What Chrome means for Web start-ups

Here are six implications for the start-up world. These assume that Chrome lives up to its hype. That's a big if.

Many stories focus on what Google Chrome means for Microsoft, Firefox, and the fate of the current online world. But what does it mean for up-and-coming Web start-ups? Here are six implications for the start-up world that I can see. These assume that Chrome lives up to its hype. That's a big if.

1. Chrome is to current browsers what Windows was to DOS. Twenty-three years ago Microsoft started its march from being just another software company to being, well, Microsoft. It did this by offering order in a fragmented world. Back then, you couldn't just run an app on your personal computer. There were dozens of OSes, all doing basically the same thing, just a little differently. If you wrote an app, you'd have to cater to not just OS, but sometimes to each version of an OS. Sound familiar?

Google, both for monetary and ideological reasons, aims to make Chrome the standardized operating system for Web apps--and to make Web apps indistinguishable from native desktop apps. That means Chrome will let you turn any Web app into something you can reach from your Start Menu, Dock or desktop. It means Chrome is taking on the key jobs of the OS, like partitioning memory and managing application processes. It means if people use Chrome as a platform they'll get--Google says--huge, noticeable advantages like an end to worrying about the viruses and malware that use the Web as their primary means of infection.

The biggest hindrance to Web apps today are other Web apps that crash the browser. Google means to put a stop to this, and Chrome's featureset and priorities align toward this objective.

2. Chrome rebuilds JavaScript from the ground up. The key chokepoint of the modern Web app is JavaScript. Originally little more than a way to play cute little sounds, JavaScript is pushed to the limits via Ajax programming techniques and the host of excellent JavaScript libraries like prototype, script.aculo.us, and extjs.

But after 13 years, the JavaScript interpreters built into browsers are way past their prime. They can't carry the load and leak memory like sieves. Off in Denmark, Google has been building V8, a new from-the-ground-up JavaScript interpreter that's built into Chrome and available under its own open-source license.

What does this mean? Take the online video revolution that advertisers are in heat over. It might be helpful if the underlying browser displaying the video, and the main interface language that accesses it, is based on current computer science rather than state of the art in 1992.

3. There's a new sheriff in town: Google. How many times has some crappy JavaScript function, plug-in or giant image choked your browser to death? Chrome is designed not only to sandbox misbehaving code, but to make it easy for users to see who's to blame. Chrome comes with its own task manager, and bandwidth malefactors will be called out of hiding. Chrome will be setting a very, very high expectation: if you use Chrome, Google in effect is saying, viruses, spyware, malware, keyloggers, and phishing will be trapped in their sandboxes. Given that the Net is the primary vector of infection today, Google is taking on the evildoers of the Net. As well as the current police force; Chrome could very swiftly adversely impact the business of every "anti" software vendor very quickly.

4. Google to closed social networks: Drop dead. How long before Google extends Chrome so as you surf the Web, you can connect with your friends looking at the same sites as you at the same time? How long before Google pulls together the strands of its social network initiatives (everything from Google Share to its growing support of OpenID to Google Talk's instant-messaging functionality in Gmail) into one unified, Chrome-ified, service that anyone can use?

5. Chrome Extension API is coming. Get ready. Firefox's huge extension "ecosystem" has been important to its adoption. While the beta released today doesn't support extensions, that is definitely on the road map. Best to keep an eye on Chromium, the online home of the open-source project emitting Chrome.

Click here for full coverage of the Google Chrome launch.

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About the author

    Bob Walsh is the co-moderator of the the popular Joel on Software Business of Software forum and a consultant to startups and microISVs. He writes a blog at 47hats.com, and is the author of two books, Micro-ISV: From Vision to Reality and Clear Blogging: How People Blogging Are Changing the World and How You Can Join Them.

     

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