Google Chrome for Mac and Linux will be a long while coming

When I looked at the Chromium source code and did a build, I noticed how much of it was Windows-specific. Although the WebKit rendering component is already cross-platform, it seems that the Mac and Linux versions of Chromium and therefore Chrome are a long way from ready. This is from the build notes for Mac OS X:

Right now, the Mac build is a work in progress that is much closer to the start than the finish. No application that renders web pages is generated at the end of these instructions!

Cross-platform work usually involves compromises, and it looks like the Google team pointed the dial more towards optimising for Windows than towards ease of porting. That surprises me, since it likely means more work maintaining the application for several platforms as well as delays now.

Chrome’s ambitions as an application platform cannot be realised until it runs on the Mac. Further, a disproportionate number of web designers and developers use Apple.

How long is a long while? Good question. I’ll be seeing some Google folk tomorrow; I’ll let you know what they say.

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6 thoughts on “Google Chrome for Mac and Linux will be a long while coming”

  1. I think Google had to use some cross-platform framework like wxWidgets. Another choice could be Qt, but I think Qt has inappropriate license for that. But license of wxWidgets is more close to terms upon which Chromium is distributed.

    Finallyn as it’s seen on Chromium pages, I think, they decided to implement everything by their own forces. It means that Google wants to implement their own cross-platform c++ framework. But it’s very long run, even considering rich resources of Google.

    Thus it’s evident that Google Chrome for Mac is on initial phase of development.
    And Google Chrome for Linux will be released on term more later term.

    I think it’s not good decision of Google not use to already existing cross-platform network. Of course they can write several own nice-looking widgets and tabs when using already existing cross-platform framework, but writing everything cross-platform (GUI, networking etc) from zero is a huge work.

  2. I’m not sure that Google is caring to have a linux or mac version ready at the moment. The majority of people seems to forget that they created Chrome to bundle with their mobile platform Android. They cannot bundle IE or Safari, the only alternative was Firefox. They had almost no choice of creating a new web browser. I’m sure they don’t want to mess with frameworks like QT (cost of porting, licensing, …).

    The windows release serves as a testing playground for the Android platform also. Once they are both ready they will probably work on the other platforms

  3. I think Google wanted to get this browser out there as quickly as possible, for the largest audience possible. That means make it work on Windows first.

    I don’t think web designers are really the audience that they should be targeting. I don’t want to see another browser that caters to developers; I want something that is good enough to move more people off IE. Firefox is not yet as good as it can be, and there is an amount of baggage that Google have removed with Chrome, making it a better browser for the masses. To reply to your point a smart ‘Googler’ would be advocating web standards as the path to eventual Chrome compatibility.

    One option for Google is to build upon the WTL library and provide cross-platform compatibility at a fairly low-level. I don’t think they should be investing in QT or wxWidgets unless there is real value for users. Like it or not, these frameworks make compromises for the developer at the expense of the complete end user experience. cf. the continuing work to make Mozilla XUL and Javascript run faster, use less memory etc.

    Luc Raymond’s comment about Android and Chromium/Chrome is incorrect. Google used WebKit because it was easily integrated, as found by the team who integrated it with Android. The Chrome and Android efforts are technically separate, but it’s nice that both will have a similar rendering engine (I’m guessing there will be feature, performance trade-offs).

  4. I followed the build instructions for Mac today, and was able to create a working TestShell app. It’s not a complete browser GUI, but you can browse the web with it and get a feel of how far the development Mac version of Chrome is. You can download it here

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