Thursday, September 4, 2008

Why Google Chrome is a scary mother...

EDIT 9/04/2008 14:03 CT - According this Ars Technica article, the same article cited below in this post, Google is taking steps to correct the EULA problems I discussed. But I think the issue is more than just the EULA. It's Google's mindset and the fact that we can't guarantee that they aren't using Chrome gathered data in neferious ways. The browser, I notice, is not open source.

As most of you already know, Google Chrome is the new web browser released on Tuesday by Internet search giant Google. When I first heard that Google was releasing a browser, my thoughts immediately turned to Microsoft and their 'let's dip our fingers into everything' philosophy but, then, I reconsidered. Who better than the worlds #1 search engine to understand the way users use the Internet and seek out information? Who better, then, to create a new browser that addresses the needs of those users?

At first blush, Chrome is pretty impressive and there's little I could possibly add to the truckloads of ink that's already been spilled in writing articles of gushing praise. But I will cover a few things I like, and don't like, about the new browser and I'll leave the rest up to you and testing it out.

First, let's talk about what I love about Chrome:

1. It's simple. One of the very first things you notice about Chrome when you open it is that it is decidedly uncluttered. No menu bar, no status bar, no side bar. Just a tab, a hideable bookmarks bar an address bar and the page view area. That immediately gives you a nice clean, non-confusing place to work and opens up a ton of screen real estate in which to view your pages.

2. Process independent tabs. I absolutely love this! How many times have you had multiple Firefox or Internet Explorer tabs open and a website open in one tab completely freezes the browser, forcing you to restart? This isn't a problem with Chrome because, now, each tab runs in its very own process. In essence, each tab is its own browser. If one tab freezes, kill it and nothing else will be effected. Why didn't the other browsers think of this long ago?

3. It's Firefox based. You wouldn't know it from looking at it, but Google started with the Firefox codebase to create Chrome. From the looks of the browser and how it functions, there can't be a lot of Firefox left in there, but it's at least based on a secure, reliable, and very usable product.

4. Desktop Applications! This is another feature I absolutely love. Now, you can easily create a desktop shortcut of a page that will open full-browser with no toolbars, address bar, status bar, or anything. This is something that's particularly interesting to me as I often deploy my company's web application full-browser to make it feel a little more like the type of desktop application our users are used to using.

To be fair, you can do this with both Firefox and Internet Explorer too. It's called Kiosk Mode. But it requires a bit of extra work to set up and it's a little bit flaky in Firefox. Chrome makes it incredibly easy.

5. A sensible "most visited" area. Once you've used Chrome for a while, you'll notice that new tabs open with thumbnails of the last 6-9 pages you've visited most often. You can click on these icons to immediately be transported to that page. Kind of like your MRU list in other browsers but a little more snazzy.

Now, for everything I love about Chrome, I've only used it for two days then uninstalled it and will probably never use it again.

Simple: Google's EULA (End User License Agreement).

It's very easy to get caught up in the Google hype with their cool gadgets and promise of 'don't be evil'. It's easy to hand over your entire online life to Google from chat, to documents, to email, and even payments, and books. It's also easy to forget that Google has a very close relationship with the U.S. Government and has a stated goal to 'make all the worlds data searchable'.

If you read the EULA attached to the Chrome beta, you'll notice that you are, by using Chrome, assigning secondary rights of use to Google of anything you create. Read that carefully folks: anything you create while using Chrome, Google has the right to use in any way they want.

Without notifying you.
Without crediting you.
Without paying you.

The EULA doesn't specify any limits to this assignment at all. So, one could conspiratorially assume, that if you create email using Chrome, Google can data mine it, use information from it, whatever, in any way they see fit. In essence, you have no control over how your data is going to be used if you're using Chrome.

It really doesn't shock me that Google would do this. It's furthering their goal of organizing and cataloging information. But, for a company that claims their goal is not to be evil, this comes shockingly close to sacrificing a goat to the devil.

It's a Microsoft move.
You know, the company Google hates.
It's distasteful and a betrayal of users confidence.

For that reason, I will never use Chrome again.
I'll be tempted.
I'll see sexy screenshots and think 'what if'.
But I won't use Chrome.

If my content is good enough to use, then it damn well is good enough to pay for.

And so is yours.
Don't give that up just for something sexy.


Dwayne Melancon said...

Awesome analysis and review - thanks for letting me know before I got entrenched in Chrome!

Anthony Papillion said...


Glad to see you've not bitten the Chrome bullet yet. Google says they'll fix it. But I'm suspicious. Why include this in the first place? Looks a lot to me like they were trying to slip it under users radar.

heycarsten said...

FYI: Chrome is not based on Firefox, it's based on WebKit.

Anthony Papillion said...

True. But originally, there were reports that Google had taken Firefox's code base, replaced the rendering engine (Gecko with Webkit) and added some tweaks.

While I'm not sure how true this is, being that none of Chrome is open source, those were the initial rumors.