Google releases Chrome as a Windows 8 “Metro-style” app, and it’s a train wreck

Google has released an early version of the world’s first Metro-style third-party browser on Windows 8. Unfortunately, it’s a train wreck. Before I delve into just how bad Google Chrome is on Windows 8, I should note that while I prefer Internet Explorer – yes, the browser is quite good, despite what many people might claim – I also use Google Chrome fairly regularly.

With Windows 8, Microsoft is requiring third-party browsers to be installed via traditional methods. In order to enable ‘Metro mode,’ users will have to set the browser as the default, completely removing all traces of IE Metro from the system. When this happens, the tiles for previously pinned sites will remain, but they will only open up links in the desktop version of IE. And unlike IE, the choice between Chrome Metro and Chrome desktop is both binary and permanent. As soon as you set Chrome as your default browser, the desktop version becomes completely inaccessible, forcing you to use it as a Metro-style app. And that’s only the beginning of Chrome’s problems.

While Google could point the finger at Microsoft for a few things, the company bears the full brunt of the responsibility for the browser’s abhorrent UI. Chrome Metro completely disregards all Metro-style design guidelines, simply displaying a traditional Chrome browser in a ‘Metro’ environment. In other words, it’s the same old Chrome locked into full-screen mode. This would be great if it were a desktop app, but Metro-style apps are supposed to be clean, simple, and easy to use with any form of input, be it a keyboard and mouse, touch, or stylus. Chrome Metro is none of these things.

To be fair, this is a Chromium dev channel release, meaning that “It shows what [Google is] working on right now. There’s no lag between major versions, whatever code [Google’s] got, you will get.” But even in this early state, you’d think that Google would at least try to make a Metro-style app. Instead, the company is stuck in the past. I’m more than willing to give Google a pass on elements that are buggy, broken, or incomplete – such as pinning, using the charms to search, duplicate options in the settings charm, etc. – but the complete disregard for Metro is inexcusable. The UI is somewhat usable on a desktop – although why you wouldn’t just want to stick with the desktop application in this case is completely beyond me – but it doesn’t make any sense whatsoever on a tablet.

Third-party browsers aren’t supported on Windows RT, the ARM-based version of Windows 8, so it’s possible Google believes that Chrome Metro will only be used on a desktop or laptop PC. If that’s the case, the company is sorely mistaken. Many touchscreen Windows 8 PCs will be running on x86/x64 architecture, rather than ARM. In many ways, it almost seems like Google is pouting over not being able to take full advantage of Windows 8’s underlying hardware.

There’s always a chance that Google could significantly update the UI in a future build, but I have my doubts. In a post on the Chromium blog, Carlos Pizano, Google’s Software Engineer and Metro Gnome, says that “The initial releases of Chrome in Metro mode will include integration with the basic Windows 8 system functionality, such as charms and snap view. Over the next few months, we’ll be smoothing out the UI on Metro and improving touch support.” This sounds more like updates to the current interface than a complete redesign which adheres to the Metro design guidelines. I’ll applaud Google if they end up pulling it off, but for now, I’d recommend staying very far away from Google Chrome on Windows 8. If you want to try it for yourself, you can do so by downloading the latest dev channel for Windows build.

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William Devereux

William Devereux is the former Microsoft editor at Pocketables, as well as a Microsoft MVP and SkyDrive/Outlook.com Insider. As his title implies, he wrote about all things from Redmond, including Windows 8 and Windows Phone. He is currently carrying a Windows Phone 8X by HTC and a Microsoft Surface with Windows RT tablet.

6 thoughts on “Google releases Chrome as a Windows 8 “Metro-style” app, and it’s a train wreck

  • June 11, 2012 at 10:17 pm
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    “I should note that while I prefer Internet Explorer–yes, the browser is quite good, despite what many people might claim”

    If you are not collecting a paycheck for that, you should be. As a developer, I sincerely appreciate the improvements Microsoft has finally been making to IE lately, though.

    Reply
    • June 11, 2012 at 10:52 pm
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      Haha, no. And to reiterate, I do like Chrome. I just think that this build needs a lot of work before it’s ready for prime time. Namely, a complete UI overhaul.

      Reply
  • June 12, 2012 at 3:55 am
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    Its not even beta, seems a little premature to be whining about it (particularly about how it looks).

    Reply
    • June 12, 2012 at 11:53 am
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      Oh, I’m well aware of this. In fact, I mentioned it in the original article. But based on Google’s phrasing, it doesn’t sound like the company has any intention of updating the UI to make it more in line with the Metro design guidelines. Plus, it wouldn’t have been that hard to “Metrofy” Chrome, even if it was missing a lot of features.

      Reply
  • June 12, 2012 at 10:51 am
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    Google put forth minimal effort, if any here. It looks like a stretched, length-wise, version of Chrome for desktop. No metro guidelines are followed, its like Google didn’t even read them.

    Google is notorious for treating other platforms this way (Google apps for wp7 anyone?), but luckily there are better alternatives. I use and love Chrome on the desktop, but if Google thinks this counts as decent, then I will be switching over to Firefox or IE on metro.

    Luckily they have a lot of time to change the UI and I hope they do.

    Reply
  • October 10, 2012 at 4:32 am
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    “Third-party browsers aren’t supported on Windows RT” – what? Seriously microsoft? I was getting more excited about windows 8 but this is nonsense.

    They don’t make any money off IE why not make windows 8 open to other browsers for those of us that want them. Thats assuming Google pull there thumbs out and make it worth getting

    Reply

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