I was as blindsided by Google Chrome as everyone else, but there's no denying that its release was a momentous occasion. Chrome is more than just a browser; it represents Google's latest entry in the ongoing discussion of standards and best practices for the Web as an application platform. As such, it may be the company's most important offering since Gears.
"From my perspective, Google Chrome and Gears are entering the Web from two directions," says Google's Adam Goodman in Scott McCloud's comic-strip introduction to Chrome. "The [Chrome] browser project is an effort to make the Web better for users. The Gears team wants to make the Web better for developers."
[ Check out InfoWorld's Special Report for all the news, reviews, and commentary on Google's open source Chrome browser. ]
Lucky for us, Google Chrome ships with all of the functionality of the Gears plug-in for Firefox and Internet Explorer already baked in. But I don't agree that users are the only beneficiaries of the other effort that's gone into Chrome. There's a lot going on beneath the hood of the new browser that should interest developers, too.
For starters, Google's decision to use the WebKit HTML rendering engine may not be surprising, but it's still significant. WebKit, an improved version of the open source KHTML project, is the rendering engine used by Apple for its Safari browser. It's also the engine found in both Apple's iPhone and Google Android, arguably the two most important mobile Web platforms today.
That means Google Chrome isn't yet another browser to support, as my pal Paul Venezia suggests. Rather, it's one more vote in favor of making WebKit a primary target for new Web development projects. It only makes sense to test against the engine that's available on the widest range of platforms and devices.
And popularity isn't the only reason why WebKit was a good choice. Current WebKit builds are very fast. As a result, pages generally pop up more quickly in Chrome than in Firefox 3. More importantly, WebKit leads the pack in Web standards compliance (with Opera a close second). The more developers get on board with writing fully standards-compliant code, free of undocumented tricks and browser-specific hacks, the better it will be for everyone.