Chrome hands-on: Teething pains & Terms of Service privacy concerns

Chris Davies - Sep 2, 2008

After several hours running Chrome and exploring its functionality, hands-on reports are coming in from all over the web.  As you might expect for the first release of beta software – even software Google claim has been in development for two years and tested thoroughly at the Googleplex – there are various bug sightings and issues.  Multiple SlashGear readers are finding that vertical scrolling, particularly on notebook touchpads, is presenting some problems, with the most common complaint being an inability to scroll back up the page.

Check out the video walk-though of the Google Chrome browser after the cut

Alternatively, scrolling can be too fast, with no way to slow it.  Other issues present more of a problem.  Some users are having trouble with Google’s webapps, with reports of Google Docs and GMail login pages either refusing to load or only loading partially.  Others have suggested problems with streaming media, with some finding YouTube videos can crash Chrome entirely.

The Chrome Terms of Service have also come in for some close examination.  Broadly speaking, there are three factors that have led to concern for some: Google’s asserted right to use content in advertising and promotion; Google’s ability to update Chrome without first alerting the user; and the potential for Google to introduce advertising. 

By installing Chrome, while you retain copyright to any content you “submit, post or display on or through” the browser, Google has the opportunity to use it for service promotion or marketing.  They can also make that content available to other companies “for the provision of syndicated services”; it’s hazy to what extent that could include personal data.  Update: Google have responded to the concerns about Section 11.

11.1 You retain copyright and any other rights you already hold in Content which you submit, post or display on or through, the Services. By submitting, posting or displaying the content you give Google a perpetual, irrevocable, worldwide, royalty-free, and non-exclusive license to reproduce, adapt, modify, translate, publish, publicly perform, publicly display and distribute any Content which you submit, post or display on or through, the Services. This license is for the sole purpose of enabling Google to display, distribute and promote the Services and may be revoked for certain Services as defined in the Additional Terms of those Services.

11.2 You agree that this license includes a right for Google to make such Content available to other companies, organizations or individuals with whom Google has relationships for the provision of syndicated services, and to use such Content in connection with the provision of those services.

Google also reserve the right to update Chrome in the background, without first alerting the user.  Although regular updates are generally a good thing for stability and user protection, many will be wary of what happens in the background without them permitting it to run.  Attempting to block the updates counts as a contravention of the ToS, which – in theory – could be grounds enough for Google to terminate any account you have with them.

12.1 The Software which you use may automatically download and install updates from time to time from Google. These updates are designed to improve, enhance and further develop the Services and may take the form of bug fixes, enhanced functions, new software modules and completely new versions. You agree to receive such updates (and permit Google to deliver these to you) as part of your use of the Services.

Finally, and to some most concerning, the possibility of advertising being introduced to Chrome.  Google makes its money through adverts, and while right now Chrome does not contain any as part of the browser itself, the company has left itself open to include them in future.  If if chooses to, there are multiple ways it could be added, including embedding them in-line in a viewed webpage or incorporating them into the window structure of Chrome.

17.1 Some of the Services are supported by advertising revenue and may display advertisements and promotions. These advertisements may be targeted to the content of information stored on the Services, queries made through the Services or other information.

17.2 The manner, mode and extent of advertising by Google on the Services are subject to change without specific notice to you.

17.3 In consideration for Google granting you access to and use of the Services, you agree that Google may place such advertising on the Services.

At a press conference officially announcing the Chrome browser, Google representatives dodged a direct question asking if advertising would be placed on a webpage.  They did, however, confirm that a “huge” investment had been made in the development of the application.

Have you downloaded Chrome?  How have your first impressions been?  Let us know your experiences – and your thoughts about where Google intends to take Chrome in the future – in the comments.

SlashGear Google Chrome Video Walkthrough:

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