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Google Chrome: Will the Web Ever Become a Real Platform?

The web has too much to offer for it to not be a premium application development platform

Shreyas Srinivasan's Blog

I have been reading a lot of reviews about Chrome. Most people seem to be comparing it to Firefox, which I think is underestimating Chrome's capability. I think it has nothing to do with the browser at all; it has everything to do with the platform.

For a long time we have touted Web as a platform, Apple took the first big step when it chose the Web as its platform for the first generation iPhone. That approach failed because the Web as a platform was flawed. The reasons IMHO were as follows:

  • Hard to write stateful Web apps
  • Lack of per website security (all apps run in the same address space)
  • No access to hardware (relates to security)
  • JavaScript is slow
  • No offline support.

When Apple released an SDK it was an admission of defeat. Chris Messina put it beautifully in his blog post Did the web fail the iphone?. With millions of developers and amazing momentum, the Web has too much to offer for it to not be a premium application development platform. So in that sense the browser was not the premium piece, the platform was.

When Google released Chrome, each one of those questions seem to find an answer.

  • Hard to write stateful apps/ no offline support: Chrome includes Gears.
  • Lack of per website security: Each tab in Chrome runs in a separate process, which also means this process can be given special permissions based on its security certificate! So your bank application can finally update to your harddisk and your passbook can be available offline! Wheee
  • No access to hardware: Again comes down to security, read above
  • JavaScript is slow: JavaScript virtual machine in Chrome will make it reasonably fast

All this put together makes the Web more promising as a platform. There are challenges though, JavaScript's continuous development as a language is of great importance. Read this if you want to know about JS Harmony and ECMAscript issues.

All in all the Chrome platform is of great signifcance. I think its real competitors are J2ME/Java/Cocoa/WPF and not the browsers. Only time will tell if the Web as a real platform will materialize.

More Stories By Shreyas Srinivasan

Shreyas Srinivasan is the co-founder of RadioVeRVe, an online Radio Station which promotes Independent Indian music. He works at Geodesic Information Systems in their New Technologies group.
He is also part of the team which organizes India's biggest Free and Open Source event, Foss.in.

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