Google's Chrome browser has as Spartan a user interface as possible, but the browser's Omnibox also turns out to be a window into a much more elaborate view of the browser.
That's because Chrome users can type several commands into the browser's address box to uncovers a wealth of nitty-gritty detail and an amusing Easter egg.
Most folks won't care a whit, but the feature is notable for programmers--both those creating Web pages and those who might want to toy with Chromium itself, the open-source project behind Chrome. Programmers are a key audience for Chrome, which Google hopes will advance the state of the art in particular for Web applications.
One Firefox tool popular with Web developers is the Firebug extension, which permits detailed analysis of a Web site. Although , right-clicking on Web page elements offers an "inspect element" option that reproduces some of Firebug's abilities.
For you non-programmers, there's an Easter egg, too: type "about:internets" into the Omnibox. I'm not going to be a spoilsport by revealing what happens, but here's a hint: Ted Stevens.
Because I'm interested in browser user interface limits, though, I'm very curious what rendering technology is used to produce the Easter egg output. Feel free to offer your theories in the comments field below.
Among the "about" features:
about:memory shows how much memory the browser--and any other Web browser--is using. Conveniently for Web developers, it also shows how much each Web site in a browser tab is using.
about:network tracks the detailed network activity of using a Web site.
about:version shows details of what version of Chrome is running, along with the user-agent text that the browser reports when identifying itself to Web sites. Why "Mozilla" is in this string is a mystery to me, though perhaps it has to do with the way Chrome can use Firefox plug-ins; why "Mozilla" is apparently in the iPhone's user-agent text is even more a mystery.
about:histograms graphs various performance measurements such as the time taken to autocomplete text users type into the browser.
about:crash crashes the active browser tab.
With a little noodling around, I also found out that some of these services, but not all, can be retrieved with a different syntax. Try typing "chrome-resource://about/stats" for example.
One more tidbit for folks closely following Chrome: TG Daily uncovered a so-far hidden "themes" folder that's empty for now but that presumably could be used later to give Chrome different, well, chrome. Depending on how Google proceeds, this could be useful for adapting the browser to the native looks of Linux and Mac OS X, operating systems that Chrome will support later.