And the best way of celebrating this is giving it a facelift by installing a few extensions, says Videep Vijay Kumar

Can you believe it? It’s been five years since Google debuted its Chrome browser in a market that was dominated by the likes of (the ubiquitous) Internet Explorer and Mozilla Firefox. It only seems like yesterday that I downloaded Chrome’s tiny installation file, fired it up and dismissed it immediately. It simply wasn’t going to compare with my browser at the time, Firefox. It didn’t have my favourite add-ons or the same level of polish that Mozilla’s browser did. I might not have been convinced, but a lot of you were — within a day of release, Chrome earned over 1 per cent of the Internet’s desktop browser market share. The reason? It was free, light, simple to use, sported a clean interface and most significantly, it was developed by Google. Five years later, aggregators such as StatCounter and Clicky put Chrome above its rivals (although other reports, such as one from Net Applications still suggest IE and Firefox still own the market), with a market share that’s somewhere in the range of 40 per cent as of June 2013. It didn’t take five years to convince me; if memory serves, it was around a week.

Open evolution

A beta version of Chrome was first released to the public on September 2, 2008, and in the same month, Google announced the “Chromium” open-source web browser project, while releasing a large portion of Chrome’s source code — Chrome releases continue to be based on Chromium’s code. It was not particularly revolutionary, given that Mozilla Firefox was an open source browser itself, but where Chrome did set itself apart was with the then-infamous and now-standard six-week release cycle, where Google, in 2010, promised a new version of its browser every six weeks. This somehow managed to unsettle its competition as I’m sure the Firefox faithful will tell you (the current version is 23.0.1), and set the standard at the same time. Chrome has evolved at an incredible pace as well, doing everything from leveraging multi-core CPUs and Windows’ “low integrity mode” (which makes browsing a lot more secure through its “security sandbox”), using hardware acceleration, while innovating with Chrome apps, adaptive extensions (which continue to work as intended after a browser update) and Chrome sync to store credentials, bookmarks and browsing history.

Its original avatar may have been that of a desktop web browser, but not only has it managed to transcend platforms (there’s now a version of Chrome on virtually every platform, be it mobile, tablet or otherwise), it has managed to reinvent itself in other forms, most notably as an operating system for affordable portable computers, or “Chromebooks”, which now own between 20 and 25 per cent of the market share for budget laptops (under US$300) — in a time when PC sales are dwindling.

Get more out of Chrome

So, Chrome’s turned five, but you’re not going to cut a cake for it or anything (feel free to do so, however). The best way to celebrate would be to give it a facelift by installing a few extensions. You’ve probably got some go-to extensions already, but here are a few personal favourites, starting with “Turn off the Lights”. This is a great little Chrome extension that fades a page background into darkness once it detects a flash or embedded video — great for watching YouTube and other videos when not in fullscreen mode. The function is generally triggered by clicking but can be configured to work when pressing the “play” button as well. AutoPager is another great extension for Firefox and Chrome — instal it and you’ll never have to click to get to the next page in an article you’re reading or search results in Google. It automatically loads the next page as you approach the end of a page. AutoPager will also look for “scripts”, which add compatibility to websites not originally supported. Finally, if there was one area where Chrome scores poorly, it is in page scrolling. But replace the default scroll with Chromium Wheel Smooth Scroller and you’ve got something that is highly customisable.