My Google Chrome Ecosystem

Two big things happen this week that pretty much solidified having a Google Chrome ecosystem, the premiere of Chrome Beta for the Android operating system, and the arrival of my newly purchased Samsung Chromebook.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. A little background : I’ve been using google chrome ever since I found out my favorite search engine was coming out with their browser. I’ve gleefully read and admired the Scott McCloud drawn Google Chrome comic, an innovated medium to explain an innovated idea of how to build web browsers. With cartoonified depictions of Google engineers describing concepts such as threaded tabs, sandboxing, and fast javascript rendering, it was a new idea of the web that had only started to dawn on me : the web itself as software.

As a web developer I was well aware of the increasing complexity and power of web technologies, but until that point the use for the web I knew it to be was as a repository of content, it was great for reading news and sharing information with people, but not for doing your taxes, or editing a music track.

Chrome changed that. Here was a browser built primary for Web Applications. Google boldly predicted that era of “The Showing Web” was drawing near to be replaced with “The Doing Web”, a web that computes and produces.

Although still tethered to Firefox due to needed development add-ins (which is no longer needed since the modern chrome browser now has the same tools), I quickly adopted Google chrome as my primary browser. It was satisfying to see this skinny, lean skeleton of a browser slowly, then quickly, gain market share during that first several months. It was definitely the constant presence on my computers at home.

If you ever read Masamune Shirow’s “Ghost in the Shell”, or watch any of the movies or TV show, chrome felt to me like the terminal interfaces you saw on the show, those floating, techno-spiked objects in a person’s HUD feeding them information. Chrome for me  feel like a primitive version of that in my life, these thin terminal frames housing my online world, allowing all the power to control my way through this universe, but hiding and folding everything into an interface that doesn’t get in the way of itself.

The announcement of Chrome OS made me skeptical however. At the time news came out that Google was going to create an operating system based on Chrome I was already knee deep in Android geekdom, already on my 2nd Android phone, rooted and modded like the first. I actually felt a bit betrayed as an Android fan. I was thinking to myself “why the fuck would Google do this, they have Android!”. Truly if Google wanted to create a desktop operating system, they would build it around Android.

But once again the idea of the “Doing Web” shook me out of my Android fixation and I realized that Chrome was pretty much my operation system already, or at least one of them. At that point most of the work I was doing was on the web, including that of building and managing websites. I mean I still had a text editor or some terminal opened on my Windows or Linux machine, but that would be it.

When Google decided to give out thousands of Chrome OS laptops for people volunteering to use them in a pilot program I was one of the early applicants, sending Google a request for one because I wanted to see how it would be to accomplished web development completely in the cloud, using IDEs, Database management tools, even image and graphic editing tools, all through the web.  A week later a box with a brand new CR-48 computer came with no warning on my front porch.

With the CR-48, I did work on freelance web projects using it as my primary computer. I did find web versions of web developer editors and tools that I usually can only get as a windows program, with varying results. But along the two years the tools have definitely improved to a point where one tool , ShiftEdit, has become my primary code editor.

So at this point this Chrome Ecosystem starts to form. I had two windows laptops running chrome, one of those laptops connected to my television via HDMI, so I can stream videos via a chrome browser. I had my trusty CR-48 although it was starting to show its short age, although still pretty reliable. Chrome was becoming a network within itself, with search queries, browsing histories and other web use related data and apps being synced among the Chrome equipped computers. I eventually replace that laptop tethered to the TV with a heavily discounted Logitech Review, the google TV set-top device with Chrome built-in. I also had an android tablet and android phone, both modded with Ice Cream Sandwich Mods, equipped with a very decent stock browser but no Chrome.

But after two years of heavy use, my CR-48 was starting to exhibit hardware issues. Nothing to prevent it from being used, but it was starting to become unhinged, and a good bump would power it off completely. So I decided I should put my money where my mouth is, and pay into this whole Chrome OS philosophy, and thus  my newly arrived Samsung Series 5 Chromebook.

So now here i am, a geek with a stable of seven devices that all have Chrome on them, two of them ONLY having Chrome on it. Usually ecosystems are defined as a constellation of devices able to easily share files and content pertaining to it’s user, usually sharing a common platform or brand. A week ago, I would of probably said I had more of a “Google” Ecosystem, with most of my devices running some kind of Google technology like Android and Chrome. But now with Chrome for Android, even my mobile devices have the same “Ghost in the Shell” web terminal, built to communicate with its siblings running my may laptops and my TV.

I look forward to seeing how this changes the way I work and entertain myself. I of course know that I’m yet to use Chrome in a vacuum, Windows Programs and Android Apps will still play an influential part of my digital life, but I know that the bulk of my online world will be looked at through a Google Chrome frame. From time to time, I’ll document life using that ecosystem on my blog, perhaps an insight or two will pop out of my observations.

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2 thoughts on “My Google Chrome Ecosystem

  1. I really appreciate the way you “frame” the ubiquity and extensibility of Chrome in your life, Jerome. (pun intended) I have desired the simple and well-connected personal technological ecosystem that you describe since the cell phone came into my life to join the personal computer in, oh, 2001. At that point, I realized that, for better or worse, l could expect to have at least two or more devices in my life at any given time. I have also been fascinated by the “Doing Web” concept and relish the opportunity to engage in internet-based services and tools. I’m looking forward to more of your posts on such topics. Thanks for sharing.

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