I've been a big fan of the Chrome browser for a very long time. On Linux it has worked like a champ since day one. However, I have noticed things are starting to go a bit awry...on Linux, on Android, on Chrome OS.
- Memory usage is getting out of hand
- Battery life is negatively impacted (especially on Chromebooks and Macbooks)
- CPU strain is noticeable
- Certain pages (like Facebook) randomly crash
The list goes on and on and it is a problem. At least on the Linux platform, I can always rush back to Firefox until Google gets Chrome sorted out. Even on Android, I can install Firefox and am good to go. That, of course, leaves all of my Chromebooks with a big question mark. I have noticed, of late, battery life on my Chromebooks isn't quite up to snuff. This is all due to, you guessed it, Chrome.
There is, however, good news on the horizon. The Chrome team is fully aware of the issues that are starting to negatively impact the browser and are working diligently on them. In fact, some of the issues have already been resolved (background tabs having same priority as foreground tabs, which led to outrageous memory usage). But remember, Chrome was built, from the ground up, with a singular flaw in that it handles each tab and every plugin as a separate process. That was fine a few years ago—back when websites weren't nearly as complicated or mobile usage didn't make up the majority of browsing time. Now, with the complexity of sites like Facebook, Chrome needs to evolve in such a way that Android, Chrome OS, Linux, Windows, Mac...every platform...doesn't suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous memory usage.
One of the reasons the masses migrated from Firefox to Chrome was that it was a lean, stripped-down machine that clobbered every browser on the planet for speed and efficiency. It was, without a doubt, a much needed breath of fresh, fast air.
But now, Chrome is just as bogged down as Firefox was before the tide shifted.
This is not good...not when mobile platforms actually depend upon that particular browser. We cannot place all our cards on the Chrome table when Chrome is going to eat through those cards and cause the battery operated shuffling machine to come to a crawling stop.
I have always understood why Chrome did things they way they chose. It made perfect sense. But there are simply too many sites and services that opt out of the communication pipeline which only has the effect of breaking things faster than a clumsy seven year old boy. This means more sites bringing more browsers to a halt.
The truth of the matter is simple: Every browser on the planet has to make one very important shift—focus on mobile. This couldn't possibly be any more relevant for Chrome...a browser that serves as a central focus for an entire platform—Chrome OS lives and dies by the Chrome Browser.
The good news (especially for Chrome OS users) is that you can opt to use a version of Chrome that enjoys fixes and updates faster than the stable platform. Opt for the Beta or Dev channel on your Chromebook and many of these issues will vanish far sooner than they would on the Stable channel (I no longer use the Stable channel on any of my Chromebooks and have noticed an improvement). Even on the Android platform, you can opt to use either the Beta or Dev version of Chrome to vanquish some of the issues away.
I would love to see Chrome return to form—back to a leaner, meaner time when Google's browser didn't make or break an experience. Fortunately, I trust Google with this issue. They know how much is riding on not allowing their browser to get out of hand. Anyone using the Android or Chrome OS platform understands the importance of Google putting these major issues to rest. Otherwise, that tide will shift back to Firefox and Google's darling Chrome OS will take a serious hit.
No matter how much we all want to deny it, Google was right in thinking the web browser would eventually become central to productivity. It has and it is. Now it's up to the juggernaut to bring their browser back to a state that doesn't have mobile users scrambling to reboot or recharge devices.
How do you view Google Chrome at the moment? Is it in desperate need of change, or is it working without fail for you?
Jack Wallen is an award-winning writer for TechRepublic and Linux.com. He’s an avid promoter of open source and the voice of The Android Expert. For more news about Jack Wallen, visit his website jackwallen.com.