Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Google Chrome - Not Just Another Browser

Ok, I admit it. I was wrong in my earlier post about Google's Chrome: YAB - Yet Another Browser.

Chrome is not just another browser. Sure, it looks and feels like a browser today. Partly that's a cognitive issue. People understand what a browser is, so that's the best way to explain Chrome. It's also true that Chrome's functionality overlaps that of a browser by a very large amount.

But Chrome is not a browser!

It's a virtual operating system. In other words, it's a distributed platform for running application software. This point is made in Google's press on Chrome, and in the wonderful on-line comic they produced to accompany it. But it's glossed over. They spend more time talking about security and reliability, and of course, they keep referring to it as a browser.

But no one said software is what the developers say it is. Regardless of what anyone says, Chrome is a virtual OS. It's not the first virtual OS. I'm sure there were earlier ones, but for me, emacs comes to mind. Emacs began life as a text editor, but as it grew, it not only added more and more functions in its base code. It also provided a runtime environment for a flavor of the lisp programming language, and this, in turn, meant more and more applications were written in emacs lisp and run within the environment of the editor. People have used emacs for reading and writing email, keeping journals and calendars, composing Web sites, manipulating spreadsheets, and many other things. Some folks still use it for editing text files.

But Chrome is the VOS for the 21st century! Or at least, for the end of the first decade of the 21st century, and probably at least the early part of the second decade as well. It's currently only available in a beta for Windows, but one can easily imagine where it will go in the next year or so. It will provide all the richness that Web applications currently use, and it will fit more seamlessly (less seamfully?) with other applications on your computer, phone, iPod, watch, TV, shoe, etc.

VOS populi.

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