You know Google Chrome. It's on your phone, on your computer and might even be powering your laptop. It's one of Google's most ambitious projects and it plays a big part of their strategy for the web and mobile. Chrome is everywhere.
In typical Google fashion, Chrome also encompasses a bunch of things that we normally don't think of as being related. Google likes to unify stuff. Unifying things is good for development and is a great way to force innovation — making things do something new and work with other things is usually a good idea. But that can get confusing for people who just use products and services and don't need to know — or care — how the sausage is made.
That's where we come in. We love knowing how the sausage is made and we use Google's products and services. We can help you know everything you ever need to know about Chrome.
Chrome is a web browser
Google Chrome is the most popular web browsing software worldwide. Desktop and laptop computers use Chrome 60% of the time when they are on the internet. Mobile and tablet devices also use it 60% of the time. Even folks using an iPhone love Chrome.
Chrome is the most popular web browser on the desktop and mobile.
Chrome's biggest draw is the way it syncs with your Google account. You can share bookmarks, open tabs, form data and more across every device that uses Chrome. This was a boon for mobile use and a big part of the adoption numbers.
Chrome is secure and Google sync works on every platform.
The Chrome browser also has support for sandboxed instances. Things you see or type in one tab are not normally visible to other tabs or other applications. Browser extensions work through the main Chrome instance and can affect every sandbox, but generally, things are kept separate. This can cause a high memory footprint as each tab occupies its own space in your RAM. It's a security feature that we depend on even if we don't realize it's there. The internet is not a very safe place, and every security feature helps. Other security features include a blacklist of sites that are potentially harmful and warnings when visiting sites that use a non-secure connection method.
Chrome is standards compliant, has a familiar and user-customizable interface and offers support for browser apps and extensions. This, as well as synchronization and security features, help make it the most popular web browser available.
Chrome is an operating system
Chrome is also a popular operating system for laptops, mini-PCs, and HDMI stick computers. Chrome OS includes the Chrome browser as a major component but it also has a long list of features of its own.
The Chrome browser runs better on a Chromebook that it does on more expensive computers. It was built from the ground up to be this way.
Chrome OS was designed from the ground up to be very lightweight. Like Android, it's a Linux-based system that Google has adapted to perfectly fit their needs. Chrome OS is responsive and capable on computers with specs that will barely support other operating systems, yet is scalable to take advantage of the most powerful components available. Using specially tweaked versions of standard Linux memory and process management tools like zRAM and a task scheduler, Chrome OS can take advantage of everything inside the computer it's running on for user tasks instead of operating system overhead. We still recommend you buy a machine with as much RAM and storage as you can, but it's important that the requirements are low. This is especially important now that Android applications can run on Chrome OS, since certain applications like Netflix and Plex will let you store videos offline. More storage means more movies, and more movies means more fun.
Besides running well on inexpensive hardware, Chrome can do everything most people want a computer to do.
Chrome is a complete operating system with platform support for third party applications. Multimedia features, GPU acceleration, human input device standards and more mean you can code applications specifically to run on Chrome and take advantage of the same hardware the system itself has access to. Security features and sandboxing also apply here, and applications are unable to directly interact with other applications or collect their data. The Chrome browser is a major component of Chrome and offers the same features available on Windows or Mac with a better performance to hardware ratio. This has to do with how the operating system handles the main Chrome process as well as child instances from tabs and other applications. In Chrome, things were designed with this in mind while the Chrome browser on other platforms has to work with the system calls and APIs exposed to it. The Chrome browser is a native application on Chrome OS, and it shows when you're using it.
Android and Google Play was recently introduced to Chrome OS. Running in a standard Linux container, Android is in its own sandbox while an abstraction layer handles communication between Android apps and the operating system. In layman's terms, you can think of Android as a separate section of Chrome with equal access to resources. There are very few Android apps that do not run on Chrome, and outside of things like launchers or icon packs most cases are because they aren't enabled by the developer. No changes to existing code are needed to run an Android app on Chrome, though developers are encouraged to be sure they have a pleasant layout designed for a much bigger screen and that their apps work well with a mouse and keyboard.
Google Play support is available on select Chromebooks and Chromeboxes, and there is a long list of other models that have support in the works. Future devices should run Android by default and include hardware (like sensors or a gyroscope) that make Android apps run even better.
Chrome OS has many great native applications, and the addition of Android will fill in the gaps for many of us. This, combined with the inexpensive prices, security, and ease of use are why we think Chromebooks are a great tool for almost everyone.
Chrome is built from open-source code
Both the Chrome browser and Chrome OS are built from open-source code. The Chromium and Chromium OS projects are very much like the Android Open Source project.
Everything needed to build a complete and fully-functional browser or operating system is available for anyone to use as they wish. Commercial distributions need to adhere to software license requirements, but outside of that, the code is fully modifiable and very easy to build. Open source releases of the Chromium project happen monthly and the project fully supports Chrome applications and extensions. Many popular Linux distributions offer Chromium because it's open and doesn't depend on closed proprietary code or binary files.
Chrome and Chrome OS are not open source. Like Android, where Google uses the open-source version with additions to build the software for the Pixel, Google and hardware partners take Chromium and use it to create the Chrome browser and use Chromium OS to build Chrome OS. Unlike Android, where device manufacturers are able to alter the software in ways that harm the platform, Chrome OS is controlled by Google. Hardware partners for Chromebooks and other Chrome OS devices help make sure things like the display and touchpad are compatible and extras like support for the ASUS cloud or HP device support can be added, but Chrome itself must ship as built by Google. This ensures a pleasant and familiar experience for everyone.
Chrome comes in a wide range of hardware
You can have a complete Chrome experience on an $80 Chromebit. You can also spend $1,700 dollars on an Google Pixelbook that has the latest hardware available. While one will handle more tasks at once than the other, the experience is exactly the same.
We're big proponents of Chromebooks around here. Unless I'm rendering a video or playing a game, there's a good chance I have my Chromebook in front of me when I'm on the computer. This includes my everyday work — I'm writing this post on my Chromebook sitting at a desk with a fully specced desktop that scores completely off the chart for Steam VR on it. Chromebooks are simple, intuitive and can do almost anything I need them to do. We think that for a good many people, the same will apply and a Chromebook is the best way to do computing safely and efficiently.
Chromeboxes are also pretty cool. Most are the same size as something like a Mac Mini and offer relatively high-end hardware at a very reasonable price. They make an excellent box in your entertainment stand that turns every TV into a smart TV, and when paired with a good monitor, mouse, and keyboard can offer a complete desktop experience for most everyone. They are also a great base for anyone who wants to roll up their sleeves and set up a media server or stand-alone firewall and router box.
A Chromebit is awesome for a traveler or anyone who is doing a business presentation. All you need it a TV with an open HDMI port and a small USB or Bluetooth input device and you have the entire web available with zero effort. They are a great way to have full access to your Google Play library, Amazon Prime library, Netflix and any other web-based service in your pocket, and Google Docs makes projecting spreadsheets or slideshows on a big screen simple. They are also great for the bedroom or anywhere space is at a premium. The fact that they are inexpensive is just a bonus!
Something for everyone
Chrome is Google's way to get more people online and part of the internet age. Whether you use the Chrome browser on your phone or PC, or have a Chromebook as your primary computer, or even carry your Chromebit with you everywhere you go, Chrome is there to make things easy.
Chrome is powerful, secure and easy to use. While it isn't the best solution for every task, we think you'll find it's very well rounded and suits most needs. The future for Chrome looks bright, and we're all going to be part of it together!
Update November 2017: This page was updated to reflect the latest news and information about Chrome.
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