits what is typed (while it’s typed) to Google?

In our testing, most users find this kind of suggestion service extraordinarily useful. If a user isn’t comfortable with sending requests to Google for query and URL suggestions, it’s easy to disable in Options. Additionally, Suggest is disabled while using Incognito mode. Furthermore, if you change your default search engine, we’ll try to use that engine’s suggest service (if they have one).
You can find more information on privacy in two of our recent blog posts:
Another step to protect user privacy
Update to Google Suggest

What’s one of your favorite Chrome features? Any lesser known tricks you’d like to share?

A couple of the coolest features are (1) the tab-to-search feature of the omnibox, and (2) application shortcuts.
The tab to search feature is cool because it doesn’t require me to do anything special as a user to get it to work. I just continue to search on the engines I like. Chrome is smart about detecting these search engines (using heuristics and opensearch files), and then offers me the option to use those search engines as I do what I ordinarily would: type the URL for the site to get to the page with the search box on it. I don’t have to learn a new behavior as a user, but I get a nice shortcut.
Application shortcuts are great for running webapps like Reader, Gmail, and Calendar – things you keep open a lot and don’t want to get lost in a sea of tabs. Another cool thing about them is that the windows remember their size and placement so you can have a tall narrow window for Reader and a short wide window for Calendar.

Would you say Google Chrome is more secure than other browsers? Like Internet Explorer, or Firefox?

The multiprocess architecture gives us a great opportunity to make Chrome safe for users. We can separate renderer processes from each other and strip them of their ability to do potentially dangerous things to your computer like execute arbitrary code or leave nasty code behind after you quit the browser. The phishing and malware protection that’s also built into Firefox is also a great way to help users stay away from dangerous sites.

What do you tell people saying Google is becoming too powerful, considering they also do a browser now? And what do you tell people who say this will hurt Firefox?

We have created an open source browser that any developer can build on or borrow from. Our goal is to help more people find more of the information they want. And we do that by building technically sophisticated products that are easy to use – like Google Search, Google Earth, Gmail and Google Chrome. We also want to help drive innovation on the Internet. This is good for users and for Google, because we benefit directly when the web grows.

Obviously we are now in the browser space but we remain great supporters of Firefox. After all it was Mozilla that kicked off most of the innovation we have seen in browsers over the last few years (including features such as tabs, search boxes in the browser chrome and extensions); and proved that you can build a mass market software product using open source technology and through collaboration. Competitive open source projects are good for the industry because they allow developers to make advances and share them quickly. We continue to have a valuable partnership with Mozilla. Many of our engineers, for example, actively work on features in Firefox through Mozilla’s public participation process.

There are ways to make Chrome automatically download a file without the user confirming this (at least using Chrome’s default options). Don’t you consider that a potential problem?

On its own, downloading a file isn’t dangerous. It can be annoying if a site tries to download a bunch of files to fill up your hard drive, but there are other ways to do things like that and it hasn’t become a problem. The danger arises when an automatically downloaded file can be automatically executed. We’ve taken steps to prevent this in Google Chrome and will continue to make sure that this is the case.

How does the rendering engine Webkit used in Chrome differ from the one used in Safari? Did Google adjust Webkit and now maintain its own version or will it constantly update to the latest Webkit?

To the extent possible, we’re using the same version of WebKit that released versions of Safari (Safari 3.1) use. It’s very important for us to avoid diverging with Apple Safari.

Will Chrome ever offer special integration of products like Gmail, Google Docs and so on?

Our focus is to improve the browser platform to make all webapps better. Google webapps have been a great source of inspiration and feedback, but everything we do in Chrome is open and can be used by any web developer.

Would you say Chrome is also appealing to power users, considering it doesn’t have too many options so far?

Chrome was designed to work well for people who use the web a lot without getting in the way of novices. The streamlined user experience, speed, and stability of the browser have been consistent themes in the feedback from all users, especially people who use the web a lot.

Other than links from the Google homepages, how will Google make Chrome known to people? And will there be any partnerships to pre-install Chrome on some computer distributions?

We are interested in working with partners who can help us distribute Google Chrome but we don’t have anything to announce at this time.

What are all the “about:” URLs available in Chrome?

Even I don’t know about all of them. I know about about:memory, about:histograms, about:plugins, and about:version to name a few.

Does Google have any time frame for the release of the Mac and Linux versions of Chrome?

We’re working on it, track progress in the open source project!

Any other thoughts you’d like to share in regards to Chrome?

We’re very excited about what we’ve been able to build so far, but we’ve got a lot more work to do. We’re more than happy to hear suggestions from users and web developers and welcome the help of volunteers who want to contribute to the open source project at

[Photo by Niall Kennedy with some rights reserved.]

*The Q&A has been edited for spelling. For reference, these are the questions which remained uncommented:
How many people worked on the development of Chrome, and in which groups was the project split up into?
What was the project name of Chrome during internal development?
Google has a bookmarks system at – are there any plans to integrate this with Chrome?
What will the name of Chrome mobile for Android be, do you already have ideas?
Which thoughts went into the design of the Chrome logo? What does it show...?
Will Chrome ever support ad blockers?
Some features popular in other browsers are missing in Chrome right now. Will Chrome have subscription support for RSS/ Atom feeds? ... offer ways to skin the interface? ... support features of the Google toolbar, like showing a site’s PageRank or offering instant translations of the page? ... offer an option to go tab-less in Chrome for people who e.g. use the Windows task bar tabs?


Blog  |  Forum     more >> Archive | Feed | Google's blogs | About


This site unofficially covers Google™ and more with some rights reserved. Join our forum!