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Chrome vs Chromium: Core Differences

Shreya Bose, Technical Content Writer at BrowserStack -

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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. On the other hand, Chromium 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 arises regarding the difference between Chrome and Chromium. This article intends to clarify that question.

What is Chrome?

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 Google Chrome?

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?

Let’s have a quick look at the global browser statistics:

Browser statistics

Since Chrome holds about 65.3% 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 Chrome versions: 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. Check out how to test on older browser versions.
  • Use a cloud-based testing service like BrowserStack: BrowserStack provides access to multiple Chrome versions (versions 15 to 105 and more) 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.

Start Testing on Chrome Browser Versions for Free

The image below will give a sense of BrowserStack’s vast offerings for testing:BrowserStack Live dashboard of Chrome Versions

  • Use a browser emulator. While emulators are useful in the initial stages of development, they cannot entirely replicate real-world conditions. 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 will not be ready for real-world usage.

One can also refer to this fundamental guide on Selenium Chrome Testing using ChromeDriver to get started with automated Chrome testing.

Google Chrome vs Chromium: How is Chrome Better?

Google Chrome is stable and offers a great browsing experience for its users. It automatically reports errors. It also supports media code and Flash. Google Chrome basically has everything that a normal user would need. The disadvantage of Google Chrome is quite not visible to a regular user.

The disadvantage of using Google Chrome vs Chromium is that the Chrome tracks data and history. Most users today prefer not to share their data. However, one can easily overcome this limitation by using an Incognito mode. Another key point is that Chrome users cannot install extensions that are not a part of the web store. This can sometimes be a hindrance, but most of these extensions have an alternative, and users who prefer the ease of using the browser often overlook this.

One major difference between the two is that Google Chrome updates automatically, where Chromium does not. This can be a disadvantage when it comes to the Chromium browser vs Chrome angle of the battle. Specifically, because Chromium comes with a lot of updates. These are posted on the Chromium Projects site and must be downloaded and updated manually every time. This is a critical difference between Chromium and Chrome, as the latter updates automatically.

Another differentiating factor is that Chromium lacks built-in support for Flash. Although in today’s world Adobe Flash is not used as much as it was before, there still are some websites that need Flash to function properly. Since Flash is not open source, it is not supported, and the user will have to add the code to use Flash. This is also a notable difference between Chromium and Chrome.

Apart from this, Chromium does not extend support to MP3, H.264, AAC, etc. This means you cannot play media. Given the advancement of OTT and music streaming platforms, the lack of media codec support appears to be a significant disadvantage when evaluating Google Chrome and Chromium. To stream videos, the only option is to write code manually to support this.

Advantages of using Chrome

  • Ease of use
  • Updates automatically
  • Supports media code and Flash

Disadvantages of using Chrome

  • Captures browsing data and history
  • Can only install extensions available in the web store

Now that you have an idea of Chrome, let us look at what Chromium browser is and how to test websites on Chromium.

What is Chromium?

Conversely, Chromium is not just another browser, but also the open-source project that generates the source code that 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.

Google developers take the Chromium source code and 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 device’s operating system 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.

For 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.

Chromium Browser vs Chrome: How is Chromium Better?

Chromium, being open source, is an excellent solution for advanced users and web developers. You can include any browser extension without any restriction. As a user, you can access multiple third-party add-ons that help customize your browsing according to your requirements.

One of the major differences between Chromium and Chrome is that Chromium does not track your browsing data, thereby cutting the access to websites that want to gain insights on what you do when you visit their site.

Chromium has a huge community of developers who keep the browser current and strong. This means that every new version of the Chromium browser makes the primary version stronger. This is because these updates can be passed between forks and be used in non-browser projects.

Components of Chromium (ANGLE, V8, Skia, etc) are being used by different companies like Microsoft, Spotify, etc.

Chromium makes it easier for engineers to develop new browser ideas faster. This builds diversity among browsers instead of a monoculture. Multiple browsers, other than Chrome are built on the Chromium code. This includes Opera, Amazon Silk, and Microsoft Edge. Edge, in fact, replaced Javascript engines and Microsoft-sourced rendering, replacing them with Chromium’s V8 and Blink.

Listed below are the advantages and disadvantages of using Chromium.

Advantages of using Chromium

  • Does not track browsing data
  • It is open source
  • Updates are frequent

Disadvantages of using Chromium

  • Need to download and install updates manually
  • Does not have in-built support for Flash or Media codecs

Difference Between Chrome and Chromium

Here is a detailed tabular comparison between Chrome vs Chromium:

ChromeChromium
FeaturesProvides more features such as an update mechanism, built-in support for multiple technologies, and digital rights management (DRM) components to play copyrighted contentDoes not provide any of these features
StabilityMore stable than ChromiumIt is more prone to crashes, even when compared to the most basic versions of Chrome.  
PrivacyAutomatically collects and transfers information to Google. This information can vary from crash reports, usage statistics, device operating systems, and more. Collects and transfers less information. Cannot transfer information such as crash reports and usage statistics. 
SecuritySince it is built on Chromium, the security mechanisms are similar. But all security patches are updated automatically on ChromeJust as secure as Chrome. But the lack of an update mechanism means the user will have to download and install security patches to the source code manually.  
License supportSupport for licensed codecs for proprietary media formats AAC, H.264, and MP3 is included. 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 WAVOnly provides support for basic, free codecs: Opus, Theora, Vorbis, VP8, VP9, and WAV

Chrome vs Chromium: Which to use when?

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, and allows viewing 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 modify the source code often. 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 requires. Since Chrome and Chromium can be operated simultaneously, it is possible to split requirements and execute functions on the browser most suited to them.

In case, one is looking to test their website on an older or latest Chrome browser version, Check out this page.

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