When it comes to browser names, sometimes a browser gets a straightforward name that implies exactly what it does—like Internet Explorer. But Chrome? Why name a browser after shiny metal?
The Name Is Design Reference
The name “Chrome” was assigned as a codename to Google’s browser project early on in the development cycle back in the late 2000s.
It’s both a reference to the actual chrome found on iconic and fast mid-century muscle cars—Chrome was designed to be a faster and more streamlined replacement to the browsers of the day—and a reference to the design of browsers themselves.
Just as shiny chrome trim and bumpers on classic cars wrapped, visually speaking, around the body of the car and showed it off, the term “chrome” was used to refer to everything in a browser but the actual browser pane itself that displayed the page. (In other words, the “browser chrome” includes the browser’s toolbar, tabs, scroll bar, and everything else around the web page itself.) The chrome was the shiny stuff around the meat of the matter, the page you were reading.
While Chrome was originally the code name, it also ended up becoming the final name of the browser. The development team held an internal competition to pick the final name for the project but, according to Google developer Glen Murphy, the names that came out of the competition were awful.
So awful, in fact, that the development lead overrode all the votes and insisted that people associated the word “chrome” with speed, making it the perfect name to put on the final product.
And, Also a Clever Joke
Objectively, Chrome is a pretty cool name for a browser—though perhaps my opinion of the matter is clouded by a childhood spent at auto shows and a lifelong love affair with classic cars.
In addition to being a cool name, it’s also a really clever joke about the browser that bears its name. One of the most immediately notable things about Chrome, both at the time it launched and still to this day, is the very minimal appearance of the browser interface.
Chrome is named after a term that means all the stuff that frames the browser pane but, ironically, it has very little “browser chrome” to speak of.
In a 2015 interview with The New York Times, then Google Product Chief (soon to be CEO) Sundar Pichai emphasized how the browser’s ironic name was actually the core of the Chrome experience.
There is a reason when we built Chrome we minimized everything to do with Chrome so that all you spent time on was the website you cared about at the given time. We wanted the users to focus on the content they were using. The reason the product was named “Chrome” was we wanted to minimize the chrome of the browser. That’s how we thought about it.
If thinking about why Chrome was named Chrome has you curious about tech names and trivia, well you’re in luck.
We like digging into such matters, too, like pondering why Spotify was named Spotify and wondering exactly what Roku means.
And hey, if you want less trivia and more Chrome-centric trips and tricks, we can do that too. Here are ten awesome Chrome features you should be using.