Is Chrome really so important?

So the intertubes are resounding with word of Google’s latest offering: a next-generation browser called Chrome. Chrome certainly embodies some really cool ideas and could just pave the way for a new generation of browsers that are designed to support rich web apps and not just the text and images of web 1.0. But honestly, how far is Chrome going to go and how soon?

Chrome is being touted by some as being a full-blown web operating system that will soon supercede Windows. Ahem. Allow me to respectfully disagree. Sure the cloud is becoming an important part of everyone’s computing experience, but the desktop isn’t going anywhere soon. Let’s keep in mind the fact that the majority of computer users aren’t really tech savvy and aren’t continuously on the move. The most common use that people have for computers is word-processing, spreadsheets, maybe presentations, email and Facebook. Let’s face it: your grandmother doesn’t really want or need her cookie recipes to be kept on remote servers using Amazon S3.

Though personally I do quite like Google Chrome, there are some things that really trouble me. First up is memory usage. Google Chrome takes up about 267MB of memory which is more than IE8 which in turn is more than Windows XP. Seriously, all that for a browser so that I can run webapps which for the most part have features I could find in mid-90s software? Wasn’t it the promise of cloud computing that we would have trillion of clock cycles and terabytes of storage at our fingertips just for the asking? Webapps still have quite some way to go before I can justify a quarter of a gigabyte just to run a browser. Let’s not even talk about things for which there aren’t any webapps yet. I’ve recently begun moving away from word processors to Latex for my writing. There isn’t an online Latex environment. Nor are there full-scale online development environments (though CodeIDE is pretty cool). As a programmer, I’m not quite ready to move onto the cloud full time.

So the desktop is here to stay. After all it doesn’t really make sense to scale everything to thousands of processors just because you can. All that being said and done, I do think Google Chrome brings some interesting ideas. Separating the workload across multiple processes is interesting and the V8 javascript virtual machine could prove to be a good step forward. Only time will tell if Google Chrome really does have a substantial impact on the state of the web. But a web operating system is still some time away.

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