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The Future of Google Chrome 294

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the didn't-safari-just-poach-their-best-features dept.
TRNick writes "Lars Bak, who heads up development of Google Chrome's cornerstone javascript engine, talks about why Google is so focused on in-browser javascript performance, the role Chrome has played in driving up javascript performance in other browsers, and why it's taking so long to introduce support for third-party extensions. 'The web is becoming an integral part of the computer and the basic distinction between the OS and the browser doesn't matter very much any more,' he says."
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The Future of Google Chrome

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday February 26, 2009 @09:41AM (#26997019)
    Being uninstalled?
    • by Kagura (843695) on Thursday February 26, 2009 @10:39AM (#26997715)

      Being uninstalled?

      Until they get support for Firefox addons or get a base of addons equal to Firefox's, it won't be going on my computer anymore. ;*( I used it for about two weeks after its release, and then switched back to Firefox and never looked back.

      • by cyclocommuter (762131) on Thursday February 26, 2009 @10:57AM (#26998021)
        More specifically for me, until Chrome incorporates addons/extensions equivalent to NoScript, Adblock, and Flashblock I won't be using it except perhaps when I need to do a quick check of my Google Calendar appointments.
  • As we've seen. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by stonedcat (80201) <hikaricore [at] gmail.com> on Thursday February 26, 2009 @09:46AM (#26997063) Homepage

    As we've seen with Windows and IE.... the distinction between browser and and OS matters quite a bit. That is if you don't want to get accused of being and evil monopoly.

    • Re:As we've seen. (Score:5, Interesting)

      by elrous0 (869638) * on Thursday February 26, 2009 @10:04AM (#26997251)
      It was truly an odd thing for Google to say just days after they joined [theregister.co.uk] the EU antitrust case against MS over the this very distinction.
      • Re:As we've seen. (Score:5, Insightful)

        by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) on Thursday February 26, 2009 @10:19AM (#26997429) Journal
        There are fairly clearly two different senses of "distinction" at work here.

        The lawsuit concerns the question of whether or not a web browser is structurally distinct from the OS or not: is it an integral component, or an instance of bundling of two essentially unrelated things.

        This interview concerns the developer's observation that people's use of the browser doesn't draw much of a distinction between the browser and the OS(in that they consider the computer broken if web access isn't working, and in that they consider webapps to be on par with native apps).

        It is also quite possible that, shockingly, an individual developer, speaking semiformally about his project, has a slightly different view than does Google's legal department, speaking on behalf of Google's official position.
        • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

          by MrNaz (730548) *

          This "the browser is the OS" rubbish is really starting to annoy me. It's just not the case.

          in that they consider the computer broken if web access isn't working, and in that they consider webapps to be on par with native apps

          This really doesn't signal a change in paradigm in computing. Rather, it signals that many users who don't understand the distinction between local and remote applications have become the majority, and those who understand the distinction are now the minority. Buzzwords like "cloud com

          • Re:As we've seen. (Score:5, Insightful)

            by Tarlus (1000874) on Thursday February 26, 2009 @11:30AM (#26998483)

            Buzzwords like "cloud computing" and "online OS" don't change the fact that this is not a paradigm shift

            And "netbook."

            Thank you for writing this post, it really nails my opinion of the matter on the head as well. This whole new webapp craze has created such a stink in the IT world because so many people assume that it's going to phase out good-old-fashioned binaries. This is simply not the case. Like any tool, webapps are extremely useful for the right job. Regular binary programs are extremely useful for the right job. Writing a document with a webapp that is OS-independent and stored remotely is a nifty idea (especially if your laptop dies or is stolen, your data is safe), but the thought of something like MatLab, number-crunching or large spreadsheets using Javascript makes me cringe. Of course, people out there are still going to try doing this, and that's the crappy part about webapp popularity.

            The two approaches just need to find a balance and coexist. There will continue to be a distinction between webapps and the local OS because there will continue to be different people who have different uses for their computers. Average Joe will not know or care what OS is on his Eee as long as he can use his Google Mail and Google Calendar and Google Documents... and as long he knows that when the Eee is pickpocketed or dropped and broken, he can still get his data back from Google using another computer. IT Dude Tarlus (me) will continue to be anal-retentive about my OS, my software and the more advanced applications I have for them. I admit that I have written and use webapps, but only because they're the best tool for the job at hand. But I'll stick with a native word processor. (And no vasectomy, please.) =)

          • Re:As we've seen. (Score:5, Informative)

            by pixelcort (413708) <me@pixelcort.com> on Thursday February 26, 2009 @11:37AM (#26998599) Homepage Journal

            Too late. Google Docs is already here, a JavaScript word processor with real-time collaboration features.

        • ...The lawsuit concerns the question of whether or not a web browser is structurally distinct from the OS or not: is it an integral component, or an instance of bundling of two essentially unrelated things.

          Ah, to clarify, it was Microsoft who managed to muddy the waters first between browser and OS with their implementation, with every damn window on the screen essentially being a IE browser. I certainly don't get the same when I install Firefox on top of any other OS.

        • Re:As we've seen. (Score:5, Insightful)

          by elrous0 (869638) * on Thursday February 26, 2009 @10:59AM (#26998043)

          in that they consider the computer broken if web access isn't working

          I suspect that will be MS's essential defense of bundling a default brower (IE) with Windows. People EXPECT any modern OS to come with a default browser. Most of them don't even realize the browser is a distinct program from the OS itself. The argument against MS not bundling a browser with their OS is a relic from the 90's. These days it would be suicide for anyone to release an OS without built-in web capability right out of the box.

          • by D Ninja (825055)

            These days it would be suicide for anyone to release an OS without built-in web capability right out of the box.

            ...I'm looking at you, Gentoo!

          • by AmiMoJo (196126)

            The parent speaks the truth. You wouldn't believe how many times a customer has complained to me that their freshly re-installed computer doesn't have Word any more, and I have to tell them that Word isn't part of Windows and I can't put a pirate version on for them like the guy who sold them the PC did.

    • by cunamara (937584)
      I agree. When considering the statement "The web is becoming an integral part of the computer and the basic distinction between the OS and the browser doesn't matter very much any more," one has to consider the bias of the source. My laptop spends the majority of its time not connected to the internets and that time is its most important use as a tool- I make my living in part with my computer offline. The OS matters much more to me than the browser- I can use Safari, Camino, Firefox, etc. with equal outc
  • by LeDopore (898286) on Thursday February 26, 2009 @09:54AM (#26997117) Homepage Journal

    is that its future per se doesn't matter.

    What Google cares about is that there is a least one standards-compliant browser out there with fast javascript. Sure Google might have a slight preference for people using Chrome over another browser with fast javascript (like, say, Safari), but what really matters to them is that they are able to deliver web apps that are fast enough to be reasonable competitors to traditional desktop apps.

    Chrome is a combination insurance policy/open-source soapbox whose purpose is to make sure that Google apps (and other web apps) will always have a browser to run on.

    • by Aladrin (926209) on Thursday February 26, 2009 @10:12AM (#26997335)

      I think it's more important that it's a challenge to the rest of the 'market' to catch up on Javascript performance. I don't think they -really- expect their browser to be the best or even have a decent market share... They just need something to point to and say 'See, it's possible. Why haven't you done it yet?'

    • by Deag (250823) on Thursday February 26, 2009 @10:16AM (#26997389)

      It is interesting the while javascript is being more and more heavily used, it is in a way like development tools have been reset 10 years.

      Maybe I have been blind, but I have yet to come across a decent IDE for javascript development. All the nice features like code completion and even syntax checking are now no longer a given.

      Even some decent syntax checking would be nice. I would like to know how much time is lost now on developers looking for typos in their js code. The only way you discover them is to run the code. And even then, the errors generated are not always helpful.

      And debugging is getting more complicated. Stuff like venkman and firebug work for basic standard linked javascript, but the newer libraries use so many shortcuts in declaring objects that no debuggers just can't seem to keep up.

      A lot of this is with any script that is weakly typed. So many libraries and scripts take advantage and abuse this.

      Now these same libraries are abstracting so much of what is hard browser differences and the like out. So that is good. But with this only really being at the start of being heavily used. I can see some real ugly legacy applications around in five years time.

      And this type of scripting is popping up everywhere, I see servers now that have javascript running on the server, and other devices using them for UI.

      • by wumpus188 (657540)

        There used to be no debugger at all... alert(), anyone?

      • by Artifex33 (932236) on Thursday February 26, 2009 @11:06AM (#26998137)

        I'd suggest you check out IntelliJ's IDEA 8.0. I've been developing interfaces for the web for ten years now, and I've come across nothing with such comprehensive and accurate support for js coding. Both your complaints about code completion and syntax checking are handled by IDEA accurately.

        Some other developers in my group swear by MyEclipse's js handling, but I haven't had any personal experience with it in the past couple of years. My last impression of it was that its color-coding wasn't as detailed as IDEA's. Still, MyEclipse is open-source, so check it out first and see if it takes care of your needs.

        For debugging, Firebug is still your best bet, though I believe IE's debugger has been making huge strides lately, and is better than Firebug for automatically handling breakpoints--in Firebug, you have to search through your .js files in order to manually place a breakpoint, and then that can get weird if you have iframes to deal with.

        • by Deag (250823)

          I took a look at the web page for this one and yes it seems to definitely steps in the right direction.

          But the fundamental aspect of javascript being a weakly typed language means that further development is quite a difficult problem.

          Take a simple line of code. somevar.jump(); If this is java, it doesn't take much for the compiler to figure out whether this is valid.

          In javascript it might be possible to declare if it is a valid call but it is impossible to determine if it is an invalid call.

          The IDE that you

      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward

        Try NetBeans, it has javascript autocompletion, support for popular libraries, like jQuery and various other goodies.

      • by Thaelon (250687)

        I suspect it's because the skillset to make a program in C/C++ or some other locally-run language are very close to the same skillet to write a debugger for those languages. But I suspect the skills to write a JavaScript debugger are much more disparate from those for writing JavaScript itself.

        So you have all these web developers and no debugger developers in the field. The people who can write debuggers are all busy writing in languages that aren't JavaScript. At least that's my crackpot theory.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by ljw1004 (764174)

        Visual Studio has a great javascript IDE. It provides statement completion, syntax checking, and intellisense. It's debugging experience is great too (step over, step into, hover over variables to evaluate them at tooltip, type evaluation expressions interactively while the code is paused, ...)

        function f()
        {
        var x = new MyObject1();
        x.| -- here it shows intellisense for MyObject1
        x = "hello";
        x.| -- here it shows intellisense for strings
        }

        The intellise

      • by Arkham (10779) on Thursday February 26, 2009 @02:47PM (#27001539)

        Maybe I have been blind, but I have yet to come across a decent IDE for javascript development. All the nice features like code completion and even syntax checking are now no longer a given.

        I felt like this for a long time. Finally I discovered , which is Google's own solution to this problem. [google.com]

        I now code my dynamic web components in java in my regular (eclipse) IDE, debug it in Eclipse, then deploy (compile) to Javascript. It's robust, full featured, maintainable, and easily debugged.

    • by LWATCDR (28044)

      Well I thin Chrome is part of Android.
      I often wonder if Google is getting too myopic. I am not sure that Browser Apps will ever replace all native apps. Maybe Google doesn't as well but their supporters really do.

  • And its built on JavaScript.
    If they they create a framework or engine which internet would be dependent on, they would control the web. The plugins which try to compete against JavaScript will lose their place when its achieve this speed and Google Gears integration.
    I think what would happen is Chrome framework being (a restricted) interface to the OS and media control libraries which would try to be what ActiveX,Flash and Java do today(within their plugin interface). Except it would be built-in into Chrome

  • More "the basic distinction between the shell and the browser". OTOH, when you can run MacOS, Linux, and WinXP simultaneously on not too high end equipment (a 2 year old 24 inch iMac w/3gb ram in my case) then you have to ask just which layer is the "operating system", and which is the shell.

  • by PetoskeyGuy (648788) on Thursday February 26, 2009 @09:58AM (#26997175)

    I would rather have the browser guys work on getting something OTHER than javascript into the browsers. Javascript is getting better, but you only polish a turd so much.

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Sir Groane (1226610)
      So Javascript is becoming what Java should have been, the run-anywhere language, if only Java hadn't been such a superficially ugly language and goddam slow - the browser is the equivalent of the JRE.

      If all JRE's (browsers) are alike in syntax, semantics, security and libraries then the faster one will become the shell of choice to run these cloudy, ajaxy apps. And we'll partying like it's 1980 with browser-and-cloud architectures replacing greenscreen-and-mainframe.

      It's a shame that, like you said, j
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by gnud (934243)
      I disagree.
      The problem with javascript is still browser incompabilities, and that would not lessen with other scriping languages.
    • How about haskell-script?
    • Re: (Score:4, Insightful)

      by drew (2081) on Thursday February 26, 2009 @03:04PM (#27001805) Homepage

      I strongly disagree. JavaScript is a great language - in fact I think it is one of the best dynamic languages out there. The biggest problem is that 95% of the people who program JavaScript never bother to figure out the right way to use the language. I have heard people who had worked for years programming in JavaScript (actually JScript) claim that the language does not support inheritance, which could not be more untrue. As Douglas Crockford stated in a talk titled "JavaScript: The Good Parts [yahoo.com]":

      I began programming JavaScript the same way everybody else began programming JavaScript: I didn't learn it. Just tried to figure it out by trial and error. It was like "There's not enough here to be worth having to learn it. I'll just fumble around with it." That's not true of any other language. Every other language that I've ever attempted, I would learn it - I would learn it deep and I would learn it good. JavaScript is the only language I've ever encountered where "I should be able to fake it."

      I don't know why JavaScript has that aspect about it, but I find that's pretty much universal. Most of the people who start using JavaScript really don't bother to learn it. But they expect it to work anyway, and often they are disappointed when it doesn't work the way they thought it should, when they have no reason to expect that it should work the way they thought it should.

      If people would actually bother to learn the language (and could be convinced to give up the notion that you can't do OO properly without classes) you'd probably hear a lot less hatred for it.

      Also, adding other support for other languages wouldn't do anything to address the biggest difficulty in writing code that runs in a browser, which is the incompatibilities between the different browsers' DOM and CSS implementations.

  • by radarsat1 (786772) on Thursday February 26, 2009 @10:00AM (#26997201) Homepage

    With compilers like GWT [google.com], Pyjamas [pyjs.org], and HotRuby [accelart.jp], I sometimes wonder if JavaScript is starting to emerge as a "portable assembly language" for dynamic languages, the way C is often used by higher-level language compilers. I mean, when it comes down to it JS is basically just hash tables and closures, some of the basic elements required for dynamic language execution.

    Given a fast-as-C javascript engine, you could have a pretty decent VM to share between several dynamic languages, and due to JS's dynamic nature compiling these languages to JS is fairly trivial.

    I mentioned this once on reddit and someone called it a 'braindead' approach. That may be true. I'm not sure. He also pointed out that many things you'd have to do to get languages like Ruby running in JS would require passing the context as a function argument, which he claimed would probably bypass any potential optimization by the JS compiler. Not sure about that either.

    But I find it really interesting (and cool!) that JS's heavy web presence is giving it such attention in both the "compiler backend" and optimization departments simultaneously. Whether it's a braindead approach or not, it sure seems to be drawing a lot of interest lately.

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      I don't know, Lua [lua.org] would fit that role a whole lot better. It's semantically similar to Javascript but is much cleaner. Javascript is a disgusting hack of a language with bizarre bit and pieces shoehorned into it over the years.

      The fastest Javascript engines will never be as fast as the fastest Lua engines. Javascript is too tied down by cruft. LuaJIT already beats every other Javascript engine out there in all tests except a few and it's not even using tracing yet (the fastest JS engines are using traci

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Mr. McGibby (41471)

        You're missing the point.

        Lua isn't built into the browser of almost every computer on the planet.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Kz (4332)

          Lua isn't built into the browser of almost every computer on the planet.

          neither is Flash... but it's everywhere.

          all we need is NativeClient to suceed just as widely

    • by abigsmurf (919188) on Thursday February 26, 2009 @10:53AM (#26997951)

      Yeah we could have a platform independent language that compiles efficiently into a type of code easily run by virtual machines.

      Not sure about the name Javascript though, think it sounds a bit complex and we need to distinguish it from the browser only one. Lets just call it Java

    • I mentioned this once on reddit and someone called it a 'braindead' approach.

      Ah well, if the Reddit guys don't like it, the idea must be fundamentally broken - there's no point us wasting time here on /. discussing it further.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by kripkenstein (913150)

      With compilers like GWT [google.com], Pyjamas [pyjs.org], and HotRuby [accelart.jp], I sometimes wonder if JavaScript is starting to emerge as a "portable assembly language" for dynamic languages, the way C is often used by higher-level language compilers. I mean, when it comes down to it JS is basically just hash tables and closures, some of the basic elements required for dynamic language execution.

      However, a language is more than hash tables and closures, and even the great similarity between most dynamic languages isn't enough.

      For example, in JavaScript all you have are doubles - no integers. That means that if you are using Pyjamas, and you write some math stuff in what appears to be Python, it won't behave like Python. Because of a lot of stuff like this, a straightforward translation of syntax-to-syntax will never work.

      Instead, you can do more complicated stuff - like compile code using int

  • by MobyTurbo (537363) * on Thursday February 26, 2009 @10:11AM (#26997329) Homepage
    How come it's Windows-only still if the browser is all that matters and the OS isn't, Google?
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by noob749 (1285846)
      because they are taking the time to do it right - that way you will get a well thought out 'OS' instead of a repeat of todays dominant OS. if something is worth doing, it's worth doing right.

      the internet flourished during the dark age of browsers and we've gone another half decade since then. what's another year between friends? at least we have a promise that it's on its way soon.

      besides, with safari, firefox and opera (and even ie??? [ducks]) getting more and more standards compliant and faster J
      • by toQDuj (806112)

        because they are taking the time to do it right

        ...and then to release it as Beta.

        Oh the irony..

  • by $1uck (710826)
    'The web is becoming an integral part of the computer and the basic distinction between the OS and the browser doesn't matter very much any more'

    Wanting it to be so and it being so are two entirely different things.
  • I'd be much happier with Chrome if they fixed the little things, like rendering checkboxes properly [google.com] (especially when it breaks Gmail, of all things) or getting Flash [tweak3d.net] to stop freezing after a few seconds of video after fast-forwarding (which breaks sites like Youtube)

  • "resistance is futile, you will be assimilated"

    i think slashdot needs to update its icons

    the borg bill gates icon is threatening only circa 1996. microsoft of 2009 is on a real decline

    meanwhile, the company of all-domination in 2009 is obviously google. we need a remake of the google icon for slashdot to include the borg cube

    and the microsoft icon should be remade with just a non-borg bill gates holding a jar of mosquitoes [msn.com]

  • by Fished (574624) <amphigory@ g m ail.com> on Thursday February 26, 2009 @11:33AM (#26998519)

    It seems to me that the browser will not be able to replace the desktop ... or even claim to be an "OS" in anything but the most attenuated sense... until we have the ability to use something other than javascript in a reasonably cross-platform way. Imagine for a second that Windows could only be programmed in Visual Basic, or Linux could only be programmed in C. We'd absolutely hate it, and we'd be right to hate it.

    Now, granted, any given development platform generally displays a preference for a given programming language. If you're going to develop Gnome applications, you're probably going to use C, if Cocoa, then Objective C, etc. But right now the situation in the web space is one of total locking to Javascript, which isn't even all that good of a language.

    What I really want to see is a reasonable degree of cross-platform support for the use of a reasonable variety of object-oriented scripting languages embedded in the browser, as plugins. So I can develop web pages in HTML + Ruby, or HTML + Python, or HTML + Javascript, as is best suited for my application. The hooks are there in the HTML specs to do this, but browser implementations don't seem to have caught up.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Enderandrew (866215)

      Plasmoids can be programmed in a whole slew of languages, such as Ruby, JS, Python, C++, etc. Someone made a proof-of-concept Firefox extension that ran plasmoids in your browser.

      Chrome comes with Gears, and can't Gears widgets be programmed in a variety of languages?

      And Java is still around, etc.

  • security, anyone? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Tom (822) on Thursday February 26, 2009 @02:22PM (#27001133) Homepage Journal

    'The web is becoming an integral part of the computer and the basic distinction between the OS and the browser doesn't matter very much any more', he says."

    Outch. After this quote, I know I'm never going to test Chrome.

    There is an absolutely vital distinction. The damn browser will happily run any code embedded in any website I visit. My OS (don't know about yours, but mine) only runs stuff that I explicitly tell it to, usually after explicitly installing it. In fact, I'd prefer even tighter limits on that.

    If you don't get that distinction, your security mindset is fucked up.

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