Happy 5th Birthday, Google Chrome

A suitable birthday cake

Five years ago, we would never have guessed a small Google project would rise to be the most popular desktop web browser, outdoing Internet Explorer, Firefox and Safari. We also wouldn't expect to have a whole operating system built on its core from a company who were little more than a search engine. How we were wrong.

In fact, it was five years ago yesterday when Google Chrome was revealed, by accident, a day early. The features which were spotlighted by various bloggers are ones we now take for granted. Having tabs on top of, instead of underneath, a URL bar was a novelty, and the 'omnibox' address bar would revolutionise browsers, and be transferred to all the major ones.

Google actually took the idea for 'Incognito mode' from IE's 'InPrivate' setting, but managed to grab more attention than Microsoft's iteration - perhaps the witty help text when you select it is the reason for this - watch out for people behind you, it warns. 

Chrome did have setbacks at first, however, as it launched with no way to manage bookmarks and no extensions, unlike Firefox. But Chrome is developed so rapidly, that these never had time to settle as issues. In just five years, Chrome is on version 29, and even now runs on its own layout engine, Blink, which is based upon Apple's WebKit engine.

Chrome for Android was launched in February 2012, which comes bundled as the default browser on Nexus devices, and an iOS version followed in June of the same year, to much praise for its tab sync capabilities. Google want to see Chrome everywhere, and they seem to be succeeding. They even released a metro version for Windows 8 before the OS even reached public release, even though they've said they will develop no more Windows 8 apps.

The question now, is what next?

Image: Google

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Interesting that there is no mention of the origins of how and why Chrome was developed by Google.

It is an interesting story that involves Microsoft introducing IE7 with tracking protection that blocked Google advertising and Firefox also adding in similar technologies.

Chrome was the result to give Google a browser that didn't restrict their advertising on the web. Chrome still serves the needs of Google by not restricting the newer incarnations of cross site tracking they use that IE9/10/11 blocks.

Google didn't create their own Webkit browser out of the goodness of their hearts.

Mobius Enigma said,
Google didn't create their own Webkit browser out of the goodness of their hearts.

No, Chromium did.

Google bakes it's services and features in there (like opt-in user metrics reporting, Flash plugin, extra codecs, pdf viewer and auto-update for platforms with no centralized update system for third party apps, eg. Windows).

Shouldn't that be a flat, thin crust pizza with no gradients? I mean, cake is raised and might confuse people.

I installed Chrome immediately in 2008. Within a few weeks it was my main browser instead of Firefox. I had long since abandoned IE by then. Chrome just got better and better. However I have noticed occasional slow-downs, but not in the Canary build which I use at home.

I used to use Firefox in preference to IE based on the whole IE 4+ disaster/debacle. Then I moved to Chrome for a few years (based on Firefox not working for months on end and a mistrust of IE). Now I am back on IE and going to remove (what I now perceive) the more insecure browsers on my other PCs.

netapplications tracks user share, statcounter tracks usage share

what this means is, NA tracks unique users, statcounter tracks how many page loads,doesnt matter how many users load these. considering chrome does prefetching, these statistics dont show how many people use the browser. even firefox has more users than chrome.

And in those 5 years, have they managed to add something as basic as smooth scrolling yet? Last i checked(earlier this year i think), that was still a mindboggling no.

Why does the article link to stats from june to prove a point?
There was an article only yesterday about how statcounter is not that accurate to measure browser usage.

Seems very silly to me

The thing I don't understand is that a lot of the people who "love" chrome (at least the ones I speak to) praise the innovation of features that aren't standard and require Chrome to use. I've found people buidling features for website that could only be used in Chrome.

These are the same reasons we used to put so much effort into bashing IE and a large part of why IE ended up with such bad press.

[Hangs head in shame]

I just went back and reviewed my notes from that project and try as I might the only thing I can find that lead to my previous belief was some marginal stuff about the use of the new file handling APIs. So it wasn't that it was special Chrome "stuff", it was that Chrome was ahead of the game.

Happy to be proven wrong though and appologies to all those that have posted me a bashing while I reviewed my notes.

As a side note, I'm actually quite glad we got a young hip browser to enter the market and shake up all the old guys (even though I don't use it myself).

SK[ said,]Chrome would be even more popular if it was available on WP platform *hint* *hint*

Can you even release a web browser for WP (other than maybe a skin for IE)?
IIRC Mozilla decided to forget about it as they found it to be unfeasible.

They decided that with Windows Phone 7, they claimed no native code support, which is true.

WP8 on the other hand does support native code. So I guess now they have no excuse.

I'm not sure what's been happening with Chrome lately. I seem to hang regularly and chew all my CPU on all cores. I have to kill it manually. This is across 4 different systems with different operating systems.

Only five years old - yet IE was released in 1995, and still doesn't include many of Chrome's features. It took Microsoft five years to realize just how bad IE was. Out of all browsers I find Chrome fastest and most efficient on system resources. Plus, I like it's sand-boxing feature.

When you've got nothing to compete with, innovation is going to be slow. Now, I'm not condoning IEs bad early years, but you can't expect an age-old browser to have all the new and shiny features that a brand new browser can have. Architecturally speaking, designing a new browser with these features built in would have been far easier than Microsoft tweaking IEs old engine to cater for them.

Give Microsoft a break: Google isn't as groundbreaking as you think, they just entered the game later and had more money.

68k said,
most efficient on system resources

Chrome gobbles up RAM like crazy. Just saying, in case you haven't noticed. It is able to use more resources, which is how it gets the speed.

I have a bunch of tabs open right now and Chrome is using around 200 MB. Oh dear, and I only have 8 GB of RAM, Chrome is totally crippling my system! I'll never understand that complaint.

I wouldn't call that gobbling RAM like crazy. I just opened Firefox to compare, same tabs opened and it's using over 300 MB. Which still isn't a big deal today unless your using a crappy old PC.

Edited by Bonfire, Sep 2 2013, 5:10pm :

Thrackerzod said,
I have a bunch of tabs open right now and Chrome is using around 200 MB. Oh dear, and I only have 8 GB of RAM, Chrome is totally crippling my system! I'll never understand that complaint.

I wouldn't call that gobbling RAM like crazy. I just opened Firefox to compare, same tabs opened and it's using over 300 MB. Which still isn't a big deal today unless your using a crappy old PC.


how is yours only using 200mb? I'm on 2gb of RAM (sad I know), and chrome is using like 400mb of ram total just for 5 tabs...

68k said,
Only five years old - yet IE was released in 1995, and still doesn't include many of Chrome's features. It took Microsoft five years to realize just how bad IE was. Out of all browsers I find Chrome fastest and most efficient on system resources. Plus, I like it's sand-boxing feature.

Windows 3.1 is 21 years old as well, and just like IE4 from 1996, they shares NO COMMON code with the modern versions.

IE9 was not only a complete rewrite, but a new design in how a 'browser' works.

If you like the sandbox in Chrome, then you must really love the original 'real' thing called IE that runs in a sandbox.

Side Note:
Microsoft actually helped Google sandbox the original versions of Chrome based off of IE7's technologies in Vista. Sadly Chrome didn't and still doesn't fully use the OS level security to maintain the sandbox. Which why in the pwn2own of just last year, opening a website could launch external Apps from Chrome.

Mobius Enigma said,

Which why in the pwn2own of just last year, opening a website could launch external Apps from Chrome.

In this year's pwn2own IE9's sandbox was bypassed to execute arbitrary code with medium integrity permissions.

Both IE10 and IE9's sandboxes (on Windows8 and Windows7 respectively) were also bypassed using another different vulnerability, where they could also execute arbitrary code.

Chrome on Linux (Chrome OS) stood the challenge though, maybe because it uses a different sandbox system than the Windows counterpart.

FalseAgent said,

Chrome gobbles up RAM like crazy. Just saying, in case you haven't noticed. It is able to use more resources, which is how it gets the speed.

All browsers with tab isolation use more memory, it's the price you pay for the extra security, performance, and stability. If you don't like it switch to Firefox or Opera

Yea, as much as I like Chrome's performance it's still miles behind Firefox when it comes to the interface and flexibility.. a lot of the Chrome addons just pale in comparison to what the equivalent Firefox version can do. They open up browser a bit more to allow more control and I'll definitely consider switching, but for now, zero plans to switch my desktop or phone from Firefox.

I actually wrote this post on the 1st, and scheduled it for the 2nd, so I hadn't seen that post at time of writing. While I'm sorry these contradictory posts may be confusing, but the other article is speculative, and doesn't say that Chrome definitely isn't the most popular browser.

Remember you can hover over the writer's name at the top of an article, then click 'report issue' to send a message directly to us, if there is an inaccuracy. That will guarantee a fast explanation!

Thanks!

Many people have chrome installed without even knowing they've installed it, thanks to flash player and other 3rd party stuff, that's included with their install - unless you read carefully.

Most of my customers are content with IE, but after a couple months, most have 2-5 toolbars installed, usually bogging down the system. So they come in with their pc and I get work Thank you IE.

Might be true, but question is how many of those who install it unintentionally that actually use it. For many people Internet is the same as that blue E icon they click.

Chrome being bundled is not what makes it popular.

stop calling Chrome popular FFS. StatCounter's numbers combine desktop chrome versions AND android versions, IE is king on PCs. That's not going to change. Why? Because IE is a great browser, super fast, super reliable, Google can take their ads and shove them up their ***

Anastasios A Toulkeridis said,
stop calling Chrome popular FFS. StatCounter's numbers combine desktop chrome versions AND android versions, IE is king on PCs. That's not going to change. Why? Because IE is a great browser, super fast, super reliable, Google can take their ads and shove them up their ***

Regardless, Chrome is very popular. Chrome is also a great browser, super fast, super reliable. But with the added expandability of all those extensions/addons.

Most people who use IE use it because it comes with windows. They don't care if its fast, they care that it's convenient. People who use chrome on the other hand download it specifically because it is fast and customizable.

Anastasios A Toulkeridis said,
stop calling Chrome popular FFS. StatCounter's numbers combine desktop chrome versions AND android versions, IE 6 is king on PCs. That's not going to change. Why? Because IE 6 is a great browser, super fast, super reliable, Google can take their ads and shove them up their ***

Corrected!

NegroWatermelon said,
Most people who use IE use it because it comes with windows. They don't care if its fast, they care that it's convenient. People who use chrome on the other hand download it specifically because it is fast and customizable.

A lot of people that use Chrome are under the illusion that is 'faster' or 'safer' based on dated and uniformed information. A lot of these users have some friend that is a computer 'genius/guru' and they have either installed chrome for them or told them to install chrome.

I would argue that very few Chrome users 'technically' have any understanding of the base technology or how it compares to IE.

I can even throw you a test question. What is the fundamental difference between Chrome/Webkit's browser model and IE9/10//11's browser model?

This is an important question that directly affects every user as it explains the massive gains in speed, stability and security that IE9-11 has achieved.

Even go for an easier question to answer: What is the common model that both Chrome and IE4-8 use? (And considering how IE4-8 is regarded, this is not a compliment to Chrome.)

*raises finger*
Oh oh oh I know, (active) Document viewer versus active native code rendering.

You also forgot the staggering number of applications that try to get you to install Chrome. Getting bugged on every Google site with "Try a better browser now", it installing without requiring admin rights (bypassing UAC).
Don't pay attention with 1 of the billions of applications and you have Chrome installed as your default browser.

Lord Method Man said,
Makes sense. Very, very few people use Modern Apps on Windows 8 as people still prefer the desktop UI for their PCs.

I can cite over a million clients that exclusively use the Modern UI and custom Modern UI Apps for their corporate solutions.

I would even argue that most home users have found a lot of Win8 Apps that they like and use over the desktop alternatives/counterparts.

Having not done any development in the past week, I have only viewed the desktop when launching Word or an MMO. I would also argue that I am far from the average user which the Modern UI is more directly targeted towards.

Be careful with generalizations, there is often truth in them, but not necessarily in the quantity one would assume.

dichotomy said,
Why are you wishing strong competition away? After all, competition breed innovation.

He's a Microsoft fanboy. You'll get used to it.

fobban said,

He's a Microsoft fanboy. You'll get used to it.
I'm not, I do like Microsoft, but as much as I do like Mozilla, etc. The thing I hate are browsers that lack the standards that need mee to write a bunch of -webkit- rules to make it actualy works.

Studio384 said,
The thing I hate are browsers that lack the standards that need mee to write a bunch of -webkit- rules to make it actualy works.

Along with the -moz, -khtml, -o and -ms.

Vendors are supposed to use a prefix unless they implement a candidate recommendation or later. Microsoft uses -ms.

ichi said,

Along with the -moz, -khtml, -o and -ms.


-ms- is hardly needed, Microsoft introduces features without those tags, the only things that actualy need the -ms- prefix to work was pointer events. Everything else doesn't. -ms-border-radius does exict (since IE9), but you can also use the standard border-radius. Mozilla also seems to fix those -moz- tags way earlier then Chrome, until Chrome 26, Chrome didn't support gradients without that stupid prefix...

Yep that's true. Microsoft was faster implementing some later drafts with IE10 than Chrome was at that time. But seriously, if you wanna play the game of which browser implemented a feature first, IE ain't gonna win .

fobban said,
Yep that's true. Microsoft was faster implementing some later drafts with IE10 than Chrome was at that time. But seriously, if you wanna play the game of which browser implemented a feature first, IE ain't gonna win .

Which is precisely why Chrome's tardiness with supporting finalised standards is atrocious. Google should be ashamed.

fobban said,
Yep that's true. Microsoft was faster implementing some later drafts with IE10 than Chrome was at that time. But seriously, if you wanna play the game of which browser implemented a feature first, IE ain't gonna win .

Actually it would. Many of the base concepts of HTML5 in addition to previous adopted standard iterations can be traced back to IE4/IE5.

There was a time when web designers made fun of IE for supporting 'fancy' tags like 'font' and would force webdings on IE with a standard font telling the users to run Netscape.

Better yet IE6 was written for the future, accepting 'standards' while they were not set in stone yet.
In return Mozilla, Sun and Opera got W3C to change these standards just before setting them in stone. Some are dropped (and later returned with HTML5) or changed enough to make it break in IE.
Cause of this funny trick pulled at W3C, Microsoft now refuses to implement HTML5 features that are still subject to change.
Mozilla and Opera are still there, and Google replaced Sun's position at W3C.

But still Microsoft gets the full blame all the time in this situation for not supporting every single HTML5 feature out there. Even though they easily could as Trident easily allows new features.