Chris Alexander

On Engineering

Where were you?

17th April, 2011

I was reading this interesting (and bravely-titled) post on cross-browser testing earlier and scrolling down this memory-jogging infographic detailing the history of modern web browsers when I got to the bottom where Chrome came into existence and thought back to that day in early September 2008 when Chrome was first leaked then announced and the internet went wild. Now where was I that day?

I was deep inside the heart of Microsoft UK. And the reaction was priceless.

I can’t remember what I had for breakfast this morning let alone the details of an event some 2 years ago, but I’m pretty certain the event was the kickoff of the Student Partners programme for that year.

Although this was when the people who are currently in academic DPE were still the MSPs of the day, the team was entirely different, and they had something called a “budget”. We didn’t have Chicago 1 (we had the upstairs one instead - there wasn’t that much budget) but there were decent freebies, a night in a “trendy central Reading hotel” (only one of those adjectives was correct) and endless drinks vouchers from one of the team I had befriended (I still frequent the Ivory Lounge in the Oracle, they do good drinks).

During the day, as news broke on the US east coast sunrise, I remember one particularly outraged marketing intern on the MSP team (yep, this was when they still had those too - although who it was I have no idea) proclaiming to me that Google was just a search company and they had said they were never going to get into the browser game. Most veteran ‘softies seemed largely unconcerned or dismissive. I know a lot of them that used Chrome for a while after that (especially before IE 9 became vaguely usable), although they’ll never admit to it.

Google built Chrome, of course, because they were fed up with the pace of browser development, and only because Larry and Sergey hired Firefox devs to build a preview of Chrome so that Eric would let them actually build it for real.

Microsoft responded with the release of IE 9 last month, and then proceeding to spent the entire MIX conference going on about “native HTML 5″ (whatever that is).

Incidentally, I also remember when Opera removed its ads - I was sat at home on our old Pentium 2 PC and was very happy that my then-favourite browser (it didn’t kill my PC as badly as Firefox did, and it had a built in mail client) finally gave me some more real estate to play with. I don’t remember every (deliberately) using Netscape in my time, though.