On the Firefox origin of Chrome OS

February 16, 2013
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    Chrome OS on Firefox origins

    You read the title right. Chrome OS has its roots in Mozilla Firefox, according to former Google employee Jeff Nelson. He has recently blogged about how the operating system came to be and shared some interesting facts, the first of which is that the then new operating system was not exactly built from scratch but was actually a barebones Linux distro.

    When Jeff Nelson was still working as an engineer for the search giant, the Chrome OS used to be developed under the code name, “Google OS.”  That changed after the product’s public release in 2009 when it was marketed under different names: Chromebook, Chromebox, Chrome OS. He first pitched this idea of a “network-based operating system across devices” around 2006, but a Google higher-up initially rejected the notion because it apparently was useless during air travel, even though, as a basic Linux distro, it could actually run programs made for the open source OS.

    By the time Nelson finished writing the first version of his OS, it was all powered by Firefox architecture. At that time, Google didn’t have a web browser project of its own, let alone a full operating system. The brand “Chrome” was not even yet affiliated with company until 2007.

    Nelson also defended that his baby wasn’t just for pure web consumption just as how the media portrayed the early Samsung Chromebook models. He noted that the first versions were quite capable of code development, among other tasks, that a typical Google engineer performs.

    SamsungChromebook21_large_verge_medium_landscape

    But perhaps the most critical part of Nelson’s blog post is his reason for creating Chrome Os. It wasn’t initially created as an OS that runs web apps but an answer to the slow loading times of computers running Windows and Linux. Nelson solved this problem by moving the entire OS into RAM. Data loss, limited storage, and limited Linux support were the prominent issues for this solution, but Nelson addressed them accordingly.

    Inventing Chromebook, as written by Nelson, is no doubt a quite interesting tale. Some current Google employees, however, have caught attention of the November 2012 blog post and are questioning Nelson’s credibility. In a Google+ post, senior software engineer Peter Kasting has this to say:

    I’m somewhat skeptical of this.  I was one of the Chrome team founders, and I was in the team meeting where the project that would become Chrome OS was first announced, and I’ve never heard of Jeff or any of the work he describes here.  Certainly Chrome-team management didn’t mention or demonstrate any of it to the team at large.

    Kasting’s post has generated quite a number of comments. The discussion has become so lively, and lengthy, that even Jeff Nelson joined in to defend his claims on starting Chrome OS.  You can check them out by clicking the source link below.

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    Comments

    • http://twitter.com/crislevin cris levin

      like anybody cares a dead product, let google heads bitaching against each other all day for fun.

    • john

      Nelson is a genius, operating systems shouldn’t be so “feature driven” but lightweight, fast, and efficient. OS on a ram is not a new idea but Chrome was one of the first to get it into mainstream computing. I also think most computer accelerators like GPU, FPGA, and so on should be considered as app dedicated units, Windows sucking the life out of GPU in idle is ridiculous-same with Mac, some linux distros and so on.

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