Google recently celebrated the first anniversary of the launch of its Chrome browser with a new Beta version that includes some fresh or updated features, and a promise of an extensions framework that will allow the building of add-ons that some users have been demanding. “We certainly learned a lot in the first year,” Google Chrome product manager Brian Rakwowski told NetGuide. “Initially we were blown away by the response from users, the number of people who took an interest in what we were doing, and many more were trying out Chrome than we expected in the first couple of days.
“Our focus was on speed, security and stability. Nothing has changed there, but we’ve learned a lot of specifics on how to make those things reality.”
Chrome’s current share of the browser market hovers between 1% and 3%, which equates to around 30 million users. Hardly staggering numbers, but then your average Internet user is a conservative type who favours the familiar.
“Browsers are so unknown in consumer-space – it’s really a bit of a faceless product category to people in general,” Rakwowski said. “We’ve been working to help educate people about browsers, helping them to understand that browsers are important and they do have a choice.”
Microsoft’s Internet Explorer is certainly more challenged by Firefox, with its huge raft of extensions, but Google has been cautious about adding features to Chrome, prompting criticism from user forums that it doesn’t do as much as its bigger rivals.
“One of the interesting things I’ve learned is that there are hundreds of features in browsers and 90% those features are only used by 10% of the users,” Rakwowski said. “Extensions really give a good solution to that problem. You can pick and choose the features you care about a lot, rather than having to get the whole set of 100 features when you only really want one or two of them.”
Chrome has a simple list of extensions that Rakwowski says “fill real needs for people”. They include an RSS subscribe extension and a Gmail status notifier, both of which he considers niche features. Google has been working on an extensions platform that will let third-party developers devise add-ons that users want. That should be available later this year, along with Beta versions of Chrome for Mac and Linux.
Meanwhile, the new Chrome Beta includes the ability to customise the Tab page so you can rearrange or delete your browsing history, a streamlined version of the popular Omnibox combined search and URL bar, and a Themes Gallery. Faster browsing speed is also claimed. More details can be read at tinyurl.com/mqez2r where you can also download the new version.