Feeds

Chrome: A new force for web applications?

Promise through the froth

Remote control for virtualized desktops

Review Google's new web browser has provoked an orgy of comment almost rivalling that for a new trinket from Apple. There's plenty of froth, but for once the interest is justified.

This is not just a browser: it is a vehicle for delivering web applications, and it significantly changes the balance of power between those trying to build modern client platforms. It is time to abandon the term Rich Internet Applications, or RIAs, as if this were a distinct category that is not quite mainstream.

This is a battle over how most of the web and a large slice of business applications will be built in future.

In some ways the goals of Google Chrome parallel those of Adobe Systems with AIR. Both companies are bringing web applications to the desktop. Adobe's approach was to create a new runtime which wraps Flash, the WebKit HTML rendering engine, and the Sqlite database engine to allow web applications to run outside the browser.

Google also took WebKit and Sqlite (part of its Gears extension library), but its approach to desktop integration is beautiful in its simplicity. Chrome lets you create desktop shortcuts to web pages. In addition, when you open a web page from one of these shortcuts, it opens without any browser furniture.

This really is a significant feature, because a well-designed and responsive web application will be indistinguishable from any other desktop application. The name Chrome is in part a reference to it - in software development, the term describes the surrounding user interface of an application.

At the press conference announcing Chrome, Google's vice president of product management Sundar Pichai said: "We used to call it content, not Chrome - that's what we should focus on." The name Chrome is an ironic one, that means as little chrome as possible.

Saviour of the universe?

What about the Flash element? Web developers turn to Flash, or some alternative such as Microsoft's Silverlight browser plug-in, for several reasons, including rich graphical effects, video and multimedia, and a fast just-in-time compiled virtual machine. Google cannot provide all this in Chrome, yet this seems to be headed in that direction. Chrome ticks the box for a fast virtual machine, with the V8 JavaScript engine. Google VA technical lead Lars Bak described three key features of V8.

The first is a native code compiler. Although JavaScript is a dynamic language, which is more challenging for a compiler, Bak explained how V8 "monitors the program as you run it and creates common structures of objects inside the virtual machine," enabling optimisation.

Next, Bak talked about inline caching. Inlining is a way of flattening program structure to speed up function calls.

The third feature is memory management. According to Bak, V8 is designed to scale, so that Javascript web applications can grow much bigger while still performing well. As an aside, it is worth noting Mozilla's claims that its own forthcoming Javascript virtual machine, TraceMonkey, is better than V8 on some tests.

This will be part of a future Firefox release. Microsoft, on the other hand, seems to have little interest in JIT-compiled Javascript. JScript is faster in IE8, but not close to V8 or TraceMonkey. Real-world performance is about interaction with the browser's document object model (DOM) as well as pure code.

Internet Security Threat Report 2014

More from The Register

next story
PEAK APPLE: iOS 8 is least popular Cupertino mobile OS in all of HUMAN HISTORY
'Nerd release' finally staggers past 50 per cent adoption
Microsoft to bake Skype into IE, without plugins
Redmond thinks the Object Real-Time Communications API for WebRTC is ready to roll
Microsoft promises Windows 10 will mean two-factor auth for all
Sneak peek at security features Redmond's baking into new OS
Mozilla: Spidermonkey ATE Apple's JavaScriptCore, THRASHED Google V8
Moz man claims the win on rivals' own benchmarks
FTDI yanks chip-bricking driver from Windows Update, vows to fight on
Next driver to battle fake chips with 'non-invasive' methods
DEATH by PowerPoint: Microsoft warns of 0-day attack hidden in slides
Might put out patch in update, might chuck it out sooner
Ubuntu 14.10 tries pulling a Steve Ballmer on cloudy offerings
Oi, Windows, centOS and openSUSE – behave, we're all friends here
Was ist das? Eine neue Suse Linux Enterprise? Ausgezeichnet!
Version 12 first major-number Suse release since 2009
prev story

Whitepapers

Cloud and hybrid-cloud data protection for VMware
Learn how quick and easy it is to configure backups and perform restores for VMware environments.
Forging a new future with identity relationship management
Learn about ForgeRock's next generation IRM platform and how it is designed to empower CEOS's and enterprises to engage with consumers.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?
New hybrid storage solutions
Tackling data challenges through emerging hybrid storage solutions that enable optimum database performance whilst managing costs and increasingly large data stores.
Security and trust: The backbone of doing business over the internet
Explores the current state of website security and the contributions Symantec is making to help organizations protect critical data and build trust with customers.