Tuesday, November 11, 2008

"Chromeo, oh Chromeo. Wherefore art thou Opera?"

Continuing in my riveting coverage of Things That I Do That You Can Witness on the Internet, comes my latest update: that you can now see the interview Priya and I did with Radio New Zealand National's Bryan Crump for Roadtrip Nation online. It didn't work on Opera or Safari when I clicked it yesterday, but now today it seems to be opening in all three of the browsers I have on my computer, so whether you're on Opera, Safari, Firefox, Internet Explorer, Camino or even--heaven forbid--Chrome, you can watch our smiling faces in a snippet of our adventures through New Zealand. The interview was pretty enlightening, as you'll see, and the editing that Dan at Roadtrip Productions did is absolutely amazing. It almost brought a tear to my eye as it ended. Definitely worth a watch.

But on a serious note now, is anyone using Google Chrome yet? Does anyone even know it exists? I haven't seen much of a media push for it, and the amount of time I spend online is truly and completely inappropriate. Chrome, for those of you who don't know, is Google's own internet browser that has been in development since Google realized they could completely monopolize a user's time on their computer (look for GooPorn, coming in early 2009!) and was finally released in a beta version in early September. The browser has been hailed by some as a direct and viable rival to Microsoft's Internet Explorer, with more customization and less security issues, but Microsoft insists that web users will "embrace Internet Explorer 8"--not too terribly far of a stretch when you consider just how lazy and averse to change internet users on the whole are (check out any and every online messageboard for proof of this.)

But Chrome has quite a good thing going for it, or so I've read. As they rightly should after stealing their entire design scheme straight from Opera Systems. You never heard of Opera either? That's okay. It's typically used as a reduced-footprint browser for mobile devices like PDAs and cellular phones. But in the past year alone, the browser has developed into one of the finest, cleanest, user-friendly browers on the web. Of course, you can't watch Netflix movies on it (hell, you couldn't even watch them on a Mac until last week), check your college loan status, or visit a number of popular but poorly coded websites without having the pages come out looking like mangled war amputees--but for simplicity and speed on all other fronts, Opera is hard to beat. It will never compete with Internet Explorer for exactly all of those reasons, but it is a great alternative if you're just surfing the net like so many of us often are doing. Of course, I would have said the same about Firefox four years ago, but look where that is now (read: bloated and slow).

So when Google developed Chrome, where did they look? To some new and influential technologies? To a completely revamped approach to the internet that would be sure to springboard them into competition with the Microsoft Juggernaut. Well, yes, if you weren't familiar with Opera (and most were not). Any way you spin it, Google manhandled Opera, ripping off its designs and concepts like a frat guy tearing the panties off a roofied freshman girl at a Homecoming Weekend kegger. Just look at Chrome's brand-new Thumbnail Homepage:

Pretty clever, right? Saving your favorite websites so that you can access them faster and more conveniently whenever you log on. I'd have a hard time finding fault in a new and innovative tool like--oh wait a second:

Yeah. Opera's Speed Dial. Looks kind of familiar doesn't it? The Chrome browser has also been touted for stripping away the extraneous toolbars and buttons that clutter the tops of Internet Explorer and Firefox windows. Take a closer look at the top of that Opera window--you're damn right, there isn't even a word there beyond the open tab. Looks like someone's already stripped, and let me tell you, she was a hell of a lot sexier.

The insiders at Google aren't even denying it. When the beta was released, I was in New Zealand with Priya, whose brother was working on the Chrome development team. She showed me the new browser, and, as an Opera user for the last two years, I freaked out. When she talked to her brother later on the phone, she told him that his project had its hands down the pants of an already existing (albeit unknown) one, and he responded: "How did you know about that?"

Now, I haven't actually used Chrome at all, so maybe they have taken Opera's ideas and developed them into something much better and sleeker. According to my friend Varun, however, it is not. "It's slow," he said when I asked if he'd used it--he had minimally on a PC and tried to port it to his Mac before finally throwing in the towel, "and kind of ugly." That was enough for me to not even bother. The only reason I have Firefox is so that I can access things like the video I linked that can only be read in it. Even Safari hasn't made it onto my dock (and I even have a shortcut to Civilization IV there). Opera is the one for me, and I'm sticking with it.

And now I need to get in the shower and scrub the nerd off me. It's sticky.

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