Though it has only been available since the start of September, the new beta version of Google Chrome is already attracting a following. As of Wednesday evening, about one percent of Internet surfers were using Google's open-source browser, according to Net Applications. By comparison, the longtime Opera browser had a 0.74 percent share of the global browser market in August.
Obviously, Chrome still has a long way to go before it can be considered a serious challenger to Internet Explorer (72.15 percent), Firefox (19.73 percent), and Safari (6.37 percent). For one thing, the beta version of Google's browser is missing some of the flashier bells and whistles found in Internet Explorer and Firefox. On the other hand, there are advantages to driving a hotrod stripped to its chassis.
As anyone who has had a chance to test Chrome knows, Google's open-source browser is lightning fast, one reason the beta version is attracting fans. By contrast, only 0.34 percent of Internet users were test-driving IE8 beta 2 on Wednesday.
Chrome is also more durable than other browsers because each Web-site tab is isolated in its own window, which prevents one tab from crashing another and bringing the full browser down. Google's unique "sandbox" approach to tabbed browsing also gives users the ability to check each open tab to see how much memory and processor resources individual pages are consuming.
Chrome's screen footprint is very streamlined, which should make it attractive to users of mini-notebooks and other small portable devices. The browser's speedy engine is also likely to be attractive once it arrives in the mobile space.
Chrome also incorporates a time-saving feature found in other products such as Google Search, Google Toolbar, and even Google Search on Apple's iPhone. Called Google Suggest, it guesses what you're typing and offers suggestions in real time, noted Urs Hölzle, Senior vice president of operations at Google.
"To provide its recommendations, Google Suggest needs to know what you've already typed, so these partial queries are sent to Google," Hölzle explained. "For 98 percent of these requests, we don't log any data at all and simply return the suggestions. For the remaining two percent of cases -- which we select randomly -- we do log data, like IP addresses, in order to monitor and improve the service."
To minimize the privacy concerns that critics have raised about potential misuse of the data, the search giant has decided to anonymize the data within about 24 hours.
"This will take a little time to implement, but we expect it to be in place before the end of the month," Hölzle said.