Once upon a time, there were two browsers. Internet Explorer and Netscape Navigator, both of which boasted a fiercly loyal user-base. As is typical in Microsoft history – Netscape came first, and Internet Explorer took over – making up for lost time with a browser built from scratch and developed by a company that did much more than browsers – it didn’t take long for poor navigator to virtually disappear.

Today – internet users have many more options to choose from when browsing. Though Internet Explorer still dominates the marketplace, more and more users are migrating to the newer and hipper Firefox, Opera, and Safari to serve their internet browsing needs. The “Browser War” has not been much of an issue in the past few years, but all that will probably change in the coming weeks.

On Sptember 1st – Google “mistakenly” announced to the world it’s newest addition to the Google family of awesome applications – Chrome (see the official Google announcement on the Google blog). What I find exceptionally neat is that Google opted to announce their new browser via a comic strip. Here are some of Chromes facts and figures – courtesy of Blogscoped.

– Google Chrome is a open source browser, meaning anyone can write nifty add-on functionality and present it to the world to use, or not. Chrome is based primarily on two preexisting projects – Webkit and Google Gears.

– The browser will use a JavaScript Virtual Machine called V8, built from scratch by a team in Denmark, and open-sourced as well so other browsers could include it. The aim of V8 is to speed up browser performance when using web-based applicatiions (think virtual tours, web games, and music players)

– Chrome will utilize tab browsing first introduced by the folks at Mozilla (Firefox) but unlike the current tabbed browsers, Chrome will place it’s tabs ABOVE the address bar, rather than below it.

– The browser’s address bar will, of course have an “auto-complete feature” and knowing Google, it will be the coolest thing since sliced bread. They’re calling it “Omnibox”, as in omniscent…or “all-knowing”. Omnibox will offer search suggestions, top pages that have been visited, pages that are popular amd much more.

Chrome also offers a wide array of awesome privacy and anti-phising/malware features, making the job of internet lowlifes that much harder and the ability to launch web applications in their own window – sans address bar, which we can only assume will increase browser speed and reduce CPU and RAM consumption.

Although I’m a bit concerned about Google’s habit of hoarding user information regarding searches, and tracking our interests in order to deliver customized ads via our browsers and Gmail inboxes – thus far Google has accomplished one thing for sure – making the internet a much more fun and functional amenity. I’m also a fan of anything that creates competition amongst giant corporations – and the large-scale, multi-million dollar game of “King of the Hill” that will now ensue between Big Daddy G and Microsoft.

Of course – for us web designers it means one more browser to test compatibility in, which sends a shiver up my spine, but all in all – I’m looking forward to downloading Google Chrome and taking it for a test-spin.