Wednesday, September 03, 2008

A First Look at Google Chrome (Beta)

Today I downloaded and installed Google Chrome Beta from;

The download was fast (it's a fairly small file) and installation is simple... Too simple in fact. It doesn't give you much choice about where you put things. There's also not much available in the way of configuration at the moment. What was nice is that it correctly recognised Mozilla Firefox 3 as my main browser and imported my bookmarks etc.

One thing that may annoy is that it modifies the registry to run Google Update on Startup.

When it starts, it gives you an option immediately, to change your search engine - or keep google, that's a nice touch. Google is obviously trying to appear as if they're not a monopoly.

It's important to remember that this is a beta product and in no way represents the final finished product.

General Look and Feel
At this point it's very rough around the edges, though I'll admit that the tabs are nice - even if they do break windows standards.

The browser itself is very fast but I think this has a lot to do with the fact that there are no addins.

It incorrectly rendered my Google Bookmarks, which both Mozilla and Internet Explorer do very well and there's no Google Toolbar available for it as yet. Since these are the same reasons that I don't use Safari, it's got no hope of becoming my default browser until this is fixed.

My iGoogle Homepage is very busy, so I decided to compare browsers on it.

Notes on Test Results
It's important to remember a few things, Firefox has been my main browser for the past couple of years though I still use IE a bit too. Both of these browsers may have had speed bonuses due to caching. Also, we're comparing against a beta product which hasn't been optimised yet and the browsers are all running different levels of addins, with firefox carrying the most, followed by IE. Safari and Chrome probably have none.

So, the playing field is by no means ... level.

Still, the results are interesting.

My iGoogle Page
  • Safari v3.1.1 Memory used: 72,560
  • Firefox v3.0.1 Memory used: 77,460
  • Internet Explorer v7.0.5730 Memory Used: 67,764
  • Google Chrome Beta Memory Used: 19908 and 39488 = 59,396

Chrome has the lowest starting memory usage, but this could be due to lack of pluggins. What's interesting here is that Chrome tends to create multiple instances of itself to manage memory (or perhaps it's multi-threading?)

Next I started Gmail and switched to the tab.

  • Safari v3.1.1 Memory used: 103,948
  • Firefox v3.0.1 Memory used: 100,092
  • Internet Explorer v7.0.5730 Memory Used: 108,112
  • Google Chrome Beta Memory Used: 28,228 + 20,104 + 10,004 + 39,804 = 98,140

Chrome still has the lowest memory usage but what was interesting was that I noticed some timing differences. Both Mozilla and Chrome loaded Gmail fairly quickly while IE took a little while and Safari took ages. I couldn't put it down to simple caching because there's no way that Chrome would have previously visited gmail, and I know that IE certainly has.

Various Speed Tests
Finally, I decided to do a couple of speed tests.

Google Reader
Complex Text Rendering
  • Safari v3.1.1 10 seconds Memory used: 107,828
  • Firefox v3.0.1 11 seconds Memory used: 90,748
  • Internet Explorer v7.0.5730 16 seconds Memory Used: 99,428
  • Google Chrome Beta 16 seconds Memory Used: 29,024 + 45,696 + 5960 = 80,410

Google Picasa
Lots of Pictures
  • Safari v3.1.1 14 seconds Memory used: 111,888
  • Firefox v3.0.1 17 seconds Memory used: 90,116
  • Internet Explorer v7.0.5730 16 seconds Memory Used: 107,884
  • Google Chrome Beta 12 seconds Memory Used: 21,132 + 18,684 + 46,644 = 86,460

Note that while Internet Explorer and Firefox went all the way to my profile (because my password was cached) Chrome and Safari went to a page which was considerably less complex. This shows in their results - though the Safari memory issue is interesting.
  • Safari v3.1.1 14 seconds Memory used: 111,624
  • Firefox v3.0.1 16 seconds Memory used: 107,552
  • Internet Explorer v7.0.5730 17 seconds Memory Used: 108,516
  • Google Chrome Beta 9 seconds Memory Used: 28,380 + 46,400 = 74,780

Overall Memory
Google Chrome was a clear winner in memory but I'm sure that has a lot to do with Addons.

To compare effectively, I ran Firefox in Safe Mode and got a figure for my starting page (iGoogle). Firefox went down from 77,460 to 50,660 which brings it below the Google Chrome memory of 59,396.

I can guess that something similar would happen with Internet Explorer - though to a lesser extent. What's interesting is that, aside from the front page, Internet Explorer always consumed more memory than Firefox. I think therefore that we can say Firefox has better memory management. In fact, considering that Google Chrome didn't go all the way in facebook to my profile (hence used less memory), Firefox seems to beat all the browsers in terms of memory use.

Overall Time
Safari was the clear winner in terms of speed, with the exception of a rather unexpected result in Facebook. Since I only took IE and Firefox all the way to my profile (ie: my login was cached), the Safari and Chrome results (14 and 9 seconds respsectively) can be compared. This suggests that Chrome has the ability to beat Safari in speed on certain applications.

Anyway, that concludes my results for now. It doesn't prove anything really but it's interesting food for thought.

Oh... one last thing. Google Chrome is not currently compatible with iNotes - (and rendered one of our domino extranet pages incorrectly). Since IE, Safari and Firefox manage to render it properly, I guess I can't really suggest that anyone uses Chrome seriously until the next beta.


Alex Lewis said...


Interesting comparison! I do think that Google is trying to change the paradigm of what we, as end users, consider a browser. They're trying to make it Google-world in somewhat the same manner AOL made it's one little world "the Internet" for millions of people. Like I said in my article today, there's a lot of sizzle but not much steak.

Graham Dodge said...

Browsers have joined desktop operating systems like Linux and office productivity products like Open Office or Symphony as zero cost (almost generic) software components.

IMHO *most* people don't care which browser is technically better since all browsers will do 100% of the tasks required by 90% of users. Nothing wrong with having your favorites browser but that's like choosing Ford over GM - a question of style preference rather than utility.

I agree that Google might yet reinvent the browser as a new type of application but when that happens we won't be comparing it to IE, Firefox or Safari just like we shouldn't compare Notes/Domino (applications and email) to Exchange (email only).

Zimareff said...

Actually the "full" version of Domino R8 web mail works fine except some issues with rendering icons in the toolbar and other smaller layout problems. But the "lite" is a full disaster - it apperas perfectly on the first look but then fails to do anything - from just hoovering over the toolbar to opening messages.

computerlove said...

just wait 'till Firefox releases their new javascript engine :)

Khelben said...

Interesting statistics! I myself only uses Firefox unless some sites forces me to use IE.

Google Chrome didn't manage to handle YouTube videos for me over here. Definitely not good.

movie buff said...

I hesitate to use even upgraded versions of Chrome, since my last experience using it (first version) left my computer compromised; have they fixed the security issues beyond all doubt?