I miss the days when Chrome felt like a window onto the Web.
Google Chrome was my favorite browser for a long time, almost since it first was released.
I wasn’t just buying into the Google fanclub, or at least I want to believe it was more than that. What I saw in Chrome was something that I felt was exactly right in the world where I saw the web growing more powerful and able every day.
At one point I recall saying that Firefox was about how much the browser can be for you, while Chrome was about how it can get out of your way and expose the web itself as directly and cleanly as possible.
I was behind this idea of a window into the web full heartedly because I thought it was the best way to promote everything the web could be.
How much has this changed?
Today, I’m not sure if the situation has reversed, but I am certain that my old view of Chrome is no longer something I can stand behind. Chrome has changed a lot and shifts further from its roots as a neutral arbiter of a clean web. Sadly, I don’t suspect this is going to change.
At one point Chrome represented a pure web, which is important because we need a voice that affirms the web is a worthy goal on its own.
This is no longer the feeling you get when looking at Chrome with the host of “Chrome Apps” ready to be installed, built from a platform that was born of the web, but walks its own line. Chrome has different classes of app-citizens, web apps and Chrome apps, and this is a drastic departure from its earlier days when it took those pure web applications and thrust them into the desktop kicking and screaming. I remembered how excited and happy I was to click that “Open as Window” option among the applications that were really nothing more than a bookmark. Suddenly, thousands of amazing web apps became near-first-class citizens that sat right beside my native applications.
I was sure that I was given a peek into the future.
Maybe it was inevitable. Embrace, Extend, Extinguish is the mantra that seems to drive Google product decisions. They play the game well.
I’m not saying Chrome apps aren’t a nice thing. I’m not saying they aren’t without merit. But Google made a very calculated and deliberate decision to sunset their support for pure web apps to push their own platform. Browsers always have new APIs that are experimental or that they’ve implemented from a standard first, but Chrome apps don’t represent even that illusion of playing nice. Even Microsoft is doing better with this for the last several releases of Internet Explorer.
It was a nice ride, Chrome, but I don’t think you can be my browser anymore.