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Chrome: A new force for web applications?
Promise through the froth
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?
Next, Bak talked about inline caching. Inlining is a way of flattening program structure to speed up function calls.