Google Chrome: Apps in Tabs

It was only a matter of time1, and it has finally happened: Google has announced its own web browser. It’s not yet available2, but you can read Scott McCloud’s introduction (yes, that Scott McCloud) to get a pretty good idea of what Google intends to achieve.

Basically, Google’s browser3 is a browser aimed at running web applications. To that effect, it sports many fantastic features4 such as a fast JavaScript VM and an in-browser process manager.

It also has a tabs-based user interface.

I’ve written about this before: having several documents in the same window can be annoying, as it breaks Mac5 features like Exposé and tends to hide useful information instead of making it easily accessible. But when you think about it, it’s an even worse idea for a web browser specifically created for running applications. Google actually seems to think it’s a good idea, writing:

In the long term, we think of Chromium as a tabbed window manager or shell for the web rather than a browser application. (…) 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.

Mac OS X is an application-centric operating system. Windows are sorted by application; you don’t switch between windows, you typically switch between applications.

Switching between Applications

Documents are children of applications. You can access an application’s windows by context-clicking on an application in the dock, which will typically give you a list of that application’s open windows.

Getting to an application's windows

Tabs are children of windows. You get to a tab by looking at a window and clicking on its tabs.

Getting to a window's tabs

With Google Chrome (and most other browsers), you start out with the application, go to its windows, go to its tabs, only to find… yet another application? Your web applications (which possibly have windows and tabs of their own) are buried within tabs within windows within applications.

It seems to me there should be a better solution for this. And there is.

I don’t use gmail in my browser. I use Mailplane. I don’t use Google Reader in my browser, I use Fluid. I don’t use the twitter homepage, I use Twitterific. I don’t expect my browser to implement its own version of processes, I expect my web apps to use my native operating system’s processes.

A better approach to web applications is to bring web applications out of the browser ghetto and make them first-class applications, rather than burying them inside browser chrome you’re never going to use anyway.6

Update: I have now played around with the beta. It has a «make this site into an application» function, but selecting it doesn’t do anything on my system, so I’m not sure what exactly it does.

Update 2: I got the «make this site into an application» function to work.

  1. They basically pay for Firefox’s development thanks to its Google search field, and they pay Apple quite a bit of money for Safari’s Google search field, so it makes sense for them to create a browser of their own. ↩︎

  2. Everything I’m writing here is based on information Google has made available, and not on actually using the browser. I might be horribly wrong about everything. ↩︎

  3. It’s called Google Chrome, which perfectly describes what Google thinks of browsers: They’re the chrome around their homepage. ↩︎

  4. You can use some of Google Chrome’s new features in Firefox today, using Add-ons. Aza Raskin has some pointers↩︎

  5. I’m assuming the browser will come out for OS X eventually, although I haven’t seen any kind of announcement from Google. ↩︎

  6. Google Chrome actually supports a «no-chrome no-tabs mode,» but it’s unclear to me how exactly that will work. ↩︎

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