Feeds

Chrome: A new force for web applications?

Promise through the froth

The smart choice: opportunity from uncertainty

Another interesting feature in relation to Flash is the Canvas element. This was invented by Apple for Safari, which also uses WebKit, and is part of HTML 5. Canvas lets browser applications paint arbitrary graphics, just as you can in Flash or in native code applications. A note to the official specification adds that "a future version of this specification will probably define a 3d context (probably based on the OpenGL ES API)". Speculative - but clearly Canvas has the potential to reduce the need for plug-ins like Flash or Silverlight.

Firefox also supports Canvas, but what about Internet Explorer? You guessed: it is missing, though there are clever wrappers which use IE's VML graphics library to emulate Canvas.

A side-effect of Chrome is that despite its large market share Microsoft risks finding IE marginalised for the lack of features such as compiled Javascript and the Canvas element.

Google has made Chrome quick to install, with no restart needed, and we may see websites that treat it almost like a plug-in: "Install Chrome to view this site."

The other big feature for application developers is Gears, which can enable offline functionality through a local store and web server, as well as Sqlite and the desktop integration mentioned above.

Google has made much ballyhoo over security and robustness in Chrome, thanks to its process isolation for tabs and running processes with restricted permissions. There are echoes of Microsoft's protected mode for IE7, and its tab isolation in IE8.

Reading the white paper on Chrome security, it is interesting to note how security in Chrome's current implementation is closely tied to Windows features, which is probably a good thing since Windows poses unique security challenges thanks to its poor history of users running with local administrator rights.

While this is good progress, Gears security strikes me as a concern. Gears lets web applications write to the user's hard drive, though only in areas that are part of the user's profile, and isolated by site origin. The idea is that only trusted sites are allowed to use Gears.

Chrome built in Visual Studio 2005

Chromium, the open source Chrome project, ready for Visual Studio 2005

However, with popular applications like WordPress starting to use Gears as an option for enhancing performance by caching data, there is the possibility of all sorts of sites inviting the user to enable Gears. What if a hijacked site used the desktop API to install malicious desktop shortcuts, or worse? Although Gears enables new possibilities for developers, I suspect the security aspect needs more examination.

Another snag with Chrome is that currently it does not support any extension API. Google said it will do in future, though bearing in mind that one popular extension might be an ad blocker, perhaps it will not hasten in this.

Finally, one significant Chrome advantage for developers is that all the code can easily be downloaded. Configuring a machine to build some open source projects successfully can be a challenge. But Chromium is delivered as a Visual Studio 2005 solution, and its main dependency is the Windows SDK. This gives developers the ability to debug and profile code at the deepest level.

Chrome, then, is a significant new force in web application development. ®

Securing Web Applications Made Simple and Scalable

More from The Register

next story
KDE releases ice-cream coloured Plasma 5 just in time for summer
Melty but refreshing - popular rival to Mint's Cinnamon's still a work in progress
NO MORE ALL CAPS and other pleasures of Visual Studio 14
Unpicking a packed preview that breaks down ASP.NET
Secure microkernel that uses maths to be 'bug free' goes open source
Hacker-repelling, drone-protecting code will soon be yours to tweak as you see fit
Cheer up, Nokia fans. It can start making mobes again in 18 months
The real winner of the Nokia sale is *drumroll* ... Nokia
Put down that Oracle database patch: It could cost $23,000 per CPU
On-by-default INMEMORY tech a boon for developers ... as long as they can afford it
Another day, another Firefox: Version 31 is upon us ALREADY
Web devs, Mozilla really wants you to like this one
Google shows off new Chrome OS look
Athena springs full-grown from Chromium project's head
prev story

Whitepapers

Designing a Defense for Mobile Applications
Learn about the various considerations for defending mobile applications - from the application architecture itself to the myriad testing technologies.
Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Top 8 considerations to enable and simplify mobility
In this whitepaper learn how to successfully add mobile capabilities simply and cost effectively.
Seven Steps to Software Security
Seven practical steps you can begin to take today to secure your applications and prevent the damages a successful cyber-attack can cause.
Boost IT visibility and business value
How building a great service catalog relieves pressure points and demonstrates the value of IT service management.