Internet Explorer users should switch to Google's new browser or to Firefox.
Al Fasoldt's reviews and commentaries, continuously available online since 1983

T e c h n o f i l e
Google's own Web browser is a champ

Sept. 21, 2008

By Al Fasoldt
Copyright © 2008, Al Fasoldt
Copyright © 2008, The Post-Standard

   Google pulled off a big surprise of its own during the run-up to the Republican National Convention. While John McCain was announcing Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin as his running mate, Google caught the computer world off guard with a free program for browsing the Web.
   Google's new Web browser, called Chrome, is a direct replacement for the Web browser built into Windows, Internet Explorer. It's much better in just about every way. And a version that will run on Apple's Mac computers is coming soon.
   Like everything else from Google, the Chrome browser is free. If you're running Windows XP or Vista, you can get it from www.google.com/chrome. Mac users (and Linux users -- there's going to be a Chrome for you, too) can check for their own versions of Chrome by going to www.chromium.org.
   What's Google doing making a Web browser? My guess is that Google, which is closely allied with Apple (the two companies are on each other's boards), is hoping to yank Microsoft away from the "my way or the highway" approach it's taken with Internet Explorer for years. Sometimes, competition is the only language Microsoft speaks.
   This also would be a big help to Apple's Web browser, Safari, which is free for Windows and Macs, and Mozilla's free browser, Firefox, available for all kinds of computers. Microsoft intentionally violated Web standards with Internet Explorer, leaving Apple and Mozilla in a quandary: By following international standards, Safari and Firefox sometimes fail to work well with Web sites designed by Windows Web-design software.
   By adding yet another program to the mix of standard, non-Microsoft Web browsers, Google is hoping to persuade more Web designers to adopt standardized HTML code. This will help Google when it comes up with free programs that use standardized Web browsers as their base.
   Google is also testing methods that will let PC users run programs without Windows at all, by taking advantage of the most recent central processing chips from Intel. These chips are the same ones that allow Macs to run Windows alongside their own programs.
   The first thing you'll notice when you run Chrome is that it's fast. Safari, Firefox and Internet Explorer have a new speed demon to look up to. Chrome uses the same Open Source browser "engine" as Apple's Safari, but Google improved it a couple of ways.
   Like all modern browsers, Chrome as a tabbed interface, showing each Web page (if you have more than one open) in its own tabbed window. But unlike the others, Chrome treats each tabbed window as a separately running browser. This means the browser won't crash if one Web page causes a lockup. That page, and that tab, will stop responding, but you'll be able to close the misbehaving tab without losing anything else.
   Chrome is safer than Internet Explorer and about equal to Firefox. Internet Explorer has improved lately -- IE 8 is a step in the right direction -- but I still do not trust IE. I continue to insist that switching to a Mac is the best way for Windows users to work safely, but anyone who sticks with Windows should stop using Internet Explorer completely.
   Switching to Firefox or Google's Chrome is an obvious option, with Firefox a good choice because of its selection of add-ons and Chrome holding the edge for crash-worthiness. Installing both would be a great idea, as long as you stop your reliance on Internet Explorer.