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Chrome-fed Googasm bares tech pundit futility

It's a f***ing web browser

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Fail and You Last week, Google released a web browser called Chrome, and the online tech media had a powerful Googasm. We were long overdue for another climax like this, having been lightly stimulated with half-baked Google web products in the four years since GMail was released.

Every time the media fires off its gravy so violently, it highlights how little some of the supposed "experts" actually know about computers. Case in point: People saying that Google Chrome is an operating system designed to compete head-to-head with Microsoft Windows.

I understand the argument that as web applications proliferate, the desktop operating system becomes less important, and emphasis is placed on the browser. That's all well and good, but let's be realistic here. It's a fucking web browser. It runs JavaScript a bit faster than other web browsers. That doesn't add up to a Windows killer.

Users aren't going to decide which computer to buy based on which browser comes pre-installed, and even if they do, I'm going to guess that they will choose Internet Explorer (or - as it is known commonly in user parlance - "the blue internet that opens my web sites"). In any case, a browser is still going to need a proper operating system to run, and that operating system will almost always be Windows.

Given the thousands of Windows applications that are grandfathered in to many IT systems, the video games that are just a touch too GPU-intensive to run in JavaScript, and general user comfort with Windows, it's hard to imagine a world where everything (and I mean everything) is done in a browser. Oh, and let's not forget all your browser-based apps being ad-supported.

Of course, none of this will stop the tech media from cooking the story they've wanted for decades.

Silicon Valley Insiders?

When journalists jump on a story like this, they will publish just about anything, no matter how poorly thought out. Let's take, for example, Henry Blodget of Silicon Alley Insider. He says:

[Google is] building the equivalent to Windows in the cloud-computing world.

Too bad the SEC can't ban this guy from the tech industry for life.

People are calling Chrome a cloud operating system because it is a "platform for running web apps". It renders HTML and interprets Javascript, you know, like every fucking browser made since 1995. It's also got Google Gears built in. Great. I'll alert Tim Berners-Lee.

This bullshit is a common theme when talking about Chrome. Those who realize that Chrome is not a full fledged operating system but still want to get in on the page-view party are calling Chrome the cloud operating system. Get it, because it's like clouds. All nature and shit. Don't you want to read that story?

Well, at least Blodget sort of understands what it takes to run a web browser. I can't say the same for Michael Arrington, who runs the Special Olympics of tech media, TechCrunch. Arrington fancies himself a kingpin of Web 2.0, but when he starts saying shit like this, it's hard for him to keep the respect of people, who, you know, understand how computers work:

Chrome is nothing less than a full on desktop operating system that will compete head on with Windows.

Expect to see millions of web devices, even desktop web devices, in the coming years that completely strip out the Windows layer and use the browser as the only operating system the user needs.

In no way can this statement be construed to make sense, and I'm not just being a pedantic asshole here. Fortunately, El Reg readers are with it enough to know that you need a proper OS before you can have a browser. However, a significant number of the users you IT admins support are reading shit like this, and will be putting in support tickets to have Google Chrome OS installed on their computers as soon as possible, because they've had enough of Windows and are ready for a change.

Unfortunately it isn't just a few bad apples in the media pulling this stunt. If I had to list them all, I would have to take a .45 caliber aspirin.

Over the Top

What caused this orgy of failure? It's not unlike a World War I bloodbath. Soldiers are in the trenches, waiting for the whistle, when they see one of their brothers in arms leap out into no man's land and charge toward the enemy. Is it time to go? Did you miss the whistle? Fuck it, over the top! You jump out, and just before you're cut down by the machine gun fire, you see the other soldiers in the trench jumping out, and a befuddled commander wondering where everyone is going.

Word of Google's browser got out, and one person said "this is the new operating system". Other reporters, not wanting to be left out, turned the echo chamber up to 11. Typing words is easier than critical thought, after all. The blogosphere sprayed its shorts and Google is sitting there, holding its whistle, trying to figure out what the fuck is going on.

Everyone was after the perfect story, whether or not it actually exists. Someone is finally bringing the battle to Microsoft's front door, and that someone is already a media darling. Google releasing a browser is so damned close to the ideal situation, but there's not quite enough to declare that Chrome will replace Windows. None the less, this does not stop the technically incompetent from spinning it as such. Maybe they were just feeling nostalgic about Microsoft pummeling the shit out of Netscape?

Anyway, not even Sergey Brin could stop the premature eGoogulation. At a press conference, Brin said:

I would not call Chrome the operating system of Web apps...

Dammit, Sergey. You're ruining my story!

As comedy would have it, word is that Brin is a Mac user. Considering Google hasn't released its browser for the Mac yet, he has to run Chrome in VMWare.

Operating system indeed. ®

Ted Dziuba is a co-founder at Milo.com You can read his regular Reg column, Fail and You, every other Monday.

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