Google's Chrome Web browser has hit version 3.0, albeit it in beta. The update comes with some much-wanted functionality: themes and browser skinning, more control over the home screen and its 'speed dial' bookmarks, and even faster performance.
The fastest browser on the planet
But Chrome 3.0 reclaimed its space as 'world's fastest browser' moments later, thundering through the benchmarking process in 688ms, making it 11 per cent faster than the current version. Impressive, though not quite the 30 per cent speed increase Google claims it saw internally using the same benchmarking process.
To put this into context, Firefox 3.5 scored 1,351ms, Opera 10 beta 2 scored 3,687ms, Internet Explorer 8 scored 5,720ms and K-Meleon scored 11,556ms. Without a doubt, Chrome 3.0 is the speed leader by a large margin, and officially the fastest browser in the world.
Aesthetic evolution, no sign of revolution
Firefox has always welcomed being skinned with cheery different colours, themes and designs. From version 3.0, Google Chrome allows this too. Google has produced a few dozen usable examples, such as in the screenshot below.
They can be downloaded and applied from the Google Chrome theme homepage, but third-party skins from independent designers are a no-show for now. And, at least for us, no single skin has made us truly moist with excitement. They're well-designed for sure, but they purely change colours rather than 'physical' attributes of the browser, such as the shape of tabs or the design of the back, forward and refresh buttons. Fans of customisation will be left wanting more.
Now a key feature of Chrome, Safari and Opera -- the latter being the originator of this feature, incidentally -- is the 'speed dial' homepage displayed when new tabs are opened. In previous versions of Chrome, the sites you visited most frequently were displayed as thumbnail screenshots, but you couldn't rearrange them. In Chrome 3.0, you can.
Click thumbnail, drag thumbnail, drop thumbnail. That's the meat of the deal. Drop a thumbnail to the position on the speed dial you want, and the thumbnail it replaces swiftly jumps to the position the one you're moving came from. It's smoothly animated, and while Safari's version is still more elegant and customisable, Chrome wins for simplicity and function.
But there's more. A box below these thumbnails contains text links to the most recent pages you visited (known as 'recent activities', not 'history'). And, curiously, an empty box sits next to that. Google doesn't even hide the fact that it's a useless box, asking, 'What will we put here?'
We don't know, Google. But may we suggest the option for recent Gmail or Google Docs items? Just an idea.
Chrome stole our hearts when it was released, and for this reporter it replaced Firefox for months. Then Safari got really good on the Mac, and it replaced Firefox there, too. But now Chrome has snapped back into pride of place on the Windows desktop, and hopefully the full OS X and Linux versions can squeeze themselves into something more than a buggy alpha release package soon.