…Chrome arises from a chronic case of object-envy. We like interacting with physical objects in the real world, goes the reasoning, so it will presumably be more pleasant to interact with computer software if it pretends to be a physical object too. But why? Couldn’t the appeal of using a computer be that of a world precisely without friction and texture, a world where things are weightless, virtual and easy? I’m writing this in the fullscreen view of Writeroom, an entirely chrome-free environment whose virtues I have sung elsewhere, and the simplicity is like a refreshing mental breeze.
Chrome not only wastes space — think of the extra information that could be displayed if you got rid of all those pseudo-metal or pseudo-plastic frames and edges — but it adds another layer of wonky metaphor onto what already is the embarrasingly incoherent paradigm of modern computing. Oh, right, so there are windows on my desktop? What’s that about, exactly? That mode of design is “metaphorics”, defined thus by Eric Freemand and David Gelernter in “Beyond Lifestreams” (Beyond the Desktop Metaphor, MIT 2007)