The first reviews of Google's new Web browser are in, and the overall consensus is: Chrome is pretty darn nice.
"Google Chrome may just be the most impressive new Web browser that I have ever seen," raves eWeek's Jim Rapoza, adding that it "just feels like the way that a browser should work."
"The tabs almost seem to click themselves; the autocomplete is so speedy that I thought it was reading my mind," marvels CNet's Molly Wood.
The two big dogs of tech journalism were more cautious. The Wall Street Journal's Walt Mossberg calls it a "smart, innovative browser" that is "rough around the edges."
The New York Times' David Pogue praises its speediness and discusses its features, but his verdict? "A first-rate beginning."
There was one outright pan: The Associated Press' Peter Svensson says Chrome "falls short" of the goals Google set for it.
So what do we here at FOXNews.com think of Chrome? It's fast, very fast. It loaded Amazon.com's front page, which has a fair amount of Flash, in less than 2 seconds.
Internet Explorer 7 took about 5 seconds, Mozilla Firefox 3 about 4 seconds for the same page. (Due to company security restrictions, we haven't been allowed to install IE 8.)
As with Google's own home page, the Chrome interface is remarkably clean and spare. It takes Internet Explorer 7's minimalist toolbar to an extreme, placing the tabs right at the top and displaying only three icons at the top left — back, forward and refresh.
The address bar doubles as a search field. Google is the default search engine, of course, but you can switch to another easily.
On the address bar's left end is an "add bookmarks" icon; to its right are two drop-down-menu icons featuring most of the commonly used functions that IE spreads over six menus and Firefox, eight.
When you first launch Chrome, or open a blank window or tab, you're greeted with thumbnails of your most recently viewed Web pages, a nice touch that Google "borrowed" from the innovative but little-used Norwegian browser Opera. You can click on each to go directly to that page.
Like IE 8, Chrome also incorporates a stealth browsing mode which saves none of the user's browsing history, cached images or pages visited — "porn mode" as witty bloggers instantly dubbed it when Microsoft introduced it as "InPrivate."
Google chooses to call that feature "Incognito." You'll know you're there when you spot the little icon of a guy wearing a fedora, sunglasses and a trench coat; it's up to you to decide if he's a spy or just a flasher.
The real differences separating Chrome from IE and Firefox are less obvious. As the lengthy comic detailing Chrome's technical aspects explains, the browser treats each tab or window as a separate application, and indeed, Windows XP's Task Manager reveals that they're all handled as separate processes.
But it also allows for some pretty cool flexibility. Not only can the order of tabs in the browser window be shifted around as in IE 7 (Firefox 2 couldn't do that, while the two-month-old Firefox 3 can), but each tab can be dragged out of the frame to become its own window.
And in the "page" drop-down menu, there's an option to "Create application shortcuts." Use that to save a Web link right to your desktop, and then open it without any address bar or tools at all — about as minimalist as it gets.
User changes to such pages occur instantly — not almost instantly as they do in other browsers. That doesn't sound like much of a difference, but the cumulative effect is striking.
So what could be better about Chrome? Well, as most of the reviewers pointed out, there's no way to organize your bookmarks yet, and several noticed that NBC's Web site crashed the entire browser (not just the one tab) when they tried to watch Olympics video footage.
CNet's Ina Fried also noticed some creepy language in the end-user license agreement that must be agreed to before installing Chrome.
Not only does Google reserve the right to update Chrome on your machine without your consent — arguably necessary in an era of "zero-day" hacker exploits — but it also implies that, as with Gmail, it might display ads tailored to your content right in the browser itself.
More startling is this: "By submitting, posting or displaying the content you give Google a perpetual, irrevocable, worldwide, royalty-free, and non-exclusive license to reproduce, adapt, modify, translate, publish, publicly perform, publicly display and distribute any content which you submit, post or display on or through, the services."
In other words, Google claims the right to use anything you create using its Web-based applications, such as the Google Docs office suite, the Picasa photo organizer or the Blogger blog creator to promote its own services, without permission or compensation.
That blanket intellectual-property-rights grab may not hold up in court, but it's certainly discomfiting. If we were Google's legal team, we'd tone it down by several orders of magnitude.
Overall, however, Chrome really is a very solid piece of work for a "0.2" release (only final editions get full integers, by long-standing geek tradition).
It's also fitting that just as we were finishing up this review, Internet Explorer 7 crashed yet again, while Chrome kept chugging along.