Chrome for Android Under the Hood: Multi-Process, V8 but No WebGL or Sandboxing

The browser comes with solid support for HTML5 and associated features such as Indexed DB

By on February 8th, 2012 14:01 GMT

Google Chrome for Android may differ a lot from the desktop version, but it's got enough in common to warrant the name. Chrome for Android is a big upgrade over the regular Android browser and it's not all in how it looks.

Under the hood, Chrome for Android has plenty to show for itself. The browser is still based on the WebKit engine, but it's the version customized for Chrome. It's probably more up to date than the WebKit in the regular browser as well.

Canvas, Indexed DB, Web Sockets

Since Chrome for Android is based on Chrome 16, it supports most of the modern web technologies that its desktop counterpart enjoys. This includes advanced support for HTML5 going beyond the basics such as HTML5 video.

It boasts support for Canvas, enabling powerful 2D graphics. With hardware acceleration, Canvas content may even perform well enough to be usable.

Things like Indexed DB, WebWorkers and Web Sockets are also supported by Chrome for Android, so developers won't have to worry about their sites or apps working on mobile devices.

Granted, Chrome for Android only works on about 1 percent of Android devices for now, those running Ice Cream Sandwich.

WebGL is not available

WebGL, the hardware accelerated 3D graphics API, is not included in this release of Chrome for Android. WebGL requires direct access to the GPU as well as plenty of optimization and solid drivers to work.

V8 optimized for ARM processors

Making the switch to the mobile version, however, is the V8 JavaScript engine, one of the fastest around. It has been optimized for ARM processors, so JavaScript-heavy pages should run fairly smooth in Chrome for Android.

Multi-process architecture

The underlying architecture of Chrome has been preserved as well, Chrome for Android is the first multi-process mobile browser. Tabs run in different processes, just like in the desktop version, so a crash in one tab will only bring down that process, but not the entire browser.

No sandboxing in Chrome for Android

Sandboxing though didn't make the cut, redesigning the feature for Android probably proved a too complex task for this stage of the process. But it may be added at a later stage.

Chrome for Android is still in beta and it is already one of the most advanced, if not the most advanced mobile browsers around. More features are bound to be included in the months to come.

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