Chromium Vs. Google Chrome

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Sohail

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Google Chrome is currently the most popular browser on desktop PCs. It has over 54% of desktop users, usually in the Windows world, choose it over the other browsers.

In the Linux world, Google Chrome is not the most popular, as most distros prefer to ship to other web browsers. The most popular of these is Firefox, whilst others prefer Chromium. Chromium is identical to Google Chrome for all intents and purposes. They share everything from looks to extensions, engines, and features.

So why don’t they (Linux distros) just ship with Google Chrome? What are the differences between Google Chrome and Chromium? This article will explore the differences between Chromium vs. Google Chrome and help you decide which one to choose.

Chromium Vs. Google Chrome

Chrome is built on Chromium

In 2008 Google introduced the Chromium Project. The Chromium Project is an open-source project behind both Google’s Chrome browser and Chrome OS. Chromium browser is the immediate product of the project. Google then takes this pure browser and adds its services and other products unavailable under open-source licenses.

So most Linux distros do not ship Google Chrome in the spirit of “open source(ness)” but another which conforms completely to the GPL (GNU GENERAL PUBLIC LICENSE), such as Chromium or Firefox.

Similarities

The Interface

Other than the icon, the interface of Google Chrome and Chromium are the same. On a typical desktop, you cannot differentiate between the two. The tabs, the controls, the address bar, and the main window will be the same.

Can you guess which browser this is?

Chrome

The Engine

Since both browsers are based on the same source code, the Blink rendering engine (previously used WebKit until version 27) used by them is the same.

Support for the same Extensions, Themes, and Web Apps

The two browsers support the same extensions, themes, and web apps. That is, extensions, themes, and web apps written or optimized for one will work on the other. The only issue is that Google only allows extensions from its web store, although this can be bypassed by enabling developer mode.

Some Google-based features

There are also a few Google-based features that are available by default on Chromium. The sync feature available in Google Chrome is also available for Chromium, which means if you live in the Google ecosystem, you can as easily log in with a Google account and sync your data with Chromium, much like on Google Chrome.

Other features such as “Use a web search to help resolve navigation errors” and “Enable phishing and malware protection” are enabled by default.

What are the differences between Google Chrome and Chromium?

Non-open source components

As I mentioned, some parts of Google Chrome aren’t available under open-source licenses. These include the PDF reader, Flash, and audio and video codecs (MP3, AAC, H.264). The way of Google is to use best product available, even if it is a proprietary one.

A typical example, as pointed out by a Google developer on Reddit, is the rendering of PDFs, where Google uses a much faster proprietary product other than an open-sourced one. Due to this, some streaming sites are unavailable for Chromium but work with Google Chrome.

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Flash and Sandboxing

​I already mentioned Flash, but let me rehash it. The outdated flash plug-in available for Chromium is unsafe, and you should not be using it. Google Chrome ships with a sandboxed version which is kept up-to-date by Google. Also, on some Linux distros, sandboxing may be off by default (everyone compiles their own) on Chromium. So make sure to turn it on by going to about:sandbox.

Automatic Upgrades

Automatic upgrades are not part of Chromium builds because they do not make sense. Chromium builds are a compile and run for yourself, meaning that you choose what you want, and as such, adding auto-updates will update to what?

The solution to this is what most Linux distros do by using their store to manage the updates of the Chromium product they ship with their distro. If you compiled Chromium independently, you need to update it as frequently as possible.

Crash and Error reporting

​Like the upgrades above, Chromium builds do not contain the crash and error reporting of Google Chrome. Since the Chromium build is open source, people can modify it however they choose. So if a crash report came from a Chromium build to Google, it would be useless as they would not know exactly what has been modified in the particular build. So to report bugs, you need to use the bug tracker.

Google Chrome is on the left, and Chromium is on the right.

Restrictions to the Chrome Web Store

Google only allows extensions from its web store, and as I mentioned earlier, this can be bypassed by enabling developer mode.

Conclusion

​So which one of these two browsers is better? I couldn’t say. The Chromium browser is more popular on Linux because it conforms to the GPL licenses. But if you do not care for open source, which means you don’t care about what the program is doing with your data, then choose Google Chrome.​

Another thing to note is that Google Chrome is faster and handles some processes much better because it chooses the best product regardless of whether it is proprietary or open-source.

Everything in Chromium is aimed at ending up in Google Chrome. Google Chrome adds more to Chromium; hence more features, as such, are not fully open source.

So there you have it, open-source-ness or features, you decide. If you choose to go with Chromium, please note that you should update it at least every few weeks to take advantage of bug fixes and stay safe. It’s a dangerous world online. Thanks for reading.

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