Google announced Monday, in the unconventional guise of a 38-page comic book, its new Web browser project, Chrome. According to the comic, drawn by acclaimed comic artist and writer Scott McCloud, the forthcoming open-source browser is based on the open-source rendering engine WebKit, the same engine used by Apple’s Safari browser and Google’s own Android mobile-phone operating system.
According to the comic, which appeared in the mailboxes of some European writers and developers today and was rapidly scanned in and posted under the Creative Commons licensing regime, Google will be posting information about the browser at google.com/chrome, which was inactive at the time this story was written. (According to a since-removed post on McCloud’s LiveJournal, the official launch is scheduled for Wednesday.)
The Chrome browser will also feature a default home page that’s automatically constructed by the browser based on the sites you visit and search frequently, presenting your favorite sites in a 3x3 grid on the left side of the screen with a list of frequently-searched sites on the right.
“WebKit is the open source rendering engine we used for Google Chrome,” the comic depicts Google Software Engineer Darin Fisher as saying. “We were impressed how fast it is…. [The Google Android Team] said it uses memory efficiently, was easily adapted to embedded devices, and it was easy for new browser developers to learn to make the code base work. Browsers are complex. One of the things done well with WebKit is that it’s kept simple.”
According to the comic, Google has been testing early development versions of Chrome by using Google’s own catalog of sites to automatically stress-test the browser. Included in the browser will be Google’s existing Google Gears system, which allows browsers to store and access information on local computers, allowing (for example) Google Docs to create and edit documents when a computer isn’t connected to the Internet.
The comic only explicitly mentions Windows Vista, in the context of its security model. It’s unclear what platforms the browser will support when it’s released.