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Happy Birthday Google

It seems remarkable to think that Google is only 10 years old, because the web search giant seems to have been around forever. But in a decade, Google has shaped the way we spend time online—from the way we search, use email (GMail) and now, even the way we collaborate with documents thanks to Google Docs.

Kushan Mitra        Print Edition: October 5, 2008

It seems remarkable to think that Google is only 10 years old, because the web search giant seems to have been around forever. But in a decade, Google has shaped the way we spend time online—from the way we search, use email (GMail) and now, even the way we collaborate with documents thanks to Google Docs. But until now, every time you accessed Google or used a Google product, you used a browser not made by Google. With Chrome, the Mountain View, California-based company plans to change all that, and to celebrate the browser’s launch, it commissioned a comic book by Scott McCloud. You can download Chrome and read the comic at www.google.com/chrome.

The look
Chrome’s default setting does not have a toolbar, but the browser’s look and feel can be customised fairly easily. To do that, you just have to click the “wrench” icon on the top-right corner. The default setting is very clean and looks rather soothing. Once you’re logged into Google, you can also merge your bookmarks with your Google bookmarks (if you use the Google toolbar on other browsers).

But...
Chrome has raised huge privacy concerns. While Google’s explanation for Chrome is that it was essential to redesign the browser from the ground-up to take advantage of new services provided over the web—invariably by Google itself. Services such as “cloud” computing, where applications are hosted online and the browser becomes the consumers’ way of accessing them—are exactly what Google Docs does. Google already has access to a whole host of information about the average web consumer—from search, mail, video streaming and Docs. Google says it is not “evil” and in a sign of magnanimity will “only” keep nine months worth of user data. That is still nine months too much, argue privacy advocates.

And more
Every time you open a new tab on Chrome, the screen shows your most visited sites (this speed dial feature is lifted from Opera). It also stores your most recent Google searches and also logs your closed tabs. If you enter a term on the address bar, it can suggest a website or conduct a search for the term.

And the competition?
Some think that Google Chrome is targeted straight at Microsoft’s Internet Explorer, though Google might wean away some users from Mozilla’s Firefox as well. The user bases of the rather good Opera browser and Apple’s Safari are fairly loyal and they won’t see a shift. However, it is more than likely that people might have two, three and even four browsers installed in their system in the future. By the way, we’re still using Firefox.

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