Google to Release Open-Source 'Chrome' Browser

Are Internet Explorer and Firefox ready to do battle with Chrome?

Google announced Monday that it has been hard at work on an open-source browser known as Chrome, a beta version of which will be released in 100 countries on Tuesday.

New features will included "isolated" tabs designed to prevent browser crashes and a more powerful JavaScript engine.

"Why are we launching Google Chrome? Because we believe we can add value for users and, at the same time, help drive innovation on the web," Sundar Pichai, vice president of product management, and Linus Upson, Google engineering director, wrote in a blog post.

Google was apparently looking to keep news of Chrome under wraps until after the holiday weekend. A 38-page, online comic book that provided details about Chrome hit the blogosphere Monday morning, but Pichai and Upson said in their blog post that Google had "hit 'send' a bit early" on the web comic.

The comic depicts various Google engineers describing Chrome's features, including the isolated tab idea.

"By keeping each tab in an isolated 'sandbox', we were able to prevent one tab from crashing another and provide improved protection from rogue sites," Pichai and Upson wrote.

Having a number of tabs open in a single browser eats up memory. If a browser is running slow, a user's natural inclination is to close a few tabs? In some cases, however, little bits of the closed tabs remain, which eats up space and requires the operating system to grow the browser's address space, according to Google. With Chrome, there will be a different tab for each process, including plug-ins.

"When a tab is closed in Google Chrome, you're ending the whole process," according to the comic. "You can look under the hood with Google Chrome's task mananger to see what sites are using the most memory, downloading the most bytes and abusing your CPU" so you can place "blame where blame belongs."

Google also promised "improved speed and responsiveness across the board."

"We also built a more powerful JavaScript engine, V8, to power the next generation of web applications that aren't even possible in today's browsers," Pichai and Upson wrote.

Like OpenSocial and Android, Chrome will be an open source initiative.

"We owe a great debt to many open source projects, and we're committed to continuing on their path," they wrote. "We've used components from Apple's WebKit and Mozilla's Firefox, among others -- and in that spirit, we are making all of our code open source as well. We hope to collaborate with the entire community to help drive the web forward."

The team selected Webkit because it uses memory efficiently, was easily adapated to embedded devices, and it was easy for new browser developers to learn to make the code base work, according to the web comic. "Webkit keeps it simple."

Google recently extended its financial deal with Mozilla until 2011, according to a blog post from Mitchell Baker, chair of the Mozilla Foundation.

Tuesday's beta release will be available for Windows users. "We're hard at work building versions for Mac and Linux too, and will continue to make it even faster and more robust," Pichai and Upson wrote.

"This is just the beginning -- Google Chrome is far from done," they wrote. "Google Chrome is another option, and we hope it contributes to making the web even better."

Last week, Microsoft released Internet Explorer 8 beta 2, which includes improved security and new browsing aids.

Earlier this summer, Mozilla released Firefox 3, which garnered 8 million downloads in 24 hours.