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Google Launches 'Chrome' Web Browser

IRA FLATOW, host:

This is Talk of the Nation: Science Friday. I am Ira Flatow. A little bit later, we'll be talking about the most sought after fish for top sushi meals, the bluefin tuna. But first, just when you thought the browser wars of the 1990s were over, out comes Google this week.

Now, you know Google as that search engine that most people use to find stuff on the Web, but this week, Google unveiled it's new Internet browser, Google Chrome. And the folks at Google say they wanted to rethink the browser, because these days, we use the Internet to read the news, to go shopping, to check the calendar, even listen to the radio, of course, it's too soon to know if Google's new browser will lure Internet sufferers and surfers away from Firefox and Internet Explorer.

And right now, it's only available for Windows, so we Mac folks have to wait a little bit for that, but just how different is this browser? And might it favor Google's searches, you know? Hmm. Joining me now to discuss these questions and give us his take on Google's new browser is Danny Sullivan, editor-in-chief of Search Engine Land.com.

And he's been covering the news on search engines for over a decade. He's on the phone from California. Welcome to the program, Danny.

Mr. DANNY SULLIVAN (Editor-in-Chief, Search Engine land.com): Thanks very much.

FLATOW: Are we entering a new decade of surfer wars? Browser wars?

Mr. SULLIVAN: Very, very much so. This is definitely Google firing a shot back at Microsoft, I think. We even had Google CEO Eric Schmidt yesterday talk about of being a defensive move. They see the browsers very important to all the businesses that they do, and that they need to be out there playing in that space.

FLATOW: Why do we need a new browser?

Mr. SULLLIVAN: Well, Google argues that the browsers that we had were fine for displaying the pictures that we see on web pages and the text that's out there, but we do a lot more when we go to websites these days. They're much more interactive. They're basically mini computer programs that we're running on them.

FLATOW: Mm-hm.

Mr. SULLLIVAN: And that existing browsers weren't built with that in mind. So they've built a browser that they say is designed to be like a mini operating system, if you will, for going to different websites.

FLATOW: Well - you've used it, how was it? Is it living up to those claims? Is it revolutionary? Is it different? Take your choice.

Mr. SULLIVAN: It's interesting. It does seem to be faster on some of the sites I've gone to. We maintain a forum website that we run, and it has a lot of JavaScript. A lot of things are load up there and I definitely felt like it was a lot faster than when I've been using Firefox. I've seen different kinds of stats that are out there, I think it tends to weigh that it seem like a faster browser.

But it misses some of the things I'm used to in using Firefox, where I had a lot of extensions and plug-ins enough to make Firefox useful.

FLATOW: Mm-hm. So it's not wowing you yet?

Mr. SULLIVAN: Wow-ish.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. SULLIVAN: If I could get the same plug-ins I have in Firefox...

FLATOW: Right.

Mr. SULLIVAN: I probably would move over into Chrome, because it does feel a bit faster. I do especially like that ironically, they've got rid of the browser Chrome. The stuff that surrounds the actual windows where you're interacting with you pages. They've gotten rid of a lot of that stuff.

So it's very clean. You could see a lot more screen real estate with it. So that's the only thing really kind of holding me back at the moment.

FLATOW: Mm-hm. There is this something called Incognito Mode. You work incognito on that browser. What does that do for you?

Mr. SULLIVAN: Well, sometimes you're at a - say a public computer, or you're using some else's computer and you may want to log in and check your mail. And you're wondering, oh, are they going to see my password, or am I going to see where I've gone to. Maybe you're going to some websites you don't want people to know you're visiting.

FLATOW: Like porno. Some people have dubbed this the porno mode.

Mr. SULLIVAN: But none of your listeners, I'm sure.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. SULLIVAN: But they may have friends who want to go into porno mode and so, that's what incognito could do for them. It'll basically let you go out and browse, and not have anything recorded at the computer at all. When you shut that window, it's gone away and it's done.

FLATOW: Mm-hm.

Mr. SULLIVAN: Although, Google jokingly warns, it doesn't protect from somebody standing behind you, and looking over your shoulders seeing where you go.

FLATOW: Mm-hm. 1-800-989-8255. Of course, Google loves to make money, and all the ads it puts up on everybody else's browser. Are they going to be using their own browser for - as an ad campaign?

Mr. SULLIVAN: No, kind of.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. SULLIVAN: They don't - I mean they don't put ads into other browsers, but of course, they have ads on a lot of the content...

FLATOW: Right. Right.

Mr. SULLIVAN: You know when you go to the browsers. So, when Google was asked that, the response was, no, we don't have all these tie-ins. We don't have like a little special area where we're just showing ads. And it fact the browser is very untied from Google.

You don't push buttons that automatically take you to Gmail. It isn't going to put you into Google search by default, if you have another default search engine on your computer. But they do say that what they hope is that more people are using Chrome, and having a better experience, then yeah, they're going to see more Google ads along the way.

FLATOW: Mm-hm. Let's go to Jeff in Washington D.C. Hi, Jeff.

JEFF (Caller): Hi, how are you?

FLATOW: Hi, there.

JEFF: Well, I have a question about compatibility issues. I'm actually looking at the Science Friday website right now, both using Chrome and Internet Explorer, and I was wondering - I was trying to look at Google maps last night, and using Chrome, and it wasn't able to render the maps.

FLATOW: Hmm, that's not a good thing.

JEFF: No, it's not.

FLATOW: Especially because the maps are made by Google.

JEFF: Exactly. I was really surprised. So does your guest have any information on any compatibility issues?

FLATOW: Good question. Danny?

Mr. SULLIVAN: Well, Google's using as part of its rendering engine, what's called web - I think it's called Web Kid. It's what Apple uses for their Safari browser. So, they're using the same exact code to my knowledge, which means that, if you could get to a website in Safari, and see it all display and do well, it should be doing just as well in Chrome, and because many people do use Safari, there shouldn't be any major compatibility things.

I've loaded up Google maps right now, this very second, and that seem to be fine.

FLATOW: Mm-hm.

Mr. SULLIVAN: I would suggest trying to reload it, and giving it another go. I haven't seen a lot of reports like that, and it's been out there and it has had some usage, so...

FLATOW: Mm-hm.

Mr. SULLIVAN: It sounds like it's more perhaps a particular glitch you're having. And you give Google the feedback. I am sure they'd be very, very interested to see what's going on with it.

FLATOW: Yeah. I fooled around a little bit with it yesterday. I noticed that it allows you to use the Google apps very easily. Their own apps, you know, the web bro - the applications that they make that you use in the clouds, so to speak.

Mr. SULLIVAN: Mm-hm. And that is indeed their intent here. If you are looking for a sort of a Google tie-in, it's simply that Google is making a big business out of providing applications that run off the web, rather than running off, you know, software you've installed on your computer. And they really want to make sure that you have a good experience in that.

And as you can imagine, a lot of the testing that they would have done with this would have been using their own apps and tweaking it and tuning it. It should work fine for a lot of other web apps that are out there as well, if you go with what Google is saying.

FLATOW: Mm-hm.

Mr. SULLIVAN: But for people who are making a lot of intensive usage of websites, and a lot interactivity, this is definitely something you want to take to look at.

FLATOW: Mm-hm. Is this an open-source browser?

Mr. SULLIVAN: It is and it isn't. So, when Google put it out, they said this is open-source, and I think a lot of people had a real feel-good thing off of that. Look, it's - Google's not tying it to themselves. But they actually have released two sort of things. Google Chrome itself is Google's browser, and it'll get changed, and altered, and fixed in whatever way Google decides it wants to do, and then people use it.

They also released the code for anybody else to use the code and incorporate. So potentially Microsoft could say, hey, Internet Explorer 9, we're we're just going to use all the Google Chrome code, and build it up that way. So it's open source in that regard that anybody can make use of it, but it's not exactly open in that not everybody is going to suddenly change the distribution that Google puts out.

And for the people like with Firefox, that, you know, this - the rival browser that you have a whole community that's been building, it's not like they just can instantly take Google's Chrome and plug it into their existing browser.

FLATOW: Mm-hm.

Mr. SULLIVAN: You know, they would have to do lots and lots of reengineering and make use of it, so it doesn't just sort of flow into it that way.

FLATOW: Mm-hm. David in Auburn Hills, Michigan.

DAVID (Caller): Yes, Hi. Thanks for taking my call.

FLATOW: Mm-hm.

DAVID: I just - I had a comment and a question. First, I want to just add that I - say I that I just started using Chrome the other day, and I really like it. It's really fast and that is really, really helpful.

But I wanted to ask you're guest what he thought about the Google end user license agreement, where if you're not in incognito mode, at first, they said anything you put into the address bar up top was basically there's to keep and to do whatever with, and I'll take his response hereof the air. Thanks.

FLATOW: Thanks.

Mr. SULLIVAN: They quickly took that out, and also said that they would resend it for anybody who used it. It seems that what happen was Google - they have this thing basically as you said, whatever you go to, we get a copy right to it as well, and we can do what we want with it.

And it turns out that they used the same kind of licensing agreement there that they used for other products or maybe that is more applicable, and they just kind of did a copy and paste. So, you know, it's kudos to them for when people pointed that out.

Quickly getting it removed and trying to reassure everybody, but it's still a little bit alarming, because you're thinking, you've put this browser out there, you told us you've done all this thought, all this concern. You look at all these different types of things and then you'd...

FLATOW: Yeah.

Mr. SULLIVAN: Nobody looked over your legal agreement that you put in their...

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. SULLIVAN: So did you miss anything else that we need to be covering along the way.

FLATOW: Right. Right. Is this a sneak attack on Microsoft's applications like Word, and Excel, and things because, you know, this may send you toward the cloud ones that Google makes.

Mr. SULLIVAN: Well, it doesn't cause you to automatically use their thing - their application. So it's not like you load it up and it says, hey, you should be using Gmail and Google docs, there's no buttons or anything.

FLATOW: Right.

Mr. SULLIVAN: So it's not, I guess, a sneak attack in that respect. But it' certainly is Google getting even more behind those products, by trying to ensure that you have an operating system if you will, your browser, that runs dependably for them. And what I think you'll see happen down the line is, you'll be a user of one of those products.

You'll go to say Google docs and you'll see something that says, hey, try Google Docs or Google Chrome, it runs faster, or design for Google Docs. So you'll download that without really realizing your downloading a browser.

You may just feel like this is an extension to Google Docs, and suddenly now you're using another browser, and a browser that you may like. And if you were using Internet Explorer...

FLATW: Mm-hm.

Mr. SULLIVAN: Perhaps it starts tempting you away for the particular application...

FLATOW: Mm-hm. than attempting you away from it period.

FLATOW: Mm-hm. Because you say this is used with the same kit that Safari - the Mac browser - is made with. Can the two be eventually ported to one another, or additions and modifications made in one pack, perhaps show up in the other?

Mr. SULLIVAN: Oh, between Safari and Yahoo?

FLATOW: Yeah. Yeah.

Mr. SULLIVAN: Potentially, you can move stuff and that goes back to the open source thing that Google's saying, anything we put out there, you can use. But they've also said that they've built this entire new browser from scratch, so I guess it's kind of like saying, hey, you know, your - that model T you're driving, well...

FLATOW: Yeah.

Mr. SULLIVAN: We've got this new, you know, full - fuel injection engines, so if you want to drop it in, feel free.

FLATOW: Right.

FLATOW: And we're still in Beta on this, where we actually have the product in real numbers?

Mr. SULLIVAN: Yeah, we're in Beta, and it's, you know, the typical Google Beta where they might as well just call it, you know, version 1.0.

FLATOW: Yeah.

Mr. SULLIVAN: At some point they'll take the Beta label off. It may not make any difference, they may not have changed anything. It just kind of gives them an excuse if there's glitches to say, oh well, you know, it's a Beta.

FLATOW: Yeah.

Mr. SULLIVAN: And we don't - as you pointed out - have a version for the Mac or for Linux yet. They've promised both of those, but there's no timeline for when they'll come.

Mr. SULLIVAN: Apple's having some big announcement on Tuesday or something like that. Maybe they'll have part of that in there.

Mr. SULLIVAN: We'll see.

FLATOW: OK, Danny. Thanks for taking your time to be with us.

Mr. SULLIVAN: You're very welcome. Thanks for having me.

FLATOW: You're welcome. Danny Sullivan, editor-in-chief of Search Engine Land.com. He's covering the news all the time on his search engines. We're going to take a break. Switch gears and talk about tuna with Richard Ellis, author of "Tuna: A Love Story," a love story about a fish. You'll find out why. Stay with us, we'll be right back. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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