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Google: Chrome Browser Will Make Money

Google's goals for its new Chrome Web browser are simple: Make the Web experience faster and, by extension, make more money for Google.

Google's Chrome browser is now officially available as a beta, offering the promise of increased speed, security and usability. During a conference call and Webcast with the press today from the Googleplex in Mountain View, Calif., Google trotted out a line-up of engineers to explain what is new for Web users and what Google hopes to gain with Chrome.

Sundar Pichai, Google's vice president of product management, said the name Chrome itself is indicative of the key value that Google is aiming to provide with the new browser. Chrome is the space where the user interacts with the browser in the traditional Netscape/Mozilla view of browsers. It's an area that Google is aiming to minimize for usability.

"Chrome is kind of an ironic name for our product," Pichai said. "Our view is that the browser is just a tool for people to interact with applications that they care about so browsers should not be self-important. We wanted to make sure that people were forgetting why they are using a browser."

To that end, Google has introduced something called the OmniBox, which integrates the traditional browser address bar with a search box. Ben Goodger, who had been the lead engineer on Mozilla's Firefox until January of 2005, explained people have been confused with have both a search box and an address bar. With the OmniBox, searches can be conducted directly from the address bar.

Tabs, which were a key innovation in Firefox, have been innovated further on Google Chrome by putting them on top. Goodger noted that Google thinks of tabs as title bars for Web pages and apps.

By placing them on top they become more primary and usable. Instead of starting with a blank screen, the default new tab page will show the users most viewed pages and search boxes for recently used search engines. Google Chrome does not discriminate against other search engines and will enable users to use whatever search engine they choose.

The Incognito window, which is Google Chrome's privacy mode, is also a key feature that Goodger explained was meant to keep stuff off a user's computer so sites won't appear in history and cookies aren't saved.

Further improving the Web application usage of browsers is a feature called App View, which provides a stripped-down browser window without navigation buttons. The feature is similar to Mozilla's Prism effort, which offers the same approach but with the Firefox web browser.

On the speed side of things, Google is employing two key technologies, one new and one borrowed. Apple's WebKit is the core rendering engine for Google's Chrome and according to Google engineers it is substantially faster that Microsoft's Internet Explorer. WebKit is also the same rendering engine used by Google's Android mobile effort as well as Apple's iPhone. Android will also benefit from Chrome's new V8 JavaScript engine, which is intended to be faster than any other current JavaScript approach.

"It's about making the browser faster, since substantially greater usage translates directly into revenues," Google co-founder Larry Page said during the conference call. "So I think there are very direct benefits. You only have 24 hours in the day and we'd like you to do more searches and if the browser runs faster we get more searches."

Page's partner, Google co-founder Sergey Brin, echoed the sentiment and noted that Chrome is consistent with Google broader efforts to improve Internet access.

"Our business does well if there is a lot of internet usage and that's why we work hard on Internet access be it wired or wireless," Brin said. "Basically, our business does well if people are using the Web and the Internet a lot and they are able to use it easily and quickly."

Google also claims that it is improving security as well since it uses a multi-process architecture that renders each tab independently. So if a user has a bad application running in one tab it won't crash or slow down the entire browser.

Google engineer (and former Mozilla staffer) Darren Fischer explained that Chrome also limits the amount of privileges that each tab gets by providing a sandbox for applications.

Fischer explained that prior to Chrome, if a hacker got onto your PC, all he had to do was to find a bug in the rendering engine.

"With Google Chrome they have to find a bug and then find a bug in the sandbox to get out," Fischer said.

Whitehat security researcher Jeremiah Grossman told InternetNews.com that sandboxing is an excellent idea, long overdue by all browser vendors; it separates the hosting Web from the operating system below.

Grossman does have a few security concerns though among them is the fact that in his view it still needs to be broadly tested.

"That tends to be where software security breaks down a lot," Grossman said. "I also wonder how many of the generic browser attack techniques such as history stealing, user login detection, and intranet hacking are in the product."

Security research firm Cenzic was also cautiously optimistic about Google Chrome's security posture.

"With Chrome, Google has certainly made a concerted effort to keep security in mind and in some cases, it should have better security especially for anti-malware and anti-phishing types of issues," Cenzic Chief Marketing Officer Mandeep Khera told InternetNews.com. "However, the jury is still out on if it's doing anything for true Web application security issues like XSS and CSRF."

Google co-founder Larry Page however is confident that Google Chrome is a step in the right direction for Internet Web browser security.

"I do think this process model, since each process is sandboxed, allows us to reduce the probability of holes and even if there is a hole it can be better contained," Page said. "I do think this model provides inherently a much more secure browser."