Google celebrates its birthday by launching new Chrome broswer as rival to Microsoft and Firefox

On the eve of Google's 10th anniversary, the internet giant has launched a new service which yet again promises to revolutionise our online lives. Having already conquered search engines, this time around Google has its sights set on web browsing, with the launch of its new super- smart browser called Chrome.

It's a move guaranteed to shake up the long-standing war between existing browser heavyweights such as Microsoft's Internet Explorer, Mozilla's Firefox and the smaller but well-thought-of Safari from Apple.

Microsoft's browser currently dominates the market with 73 per cent of people using its Internet Explorer to surf the web. So what can Google offer to tempt us away from Bill Gates?

Enlarge   Google Chrome

Google Chrome promises to load pages faster and more securely than traditional browsers

At first glance Chrome has all the hallmarks of a great browser: the way it starts up, loads up web pages and applications such as email programs is fast, secure and stable.

But Google's ambitions for Chrome, which launched earlier this week, go much further than simply outperforming other browsers.

According to Google insiders, there is a shift taking place that centres around the browser. Increasing numbers of us are using online services to access our email, edit documents, keep calendars, store pictures and videos, and so on.

The beauty of doing this is that if you use more than one computer during the day you don't have to worry about transferring files from one hard drive to another; your content is always available online.

And if you suffer a computer crash, no problem, your precious files are safely stored online, so nothing is lost.

Chrome has been designed specifically with this in mind. The aim is to turn the humble web browser into a platform as powerful as an operating system  -  creating a window through which to run a whole host of online programs and services, none of which need to be installed on your own computer.

While existing browsers already allow you to do much of this, the purpose of Chrome is to make this as seamless and simple as possible, and without causing your computer to crash or grind to a halt all the time.

When you remember what it was like searching before Google then you ' ll have some insight into the difference this kind of streamlining can make.

The basic thinking behind Chrome is that if we are to use more and more webbased applications, then the browser needs to be more powerful, smarter and easier to use.

Enlarge   graphic

Click enlarge to see how the broswers compare

Naturally Google wants you to use its own online applications, such as Gmail, Google Docs, Picasso and so on, but you don't have to.

In fact Chrome is an open source so any software developers are free to improve it or design applications for it. And as Chrome uses a more powerful version of JavaScript (which allows programs to run in browser windows) we can expect to see more sophisticated online applications appearing soon.

Chrome will even let you create shortcut icons for online applications so you can run them like programs installed on your hard drive. But one of the big incentives for shifting to online applications is that it means no more upgrading.

By using online programs that run through your browser you will always be getting the latest version of the software, for free. So no more forking out for a new email package or word processing software because yours is outdated and doesn't work with everyone else's.

And no more upgrading your computer because it doesn't have the memory or processing power to handle this latest software upgrade.

If you're not convinced, give it a try:

Enlarge   cartoon

A Google cartoon has outlined the new features of the Chrome browser. (Click enlarge for full cartoon)

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