It was the usual mix of excitement and fear as I downloaded Google Chrome last night: the former to see what Google would do when it had total control of the browsing experience, the latter in case it rendered any of my designs horribly. To be honest, there wasn’t much to report on either front.
Will I be switching? No – for one simple reason, and that’s the surprising lack of plugin capability. The help documentation declares:
Currently, Google Chrome supports the most popular plug-ins necessary to display the Web correctly, including Flash, Acrobat Reader, Java, Windows Media Player, Real Player, QuickTime, and Silverlight.
And that’s it – which is a problem. Firefox is my do-everything window on the world. I get an alert when new email messages are detected by the Gmail plugin I use. My bookmarks are fed into the browser courtesy of the Delicious plugin. Without these and many others, I’m feeling lost in cyberspace.
It’s a curious omission, given that Google’s quite happy for developers to write their own Gadgets for Google Desktop and iGoogle. According to Google blogger Matt Cutts:
I’m sure that extensions/add-ons are something that the Chrome team would like to do down the road, but the Chrome team will be a bit busy for a while, what with the feedback from the launch plus working on Mac and Linux support. I’d suggest that you give Google Chrome a try for a few days to see if enjoy browsing even without extension X. A lot of really cool extension-like behaviors such as resize-able textareas and drag-and-drop file upload are already built into Google Chrome.
So it looks like Chrome won’t be able to give me the online experience I’ve grown to expect, not any time soon. It confirms the theory offered by Shane Richmond yesterday, that Chrome is an attack on Internet Explorer rather than Firefox. It’s for people – the vast majority of people – who don’t know or care about customisation. It will give them a streamlined online experience, with all the plugins they need and no more, within a controlled environment. If you want more, well, you’re probably on Firefox already… and, like me, unlikely to move.