Google on Chrome for Mac and Linux: Surf at your own risk

June 5, 2009

V62 The early alpha builds of Google Chrome for Mac and Linux are available, though they’re lacking important features such as support for plugins and options. Google’s advice to the faint of heart is not to download them.

While you may not have to contend with sharks online, there are some really gnarly issues to watch out for. The missing plugin architecture means no third-party features like Flash.

That means these browsers are still incapable of playing online video or even navigating Web sites designed using Flash. This also means no embedded videos in other formats such as Windows Media, Real or Quicktime.

In addition to missing plugins, the options control panel is still under construction. You can’t change your privacy settings, default search engine or even print quite yet.

Mac users will also find that there’s no password manager, forcing them to actually remember their passwords. Both versions also still have some stability issues.

Google released Chrome last September as a barebones browser project dedicated to speed and stability. Much like Safari, it’s based on the Webkit rendering engine, but has far fewer features.

The way that Google approached browser stability in Chrome was to splinter each tab to its own process. That way if one tab freezes up, the window can be closed without the entire browser crashing.

This separation of browser tabs is called sandboxing and Chrome is the only browser to use this approach. Unfortunately it takes longer to develop the underlying browser this way, but will make Chrome much more stable in the long run.

Chrome also includes its own task manager to help end unresponsive tabs. This is a helpful feature when there’s a problem rendering JavaScript and your browser locks up.

The jury is still out on whether the world needs yet another Web browser and as to whether Chrome will be able to gain a sizable share of the browser market. Just remember to keep another browser on standby as Chrome isn’t quite ready for prime time.

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