Enter the "Reign of RIA 3rd"

I would like to continue to express my point of view around Google Chrome. First of all, I would like to say that it looks really nice! The performances are incredible but they are just the mean that Google used to reach their goal.

I saw all around very many articles and comments where the accent is always put on the fact that Chrome is the way in which Google is attacking the power of IE8. chrome-1
I think that this is a partial view of what Chrome could actually represent in today’s scenario. In my opinion, Google has chosen to enter the RIA war in a very wise way.

By reading the comic book that introduces Chrome, I was hit by few things:

  1. the accent is always on the the term application, as opposed to “web pages”.
    The starting point, which is consistently reinforced everywhere in the comic book, is always the fact that Google wants to address the need of supporting Applications (delivered over the web).
  2. the book stresses the use that Chrome makes of Gears.
  3. Chrome embeds a mode where one can associate a real “windows application” to a given “application executed over the web”.
    Even if this looks similar to what the Mozilla Prism technology did….
  4. Each tab is executed in its own shell
  5. Javascript is executed in its own Virtual machine

What are those things telling me? 
In my opinion they are telling that Google has decided to create a platform where applications delivered over the web can be executed fast, securely and offline. And this without changing the way in which those applications have been created so far (AJAX). (see what I just posted earlier on this subject)

Whilst Firefox and IE position themselves in the playground of general-purpose browsers, Chrome chooses to target the support of the new generation of Applications delivered over the web (ensuring, of course, a backward compatibility with the legacy of the web, i.e. the “web pages”). This is a big revolution;  Google decided to break the politeness game, where Microsoft and “the others” actually have chosen to improve the experience (of using a browser) without changing the scope (and, thus, keeping the constraints).

Of course, this was not done accidentally, or because of the simple evolution of the technology (even if, from this point of view, what I have tried since when I first downloaded Chrome is simply remarkable!).
All the toys that Google gave us in the last years actually needed something more that what a general-purpose browser was providing. More precisely: Google Gears deserved a more coherent and robust environment! Chrome becomes a container for applications delivered over the web!

In the long term, we think of Chromium as a tabbed window manager or shell for the web rather than a browser application. We avoid putting things into our UI in the same way you would hope that Apple and Microsoft would avoid putting things into the standard window frames of applications on their operating systems … The tab is our equivalent of a desktop application’s title bar; the frame containing the tabs is a convenient mechanism for managing groups of those applications. In future, there may be other tab types that do not host the normal browser toolbar. (see the User Experience Section on Chromium)

Adobe moved to AIR from Flex. Microsoft moved to Silverlight from WPF.
Google has delivered a platform for AJAX. They went beyond the browser, in a way that grants the continuity of the legacy web.

To Google, the browser has become a weak link in the cloud system – the needle’s eye through which the outputs of the company’s massive data centers usually have to pass to reach the user – and as a result the browser has to be rethought, revamped, retooled, modernized. Google can’t wait for Microsoft or Apple or the Mozilla Foundation to make the changes (the first has mixed feelings about promoting cloud apps, the second is more interested in hardware than in clouds, and the third, despite regular infusions of Google bucks, lacks resources), so Google is jump-starting the process with Chrome. (see The cloud’s Chrome lining)

Have you tried to transform Gmail into an application using Chrome? What does it tell?
Now, let’s imagine Google Documents…. and all the other tens of goodies that we were shipped regularly, in a “Beta forever” format by Google…

  • It is an explicit attempt to accelerate the movement of computing off the desktop and into the cloud — where Google holds advantage.
  • Google hopes to kick-start a new generation of Web-based applications that will truly make Microsoft’s worst nightmare a reality: The browser will become the equivalent of an operating system.
  • The clearest expression of this comes when you drag a tab containing a Web application like Gmail to its own separate window and specify that you want an “app shortcut.” At that point, the tabs, buttons, and address bars fall away and the Web app looks pretty much like a desktop app. Welcome to the cloud era.

(see Inside Chrome: The Secret Project to Crush IE and Remake the Web)

I think that Chrome may represent the platform by which Google will establish a new way to consume the Web:

  • at home, of course.
    You will use the Google (web) Applications as applications, in the way in which you are used to use Outlook Express, Word, Excel, MSN
  • in the enterprise. Also !
    You do not have to look in your bookmarks to access the URL that points to your application… You just execute the applications which, accidentally, are delivered over the web but are more and more executed locally (via Gears)

To say this synthetically:

“Any desktop application that has not been implemented in the browser is now going to be implemented in the browser,” Andreessen said. (see What Netscape’s Founder Thinks About the New Google Browser )

When I was speaking about AJAX in the last few years, I remember I often quoted a sentence that said “AJAX means that Javascript now works…“.  What I see with Chrome is that “Chrome means that AJAX (and, thus, Javascript), becomes a full-fledged platform for building local applications“. See it? There is no issue here of sharing the same (j)VM because of resource consumption. The scope is more manageable (certainly less powerful) and, thus, it does not cost anything to start a new application with its own VM.

Google Chrome features a new JavaScript engine, V8, that has been designed for performance from the ground up. In particular, we wanted to remove some common bottlenecks that limit the amount and complexity of JavaScript code that can be used in Web applications. (see Google Chrome’s Need for Speed)

Yes, I am enthusiast. Strange for me when talking about Google! But it is true. I like it. I like what I see.
Some other consideration:

  • Hey, Chrome is a browser that does not ask you to become your “default browser” !
    Very nice, indeed.
  • Chrome may become a Bootable Browser.
    A bootable Chrome-based platform could very well put an end to PC tune-up problems for masses of people. ” (see Is Google’s Chrome browser a Windows killer?)
  • It will be interesting when the Resource Model will be published, in order to really create applications on it

I am now expecting one other step.
I am expecting that Google creates a Declarative Language for easily creating the applications that will be executed by Chrome. After all, in the comic book, they talk about the fact that the team that created the VM is actually able to create a VM for virtually any language. Right ? At runtime, one flavor or the other of the VM can be loaded if the activation cost is so cheap and if the resource consumption is so low.

I think these properties will rapidly make V8 the dominant VM for dynamic languages… the release of the V8 VM is the beginning of a whole new era for dynamic languages (Smalltalk, Ruby, Python, etc).  (see Chrome and V8)

Last, but not least:

And another thing Google did well here was in not trying to over-engineer their explanations of highly technical processes. They simplified their message down to bare essentials, and I felt enlightened after reading this document. Most technical documentation talks down to people, assuming that all the basics are already understood. Google removed some barriers to entry by explaining their new technologies in a way that almost anyone with a little technical know-how can understand. This is something almost every other open source project out there fails at. Technical documentation is far more than simply documentation…it’s an implicit invitation to take part in the experience.At the end of the day, I’m really impressed at the quality of this documentation. I actually read the entire thing, which is much more than I can say about the technical documentation for any other software I use. Who knew that I could find the difference between multiple threads and multiple processes interesting?  (see Google Chrome’s Design Comic )

One word of caution. Page 9 and Page 10 of the Google Comic Book. When they describe the way in which they test Chrome by using the massive cache they have on the internet! Unfair ! And, once again, showing the disproportionate power that Google (as a company) has on today’s Internet.

Before going on, let me explain the title of this post. Napoleon 3rd was, according to the Wikipedia article, “the first President of the French Republic and the only emperor of the Second French Empire. He holds the unusual distinction of being both the first titular president and the last monarch of France.
Much like Chrome, which could be the last browser but, perhaps, the first element of a different kind

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  1. The adventures of Coccobill » Blog Archive » Chrome OS and the principles of Web2.0 - Pingback on 2009/07/08/ 23:17
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