Let me get this out of the way: I have been a huge fan of Chrome since it came out last September. Yet despite the refinement that newly-launched Chrome 3.0 displays, it’s still not quite ready to take center stage as the browser of choice for business. Although its performance and clean, intuitive interface make it a joy to use, its lack of mainstream support limits its usefulness in the office.
As with anything else, the standard method of comparing browsers is to go down a list of features, check off which browser has which feature, and when you get to the end, the browser that fills the most checkboxes wins. Using this method, it’s not clear that Chrome is a superior browser. Though it holds its own, it’s not packed with the greatest number of features.
However, there is one aspect of Chrome which is profoundly more valuable than a host of checkboxes on a comparison sheet, and that is responsiveness. Although David Coursey may disagree, for most users, browser performance can be just as important as operating system performance, because most of us spend hours a day in the browser. When Chrome hit the browser stage last year, it sparked a welcome performance race between all major browsers.
Unfortunately, of the four leading browsers (IE, Firefox, Safari, and Chrome), Chrome has the least support from developers. It is absent on the list of supported browsers on many major Web apps. It isn’t even mentioned on the Silverlight Compatible Operating Systems and Browsers chart (no surprise there). If you do a little drilling on Adobe’s Flash Compatibility chart, you’ll find that while Flash 10 is supported on Chrome with XP and Vista, it is not with Windows 7, Windows 2000, or Windows Server. There are tons of other Web applications out there, such as SalesForce.com, in which Chrome might actually work, but the developer is not yet committed to officially supporting it.
The unfortunate situation faced by the three percent of us (according to Statcounter) who prefer Chrome is that the limited support for Web apps cripples the ability for IT staff to support any sort of widespread deployment.
Sadly, while Chrome is my preferred browser, and I strongly recommend it for personal use, I can’t yet recommend it as a browser for business. While I encourage my users to try Chrome, at the first sign of trouble, I ask them to switch back to IE or Firefox, because I know troubleshooting Web apps in Chrome is often going to lead to a dead end.
Chrome has grown up fast. Although it may not be a child anymore, it lacks the experience to be taken seriously as a mature browser. I expect that by the time it grows up to be a full-blown operating system next year, its support base will have grown much larger.