Happy Birthday: A Look Back At One Year Of Google Chrome

Happy Birthday: A Look Back At One Year Of Google Chrome

One year ago, Google Chrome came out of nowhere to re-ignite the browser debate. Today, it’s reached (development) version 4.0 and it’s anchoring a much-anticipated operating system. Here’s a look back at where Chrome’s been in 12 short months.

Sept. 1-4: The Surprisingly Secret Birth

Not too many marquee tech products, hardware or software, are developed in secret anymore. Still, when Chrome was officially announced on September 1, 2008, with a beta available the next day, it caught most of the tech world completely unawares. Had the Google Blogoscoped blog’s Phillip Lenssen not accidentally received and posted the Chrome team’s explanatory comic, the Chrome developers and Wired’s would-be exclusive would have been the first words on the newest browser around.

morning it droppedfirst look around Chromespeed

We totally understood the need for Firefox users not to feel left behind during Chrome’s big debut, so we detailed how to get Chrome’s best features in Firefox. Those thinking about using Chrome on the regular were reassured that Google wasn’t trying to mine their browsing data (at least any more than normal), and found that, while it took its time starting up and wasn’t quite a JavaScript champ, Chrome was seriously snappy with “warm” boots and CSS rendering.

Sept. 5-18: Let’s get tweaking

get more OmniBox suggestionsblocking ads in Google Chromepower user’s guide to Google ChromeGreasemetalchanged Chrome’s user agent string

Sept. 15: Unofficial arrival on Mac OS X and Linux

CrossOver Chromium

Sept. 19: The beginning of “Extensions are coming; where are extensions?”

Chrome will have add-onsnot

Sept. 22: Chrome as Operating System? Preposterous!
We pointed to a Doc Searls thought piece on how Chrome, Gears and the Android system “delivers on Netscape’s promise of the browser as operating system, with online-and-off webapps replacing desktop workhorses”.

Oct. 19: Rudimentary Greasemonkey, ahoy!
It was a heck of a thing to get working, but it was the first step in satisfying intrepid JavaScript hackers who thrive on getting the internet to look and feel just right.

Nov. 3-Dec. 10: Bookmarks and baby steps

As Firefox’s director put it, it’s easy to “throw everything away and not worry” when building a new browser from scratch. Such is the case when Chrome introduces a bookmark manager and gets a decent amount of coverage for it…ahem. Meanwhile, builds of Chrome’s open-source root platform, Chromium, can be seen working crudely on Linux desktops, and by Dec. 10, Chrome’s V8 JavaScript engine has inched almost neck-and-neck with Firefox 3.5’s re-engineered TraceMonkey engine.

Dec. 11-Jan. 8: Chrome leaves beta, Google pushes the heck out of it

dropping the beta tagreplaced Firefox with Chrome in the Google Packtwice as fast2.0 “pre-beta”

Feb. 13: First screenshot of official Chrome on Mac

Feb. 26: Chrome wins some qualifying races
On occasion of Safari 4 launching in beta for Windows and Mac, we pit it against all the others in our browser speed tests. Chrome’s the winner in JavaScript and CSS parsing and, with the exception of some Internet Explorer 8 weirdness, page loading.

Mar. 17-22: New beta brings the speed (and extensions?)

JavaScript improvements of 25-33 per centactual extension enginesigh

On another front, Google scores a nice little PR victory by being the last browser standing in the Pwn2Own hacker challenge, since its individually “sandboxed” browser processes make it hard to hack too deep into the system it’s running on. While they’ve got the muscle pose on, Chrome’s developers also show off some crazy web experiments, rendered entirely with JavaScript and running best, of course, on Chrome:

Mar. 23: User scripts make Chrome “Better”

enables user scripts with a command switchBetter Gmail for ChromeBetter Gmail 2 for Firefox

Mar. 30-Apr. 7: That Mac beta? Coming “this fall”
That’s what Google tells Ars Technica, noting they’d be “very unhappy” if it didn’t drop by then. Less than a week later, a rough, unofficial Chromium build drops.

Apr. 24: Welcome to the club
Chrome pushes out an instant security update to all channels to fix a “high-priority security hole”, meaning it’s now officially a second-rate target of ingenious/mischievous 14-year-olds.

May 7-27: Sample extensions, speed and a portable version

earliest of early Chrome extensionspicked up on the multi-process ideastable releaseportable version

June 5: Mac and Linux alphas Google doesn’t want you to download

releases alpha builds for Mac and Linuxalmost nothing works in them

June 4: Lifehacker readers starting to dig Chrome

July 8: Chrome OS announced

This time, people knew it was happening, but that doesn’t mean anyone knows what a Chrome Operating System will actually look or feel like. We made our requests, got our false hopes up for pretty sketchy (fake) screenshots, but all we know is that Chrome’s content-forward face is more than just a design obsession—it’s how Google plans to make the web your working space.

July 31-Aug. 10: Little, helpful tweaks
Linux gets plug-in support, while Windows gets better Windows 7 support, HTML 5 updates and Windows 7 jumplist features. Chrome on Windows and Mac gets 30 new easy-install themes.

Aug. 17: Google, Xmarks both want to synchronise your bookmarks

Xmarksbuilt-in bookmark synchronising

Last 48 hours
And the news keeps on coming, one year later. Google’s development chatter indicates a desktop notification scheme, Chrome for Windows adds a bookmark button and the appearance of a single folder causes bloggers to wonder if Chrome OS will have a single, monolithic sign-in.


  • One of the last things you mention is how it was changed to support Windows 7 – just thought I’d note I read elsewhere it has been changed to help support Snow Leopard also.

Log in to comment on this story!