You may remember a few weeks ago I let out a howl of rage about how sick I was of Google Chrome using up so much RAM in my PC. While it was certainly cathartic to write out all my frustrations, the response to the article was illuminating. What struck me was how many readers contacted me who agreed, while sharing their own frustrations with Chrome.
Despite being used by (almost) everyone, no one really seems that fond of Chrome. A widely used piece of software that fails to be ‘popular’ despite its popularity – that sounds kind of familiar…
I suddenly realized that Chrome could be in danger of turning into Windows. And, that’s something that Google should be worried about.
There was a time when Windows was the most-used operating system in the world. However, despite it being installed on so many PCs around the world, there wasn’t the passion – the fandom – that you’d expect with such an ubiquitous bit of software.
OK, there may be a few Windows fans out there. I honestly once saw someone wear a Windows Vista t-shirt, and I don’t think they were a Microsoft employee. They might have run out of other clean clothes, though.
But there’s not the same fondness for Windows that other less successful operating systems have. Apple’s got no end of acolytes that will extoll the virtues of macOS. And, the community around Linux is one of the open source operating system’s best features.
Yet, somehow, users of Windows never seem to like it that much. And, while not every Windows release has been a success – I still get flashbacks to staring at Windows ME’s boot screen for what seemed like years at a time – some of them have been quite good.
And it’s not like Microsoft hasn’t tried to make us love Windows. Remember when Microsoft tried to drum up excitement for Windows 7 (a perfectly good entry) by encouraging all of us to host launch parties. I do. If you managed to forget (how I envy you) behold the classic slice of cringe below:
In a lot of ways, you’re just throwing a party with Windows 7 as an honored guest. Shudder.
Anyway, my point was that although Windows was used by millions, many people used it only because they had to. They didn’t use it because they wanted to. And that is a problem for Microsoft, as it means as soon as a decent alternative emerges, people will move on without a second thought.
Luckily for Microsoft, macOS and Linux haven’t stolen too many Windows users just yet. But the danger remains. And, something similar is happening to Chrome.
Chrome is by far the most popular web browser on the planet right now. And, unlike Windows, it’s not forced on anyone (unless you use Chrome OS or Android). For a lot of people, they choose to install Chrome.
But I’ve increasingly heard about people complaining about Chrome. Meanwhile, less successful browsers, like Firefox, seem to have a lot more passionate fans.
There seem to be several reasons for this. The first is sheer scale. Because so many people use Chrome, of course there’s going to be more people complaining about it than with less popular browsers. And, the people who do have issues with it are likely the loudest (like me). People who just get on with it, and don’t have any issues, aren’t going to keep going on about it.
And, you could argue that so many of us complaining about Chrome, but still using it, is good for Google – and an indictment of its competitors. If Chrome really is that annoying, why aren’t we moving to other alternatives?
For some people, we stick with Chrome because it stores all our passwords, features our favorite extensions, ties in to all our Google accounts like Gmail, and is available on all our devices.
For other people, it’s laziness. We moan, but can’t be bothered to switch. For me, personally, it’s a mixture of both.
But, are we staying because we love Chrome? Because we like how it performs, or the ethos of the company behind it? I’m not so sure.
And, when a competitor does come along that does everything Chrome does but better – and without the annoyances – then Google might find its once dominant position under threat – as Microsoft did. Windows is no longer the most used operating system in the world. Android is.
Perhaps Microsoft could actually get its own back, if its Chromium-based Edge web browser becomes a success – and wins over Chrome users. Though, I wouldn’t hold my breath.
So, is there anything Google can do to get people to love Chrome? For a start, it could stop removing useful features. And, maybe take some time to understand why people use its browser, and why some people aren’t happy.
And failing that, maybe Google could take a leaf out of Microsoft’s book and try and get people to love its software through enforced – and totally not cheesy – fun!
If it leads to masterpieces like the videos on this page, I’d certainly be a little bit closer to loving Chrome.
- These are the best Chromebooks of 2020
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Matt is TechRadar's Managing Editor for Core Tech, looking after computing and mobile technology. Having written for a number of publications such as PC Plus, PC Format, T3 and Linux Format, there's no aspect of technology that Matt isn't passionate about, especially computing and PC gaming. Ever since he got an Amiga A500+ for Christmas in 1991, he's loved using (and playing on) computers, and will talk endlessly about how The Secret of Monkey Island is the best game ever made.