Chrome Comes Out of Beta with 10 Million Users

As was reported yesterday, Google’s browser Chrome is coming out of beta — a mere 100 days after it was introduced. When I commented to Sundar Pichai, Product VP, that this had to be one of the fastest exits from beta for Google in recent memory he explained that “Google has a very traditional approach to our client software products,” meaning it accelerates the process of getting them to a general release.

There were suggestions on the TechCrunch blog that third parties were potentially exerting pressure on or encouraging Google to hurry up the general release of Chrome. I asked Pichai about this idea and he said that the product was “very far along” when they initially released it in September. He added that the bugs and feature requests have been addressed; so it was time to come out of beta.

What bugs and feature requests?

Pichai said that there had been some issues with audio and video that were now fixed. He added that the browser is now more stable and even faster — indeed speed is one of its chief selling points. Among the feature requests, there are now better privacy controls (in one place), better bookmark management and various security upgrades and improvements. On the nagging question of a Mac version, Pichai said there was a good deal of internal pressure to get one done but it was a “non-trival matter.” He said that one would likely be out by the “end of the first half” of 2009.

One of the great features of Chrome is the new tab page (pictured above). Somewhat like Opera’s “speed dial,” it offers a grid display of most commonly visited sites for easy access. Another feature I would like to see Google add is one like Firefox’s “save and quit” option, which remembers tabs and sites and reopens them upon launching the browser during a subsequent session.

There are a host of coming improvements such as better RSS support and support for extensions, among a range of other things. Pichai also said that the browser has an impressive 10 million users after three months. That’s a very big number but to put it in the context of the larger browser market, here’s the marketshare breakdown:

I asked Google about location in the browser. Google Gears and its Geolocation API are built into Chrome. What that means is that Google’s WiFi and cell tower database triangulation will be able to pinpoint users with a high degree of accuracy (much like Google’s “MyLocation” does on mobile phones). It’s also similar to what Mozilla is doing with the next version of Firefox.

Pichai was not able to discuss these matters in great detail given that they were outside the scope of his responsibility. However he reminded me of the “double opt in” privacy policy tied to the Geolocation API. Google asks if you want to expose your location and third party developers or publishers trying to access that information must also request access from users.

There are lots of implications both for publishers and advertisers coming from this improved location awareness (Windows 7 will also have it). Here’s a previous post on some of the implications of location in the browser.

In the background, Microsoft has allegedly signed a deal with Dell Computer (a long time Google search partner) to pre-load the Live Search toolbar. If all that is true, an improved Chrome could be a carrot to retain the Dell relationship.

Related Topics: Channel: Content | Features: Analysis | Google: Browsers | Google: Business Issues | Google: Chrome | Microsoft: Partnerships


About The Author: is a Contributing Editor at Search Engine Land. He writes a personal blog Screenwerk, about SoLoMo issues and connecting the dots between online and offline. He also posts at Internet2Go, which is focused on the mobile Internet. Follow him @gsterling.

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