In Memoriam: http://

In the most recent development build of Google Chrome for Windows, you will no longer see http:// as part of any URLs. Look:

Chrome_address

Takes some getting used to, but in comparison, http:// is looking rather quaint now, isn’t it?

IE8_address

What about the https protocol then? Well Chrome still shows that:

Chrome_https

It’s a nice change, and I think there are very few arguments against it. I predict it will gain widespread acceptance — for those that notice the change at all. Rest in peace, http://, 1990-2010.

WebGL In Google Chrome

WebGL now easily available for Google Chrome dev channel users:

WebGL is running inside the sandbox under the –enable-webgl flag (i.e. this no longer requires the –no-sandbox flag to run). Browsing with the –no-sandbox is dangerous and we strongly recommend that you not do it.

Google has been working hard to get WebGL 3D hardware acceleration working properly — you may have seen a Quake 2 demo in HTML5 one of these days — no doubt to have it ready for the impending release of Chrome OS.

Interesting turn of phrase, also: “browsing with the –no-sandbox is dangerous”. To my knowledge, browsing without sandboxed processes means browsing with any other browser than Google Chrome.

WebKit 2

WebKit 2 announced:

WebKit2 is designed from the ground up to support a split process model, where the web content (JavaScript, HTML, layout, etc) lives in a separate process. This model is very similar to what Google Chrome offers, with the major difference being that we have built the process split model directly into the framework, allowing other clients of WebKit to use it.

This is good news for everyone; webdevelopers, Apple users and Google Chrome users alike. Remember back when Microsoft dominated the web? Dark days.

Googles iPad Optimized Websites [Updated]

The Google Mobile Blog:

Here at Google we’re really excited about the promise of tablet computers, which will be great for browsing the web and using apps. We’ve been working hard to optimize our services for the new format – larger touchscreens, increased portability, rich sensors – and we’d like to share some information about our progress so far.

Gmail in a two-pane view on the iPad is nice, but what I find interesting about this post is how much it reeks of a Google Chrome OS tablet. This is Google optimized for iPad and tablet computers. Steve is about to get even angrier.

[Update]: On a related note, Lifehacker shows us how to run the new finger friendly Gmail outside the pad.

Invoke Google Chrome Frame When Available

Google recently changed the way you harness the power of Google Chrome Frame in Internet Explorer. Chrome Frame is the plugin which adds Google Chrome as a browser renderer inside Internet Explorer, giving you access to, among other things, HTML5.

Previously, you inserted a simple meta tag. Now you have to send the headers programmatically. Fortunately, that’s not as hard as it sounds.

Paste the following PHP code somewhere in your webpage header template (if you’re using WordPress, simply paste it in your themes functions.php file).

/**
 * Invoke Google Chrome Frame
 */
if(strpos($_SERVER['HTTP_USER_AGENT'], 'chromeframe')) {
	header('X-UA-Compatible: chrome=1');
}

Now you’re done. If Chrome Frame is detected, it’s harnessed.

Quick Thoughts On Googles Just-Launched Chrome Extensions Gallery

Google is clearly working the midnight oil trying to get Chrome extensions up and running for Add-On-Con next week. They’ve just launched both Chrome beta for Linux and the official extensions gallery:

Chrome_Extensions_Gallery

While extensions aren’t yet available for the Mac, I would assume an extensions-capable beta is what’s next on the menu.

Some thoughts:

  • Nice and simple design, loads fast, classic Google style.
  • Feels like it’s easier to find the good extensions than it is using Firefox’ extensions gallery, and that’s despite there already being a good amount of extensions ready.
  • The “Top Rated” filter is likely to be useful once there are enough ratings.
  • The “search for extensions” textfield is styled… I really miss the good old days of unstyled Google widgets.
  • Of note is the fact that apparently, adblocking is okay (AdSweep).
  • Until recently, nearly all extensions added a button to an “extension shelf”, a bottom-most panel in Chrome. This panel is now disabled by default, but it seems most extensions add an icon right next to the page and wrench buttons instead. It’ll be interesting to see how far this goes as more and more extensions are developed. I imagine that little area can fill up quickly.
  • Quite possibly extensions add icons because it’s the only way to add configuration screens without having you click the wrench > extensions section first. Can we hope for either a page / wrench menu API, or perhaps just a unified extensions menu button?
  • There’s no global keyboard shortcut API yet, which means I’ll have to wait patiently for an “Omnibar Tab-To-Select” extension to appear (or be written by yours truly).
  • Since Google Chrome can compile a greasemonkey script into an extension for you, we can expect quite a few of those to appear soon.

Overall, very nice, moreso the potential.

Extensions I’ll Be Checking Out

  • I’ve already run the RSS Subscription Extension from Googles Samples gallery for a while. It works as advertised, i.e. it mimics the built-in behavior of competing browsers.
  • Because I still run Firefox side-by-side with Chrome, It’d be nice to have the same set of bookmarks, which X-marks promises to do. I hope it’s more stable now; the first alpha was really flaky.
  • Docs PDF/PowerPoint Reader is kinda like my bookmarklet, but built-in and auto loading. Neat!
  • Google Tasks looks like a glorified bookmark, but just what I need.
  • Just to see how close it is to “Click To Flash”, I’ll be trying out Kill-Flash.
  • Google Calendar Checker, hoping it one day gets notifications as well.

Extensions I Still Miss From Firefox

  • I use Aardvark on a daily basis, because it’s so much faster than Firebug.
  • Firebug, for when Aardvark falls short.
  • IE View, but I’m assuming it’ll be postponed until a right-click-menu API becomes available.

Penny for your thoughts?

Where’s Google Webdrive?

[flash width=”600″ height=”400″ src=”http://www.youtube.com/v/ANMrzw7JFzA?hl=en_US&fs=1&start=258″]

During Googles special Chrome OS presentation a few thursdays ago, I noticed an incongruity between the core ideology that you’ll have no files stored locally and the complete lack of a Google Webdrive announcement. I’ve embedded the above video to start at about 4:20 where the presenter is talking about data in the cloud:

I mentioned all data is in the cloud. so what does that mean? […]

All data in Chrome OS is in the cloud. So as a model, anything that you put on the machine, is instantly available to you from anywhere, so, which is something we are very very excited about.

While the presenter only demos bookmarks, tabs and notepad documents as being data you can currently store in the cloud, the phrase, “anything that you put on the machine” tickles my interest. We know that in Google Docs, you can store your documents, spreadsheets and presentations. You can also upload PDF files. Using Picasa Web Albums you can store your photos. If you sync your Google Chrome bookmarks these will also be stored in a special Google Docs folder. So that’s documents, pictures and bookmarks. Well that’s certainly something, but it doesn’t take much imagination to notice the shortcomings: I’d be surprised if Chrome OS won’t allow you some kind of access to music or video1.

This deafening webdrive silence can be interpreted in a number of ways. Either Google will eventually launch a music and video service which lets you purchase videos that are stored online, or Google will launch a webdrive which lets you upload your own music and videos to playback in Chrome OS. Or both. Either way, this is quite an undertaking, and probably explains why Webdrive hasn’t launched yet. I’ll bet you Googles o’s that between now and Chrome OS launch day, we’ll be either a store or a webdrive richer.

  1. Perhaps even netbanking authorisation files, though one may assume Google will push for file-less access methods for this. []

More Like A TV

During Googles Chrome OS announcement Thursday, one thing struck me as being the killer app that’ll bring the system into our homes. It’s the startup speed. In this video, a Chrome OS engineer explains how Google, by shelving 50 year-old hardware are able to make the system boot in 4 seconds; like a TV:

[flash width=”600″ height=”400″ src=”http://www.youtube.com/v/mTFfl7AjNfI&hl=en_US&fs=1&”]

The general Chrome OS philosophy is being touted as it being the browser without the operating system. Google wants to deliver the initial Chrome OS netbooks as “companion PCs”, portables that won’t replace your main computer, but simply give you an incredibly streamlined web experience, the webpages being the apps. The Google-provided list of approved hardware ensures that you get to the browser fast and then… well that’s pretty much it:

  1. Build web-apps
  2. Get more people on the web, faster
  3. Profit

This web-only nature of Chrome OS dissapoints a few. My friend and colleague came in the office yesterday and pointed out that prior to the presentation he was all ready to nuke his operating system and install Chrome OS, in hopes that he would get the Google experience: really fast, really simple, really useful and otherwise hassle-free. Which it’s set to deliver, except of course for the fact that he needs his apps. Certainly it is a wee bit early to ditch your filesystem and your apps in favor of alternatives in The Cloud. Connections could be faster, wi-fi access could be more ubiquitous, available cloud storage could be larger. Mostly, there aren’t web-app alternatives for all the things his computer and current OS does.

Then again, maybe that’s just a matter of time. Google promises GPU and local storage access to web-apps, which begs the question: if it behaves like a real app, if it looks like a real app, and if it does as well as a real app, is it a real app? Perhaps Chrome OS heralds the arrival of an era of software-as-services, where we pay for access instead of acquisition.

Google is doing something incredibly smart here. On one hand, by setting requirements to the hardware, Google is ensuring that the first computers sporting Chrome OS will be full-size-keyboard-netbooks built and tuned exactly for sofa-side Facebook and Wikipedia. These portables aren’t marketed as personal computers, they’re simply windows to the web. Chrome OS will be profitable from the start, simply because it makes the web more like a TV. On the other hand, Google is building for the future. They’re ensuring that webapps — of which Google themselves currently controls the best of the bunch — will run faster and do more things.

So, sure, it’s a bit early to go full-on Chrome OS on your main computer. Photoshop.com likely won’t cut it at Vogue yet and no matter how fast Facebook runs it means squat if you need to edit HD video. Give it 5 years, however. Google may be on to something here, and I for one can’t wait to ditch the file system.

Conjecture: What To Expect From Google Chrome OS [Update: In The Ballpark]

Google_Chrome_icon

Google is showing off their Chrome OS at an event later today. Because I find it infinitely fascinating to see what kinds of rabbits the folks at the Googleplex pull out of their hats, I’m going to convert my anticipation into wild speculation:

  • The grand idea is to make Chrome OS to PCs what Android and iPhone OS is to ultra-portables.
    Update: Pretty much right.
  • When you log on to your system, you’re also logged into Gmail, Calendar and so on.
    Update: Kinda. Your session from last time is restored.
  • Like with Android, Chrome OS will be able to use custom designed interfaces, like HTCs “Sense” UI.
    Update: Too early to tell, but probably not.
  • There’s going to be an App Store. Duh.
    Update: Totally missed the mark on this one. NO app store; websites are the apps.
  • Chrome OS will be branded like the Chrome Browser in a deliberate attempt at blurring those oft cited lines between the web and the desktop.
    Update: Pretty much.
  • The look of Google Wave is a strong pointer — if not exact replica — of Chrome OS’ UI look.
    Update: Nope.
  • A significant part of the demonstration will involve showing how fast Chrome boots and gets you online. The plan is, no doubt, to respond as quickly as your phone does.
    Update: Almost. The goal is to get Chrome OS to launch as fast as your TV does, and certainly faster than you can make a sandwich.
  • Like Apple when they launched the iPhone, JavaScript is the SDK. The question is whether Google has tricks hidden in their sleeves. We’ve heard about WebGL, various sandbox type apps and even their new “Go” programming language. Perhaps something unique will materialize. Perhaps not.
    Update: Perhaps not far off the mark, but still too early to tell. For now, websites are the apps, with upcoming APIs for OS notifications, panels, GPU and CPU acceleration and local storage. But no mention of any new programming languages.
  • Chrome OS will run Android apps. Possibly: vice-versa.
    Update: Nope. No Android apps. No binaries at all, in fact.
  • The plan is to not go head to head with Windows or OSX in the immediate future. As with all other “launch-early, iterate often” Google products, Chrome OS will woo devices that are smaller than laptops but larger than phones and grow from there.
    Update: Pretty much. Google will specify hardware requirements which range from “this netcard” and “no harddrive only solid state disks” to “the keyboard has to be full-size”, the result being some really nice netbooks at the end of next year.

The event starts in ~three hours at which point you can catch a webcast.

Quick Thoughts On The IE9 PDC Preview

Good old Microsoft still think they have something to offer the web community. Segway: maybe theydo! Internet Explorer 9 is in the works, and if everything goes according to plan, it’ll sport 2D hardware acceleration (faster and more smooth scaling and rendering of fonts and CSS borders and images), CSS3 support (the interviewer seems to think border-radius is something Microsoft has just invented) and a new faster JavaScript engine. Of course you need Microsoft Silverlight installed to see the videos, this is still Microsoft after all.

I’m assuming the new font rendering engine will eventually propogate to the entirety of Windows; in fact I was expecting it would replace the default font rendering engine in Windows 7 which was not the case. Until then, if IE9 really does smooth fonts differently from all other apps on the system, it’ll be the odd man out, just like Safari and iTunes were until they ditched their custom smoothing.

The rest of the hardware acceleration (for CSS, images and so on) is intriguing, however. It’s DirectX based, so it’s Windows only (again, what did you expect). This could potentially put IE9 back on the map as a semi-serious contender. On the other hand, WebKit has WebGL on the way, and Google will no doubt do what they can to speed up webapps with their Chrome OS. It’ll be interesting to see this play out.

IE9

The CSS3 support is welcome by default, if only because IE8s lack there-of turned out to be a completely unnecessary and useless stepping stone. As usual, it’ll have little immediate impact for us poor web-developers, as Microsoft refuses to push the browser as a mandatory security update. Even so, I never thought I’d hear Microsoft talking about the ACID3 test. Fun times.

In the video presenting their new faster JavaScript engine, they’re using Gmail as an example of their JS compatability. They’re also comparing to Google Chrome (clearly treated as a competitor now) and Firefox. Is this the new open Microsoft?

So, faster, hardware accelerated and with CSS3 support. All good things. Now what I really need to know is: when will this benefit webdevelopers who’ve struggled with IE6 for nearly a decade. If a browser falls in a forest, and no-one is there to hear it, does it matter if it’s hardware accelerated?