Google Chrome is becoming more and more popular spurred by Google using more of its marketing muscle to promote it and the relatively recent release of stable beta builds for Mac OS and Linux. Chrome has only been around for a year and a half or so, but it has managed to gain a following, especially with the tech-savvy crowd.
But, if you have just heard of Google Chrome or are now ready to give it a try, you may find yourself confused by the various versions available. And you may have stumbled upon Chromium as well, adding even more to the confusion. So what’s the deal with the Google Chrome dev, beta and stable builds? And what about Chromium?
The problem has to do with the way Google handles development of Google Chrome. At heart, the web browser is an open-source project. That project’s name is Chromium. All active development and cutting edge features are added to the Chromium source and several builds are made available each day. Every week or so, sometimes faster, Google grabs the latest Chromium build, slaps a new logo and a couple of small features on it and releases it to the developer channel labeled as ‘Google Chrome dev.’
Using the same thinking, every once in a while, a month sometimes more, a Google Chrome dev build is chosen to become a beta. All the rough edges are polished and a ‘Google Chrome beta’ is born. These releases are regularly stable enough for everyday use. Finally, every few months a ‘Google Chrome stable’ build is released after the developers are fully assured that new features introduced in the beta release are rock-solid.
Now for the simplified version:
- the open-source project on which Google Chrome is based;
- bleeding-edge features;
- several binary builds for Windows, Linux and Mac made available each day, sometimes 20 or more;
- not considered stable, don’t blame the developers if it crashes your computer or eats your cat;
Google Chrome dev:
- based on very recent Chromium builds;
- new versions every week or so;
- relatively stable, more like what other companies would consider ‘beta,’ but not stable enough for production use;
- the latest and greatest features and updates;
Google Chrome beta:
- based on stable developers channel releases;
- new versions every month or so;
- new features and bigger changes, known to work in the majority of cases;
- stable enough for everyday use, crashes are few and far between;
Google Chrome stable:
- based on tried-and-trusted beta versions;
- all known bugs ironed out, all new features tested for months before release;
- new versions every few months;
- as stable as Google Chrome gets, usable in any environment;
Google Chrome vs Chromium
Another common question concerns the actual differences between Chromium and Google Chrome. In practical terms, they are minor. The short version, Google Chrome is Chromium with a different logo and a slightly different spelling. This is what Google Chrome adds to Chromium builds:
- the Chrome logo and other branding changes;
- an auto-updater which downloads and installs the latest Chrome version from the respective channel;
- an option, enabled by default, to send anonymous usage statistics to Google;
- code to send stats like installs and country info back to Google, no option to disable it;
Understanding Google Chrome version numbers
Google Chrome’s version numbers can be a bit confusing as well. They look something like 5.0.375.9. The number can be split into three areas.
5.0 - is the major version number. It changes occasionally and, though a move from the last 4.1.x.x to the first 5.0.x.x doesn’t necessarily mean a huge list of new features, the differences are bigger between the first 4.0.x.x builds.
.379 - is the code for the current version. A change means new features or improved functionality.
.9 - this number is reserved for small updates fixing security vulnerabilities and stability issues. No new features are added when this number is updated.
Chromium gets another number added, something like 44736, which is the build code of the release.
All versions of
Google Chrome for Windows are available for download here.
Google Chrome for Mac are available for download here.
Google Chrome for Linux are available for download here.
Chromium builds for all platforms are available in the official repositories.