Development, In the News

Accelerated Chrome

Incredible news today that Google’s latest release of their Chrome browser is being called 2.0.

While the version numbers may perhaps be taken with a grain of salt, the really interesting things are the pace of development and the features being added.

Google is already gaining a reputation for having the fastest browser currently available on the web, but the speed of their development cycles is also certainly worthy of note.  As their official blog states right from the start, “Release early, release often”.  It’s a very “Google” way of doing things: keep updating the software in a continuous iterative process that allows you to push out new features quickly.

You can get involved with Chrome by subscribing to their Dev or Beta channels by running a program found on the Developer Documentation site.  (Edit:) Mac and Linux users might be feeling a little left out at the moment since Chrome is currently only available for Windows.  A trawl through the release notes shows one of the changes is

New network code. Google Chrome now has its own implementation of the HTTP network protocol (we were using the WinHTTP library on Windows, but need common code for Mac and Linux)

So Mac and Linux support is, we can assume, on the agenda for the very near future.

So given that Chrome seems likely to have a meteoric rise in adoption and presence over the course of 2009, the one aspect that really leaps out at me is the features that are being added.  Not just any old features either.  The one that caught my attention is the new version of WebKit.  Not only does is fix a lot of bugs from the previous version, but CSS gradients and reflections are being added in.  That’s right – CSS3 and HTML5 have finally arrived in a mainstream browser.

This, to me, signals the start of a tipping point where we should see Google and Mozilla starting to include more CSS3 support in future browser versions.  Over the next two years, web developers will see their lives become significantly easier as visual elements such as rounded corners, multiple backgrounds, gradients, shadows and fonts can be coded directly into the CSS or HTML of a page.  No more creative solutions like rafts of nested <div> tags or JavaScript hacks.

As more websites start to adopt these newer technologies – which they will as the audio and video elements introduced lend themselves nicely to the explosion of media being consumed on the web – the net effect will be a momentum that requires browsers to adapt quickly or perish.  IE6 – already widely loathed in the development community and in its death-throes generally – will die down to around 5% market share.  IE7 will still be dominant and IE8 or IE9 (when it’s born) won’t have the framework to support these new standards.  By the time Microsoft are able to release a browser that can compete with Chrome and Firefox, their market share will be too diminished and their user-base will be strictly confined to an older, less computer-savvy generation.

This year is going to be very exciting from a web developer’s point of view and I believe that the next two years will see at least as many changes in the web space as we’ve seen with the explosion of social networking.  What do you think will happen?

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