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Shiny New Chrome

September 4, 2008

As you may have heard, Google surprised a heck of a lot of people earlier this week when they announced that they had created a new Web browser: Chrome.

Right now, Chrome is PC-only, and it is pretty sincerely still in beta. It’s incredibly fast at rendering large amounts of data, once you’ve downloaded that data. (Which means that no matter how blindingly fast Chrome may be, you’ll still be limited by your connection speed and by the response speed of the server hosting the page you’re visiting.)

It’s also not particularly good with all Web pages. I’ve already found a few pages that it simply won’t load for me, which is sad. And it seems really wretched with Flash applications and games, but I hope these will be addressed by a later plug-in or build.

But what’s really interesting to me is that Google decided to make their announcement via a comic book.

chrome.jpg

For those of you familiar with Understanding Comics or Reinventing Comics or Making Comics, you’ll recognize the work of Scott McCloud immediately. The comic does a pretty good job of visualizing the sometimes staggeringly dense and geeky details Google so desperately wants us to nerdgasm over.

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To me, the choice of using graphic narrative like this suggests that Google wants to appeal to a wider audience than merely the bleeding-edge tech crowd who will download and install anything if it’s new and shiny, and for whom the phrase “multi-process rendering” actually means something. They’re trying to make this appealing and at least marginally understandable to the entire Web-browsing world.

But I don’t think they’re trying too hard to reach this second, larger group of people. Not yet. The tech-speak and details about Chrome are just too densely packed into the comic for that. Instead, and I think this is smart, they’re targeting the early adopters and will wait for the trickle-down effect of coolness to reach the rest of the world. And by that time, maybe they will have worked some of the larger bugs out.

(X-posted to Literature in a Wired World)

Categories: Technology