My Experiment with Chrome

Chrome, is the rather nifty browser from Google that is also being used as the foundation of the “ChromeOS” based netbooks that will be coming out. 

In the past, I had used Chrome as an alternative to Safari when I needed to cross-check web rendering for building web sites, and more frequently, when logging into google-based accounts other than my main one, since Chrome does a better job of handling multiple windows for multiple google-based accounts. Otherwise, it was all safari, all the time.

Because of this behavior, and it’s faster rendering, I decided to give Chrome a shot as my primary browser. A serious shot.

So I moved all of my bookmarks over, and had at it. At first, all was well. In addition to the above mentioned advantages, I really liked how Command-clicking on nested links in my toolbar didn’t replace my window instead of adding new tabs. I also really liked not having to tab over to a separate search bar. 

I was enjoying it so much that I even went to the trouble of rearranging and slimming down my bookmarks.

You can almost hear the “but” coming.

First of all, there’s no way I can find or figure out to manually add a link to the default new-page “tab” view. It’s clumsy enough in Safari, requiring two windows, but it’s doable.

Secondly, the bookmark manager, while nice enough, just isn’t up to par with that in Safari, especially when you keep a running folder of “to look at” links that you regularly flush out. This is a matter of personal taste.

Thirdly – using Logmein (for several clients) effectively requires me to open up Firefox or Safari anyway.

Fourth – some pages like the app store management pages simply didn’t load quite right in Chrome.

Fifth – printouts did not get the web address posted into the header or the footer of the page like they do with Safari.

Sixth, while the plugin for 1Password generally worked flawlessly in Chrome, there were several sites that worked without hiccups in Safari that required me to disable features like auto-logon.

I could live without these features, but it was already a near-run thing, as the downsides began really encroaching on the reasons I really, really wanted to switch over in the first place.

So of course, Google decides that in the near future, for reasons of “openness”, Chrome will no longer support the video codec named H.264. They’re keeping Flash.

Yes, many in the geek crowd are aware that H.264, since it is not open-source, is subject to licensing terms and eventually, a possible royalty. But, as a result of the popularity of the iPhone and the iPad, almost anyone on the web serving video streams has their video encoded for H.264, while also wrapping it up in a flash player for computers with Flash installed.

Almost nobody, especially mobile devices like Android and the iPhone, support WebM or Ogg  that Google claims it wants to use (yet other video codecs that are theoreticallymore “open”).

So, in favor of “open-ness”, Google’s scrapping support for a video format that may have some encumbrances in favor of one who’s legal liability – while reasonably clean – is utterly unknown, and keeping support for a video and interactive programming system (Flash) that is utterly, totally proprietary and closed. This aside from how much of a utter resource hog Flash has historically been (in all fairness, it is getting better).

The practical upshot is, everyone hosting video likely will not be doubling their storage space just to support two video codecs when they can just keep their single codec and use flash for browsers like Chrome that do not support H.264.

And in the meantime, the very “open” standards that Chrome strove so hard to support (along with Safari and Firefox) will be undermined.

All by itself, despite how much of a bully Adobe has been with it’s single-handed control of the Flash format, I would not have cared enough to change. I don’t care about the politics of the company, I care about the best tool for the job, and in the computer biz, that changes monthly. Chrome is a great browser. There are plenty of people without my use case for whom it will continue to be a great, and preferred browser.

But as for me, I’m writing this out of Safari.