Difference between Chrome and Chromium
Shreya Bose, Technical Content Writer at BrowserStack - March 17, 2020
Chrome is, without a doubt, dominating the global browser market. It is the undisputed leader and shows no signs of stepping down from that position. Chromium, on the other hand, is a free, open-source software project created by Google. Its source code provides the basis for multiple browsers.
Given the similarity of the names, a question often comes up regarding the difference between Chrome and Chromium. This article intends to clarify that question.
Chrome is a browser developed and maintained by Google. It is proprietary, and anyone can download and use it for free. But the code cannot be decompiled, reverse engineered or leveraged to create other projects.
How to download Chrome?
Go to the Chrome website. Follow the instructions there and Chrome will be installed within minutes, based on whether you are on Windows or MacOS.
How to test websites on Chrome?
Since Chrome holds about 64.45% of the global browser market share, developers must test every website they create on Chrome. Keep in mind that this includes current and older versions of Chrome. Do not assume that every Chrome user has upgraded to the latest version of the browser.
There are multiple ways to test a website on multiple versions of Chrome:
- Download old versions of Chrome. Testers can download older Chrome versions and run their websites to ensure they work as expected. However, doing so would take a considerable amount of time and effort, which would be a liability when it comes to handling fast release cycles.
- Use a cloud-based testing service like BrowserStack. BrowserStack provides access to multiple Chrome versions (versions 15 to 75) installed on thousands of real browsers. Testers can simply select a Chrome version, a real device to run it on and start testing their website on Chrome. Different versions of Chrome are available for manual testing as well as automated Selenium testing.
The image below will give a sense of BrowserStack’s vast offerings for testing:
- Use a browser emulator. While emulators are useful in the initial stages of development, they cannot replicate real-world conditions in their entirety. For example, an emulator cannot replicate network connectivity, device location, low battery conditions and other factors that users have to deal with. Thus, the website cannot be tested in real user conditions, and hence will not be ready for real-world usage.
Conversely, Chromium is not just another browser, but also the open-source project that generates the source code Chrome is built on. In 2008, Google released a large section of Chrome’s source code as Chromium to encourage developers to review the underlying code. It also let them port the browser to Linux and Mac.
Basically, Google developers take the Chromium source code, add their proprietary code – thus resulting in Chrome which has more features and add-ons than Chromium. For example, Chrome updates automatically, can track browsing data, and provides native support for Flash. Chromium does none of this.
How to download Chromium?
The easiest way to get Chromium is to do so from the download page.
The page automatically recognizes the operating system of the device and offers the right edition of Chromium. If it doesn’t, just select from the list of OS at the bottom of the page.
The page also recognizes the current built number and how old it is. Windows and Linux users can also click on the “Last Known Good Revision” link near the bottom of the page to retrieve Chromium editions from a year before.
More information about downloading Chromium, such as how to find a certain Chromium version for testing and debugging – refer to this page.
On Linux, install Chromium directly from the Linux distribution’s software repositories. For example, on Ubuntu Linux, install Chromium by opening the Ubuntu Software Center. Search for Chromium and click Install. Chromium also receives security updates through the Linux distribution’s software repositories.
Difference between Chrome and Chromium
|Features||Provides more features such as update mechanism, built-in support for multiple technologies, and digital rights management (DRM) components to play copyrighted content||Does not provide any of these features|
|Stability||More stable than Chromium||It is more prone to crashes, even when compared to the most basic versions of Chrome.|
|Privacy||Automatically collects and transfers information to Google. This information can vary from crash reports, usage statistics, device operating system and more.||Collects and transfers less information. Cannot transfer information such as crash reports and usage statistics.|
|Security||Since it is built on Chromium, the security mechanisms are similar. But all security patches are updated automatically on Chrome||Just as secure as Chrome. But the lack of an update mechanism means that security patches to the source code will have to be manually downloaded and installed by the user.|
|License support||Includes support for licensed codecs for proprietary media formats AAC, H.264, and MP3. Offers access to more media content, especially sites using HTML5 video to stream H.264 videos. Also includes basic, free codecs: Opus, Theora, Vorbis, VP8, VP9, and WAV||Only provides support for basic, free codecs: Opus, Theora, Vorbis, VP8, VP9, and WAV|
Chrome or Chromium: Which to use?
There’s no singular answer. Choose the browser based on the use case.
Generally, however, most people prefer using Chrome since it is easier to use and has a gamut of useful add-ons. Chrome offers a better Flash player, allows viewing of more online media content. For example, Chrome on Linux can stream Netflix videos which require H.264 support for HTML5 video. Chromium does not include this.
However, open-source developers may prefer using Chromium if they choose to often modify the source code. A major advantage is that Chromium allows Linux distributions that need open-source software to package a browser almost identical to Chrome. Linux distributors can also use Chromium as the default web browser in place of Firefox.
Make the choice after careful and extensive analyses of what the browser is required for. Since Chrome and Chromium can be operated at the same time, it is also possible to split requirements and execute functions on the browser which is most suited to them.