Google Chrome

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Google Chrome
File:Chrome Logo.svg
File:Chrome Wikipedia.PNG
Google Chrome 4.0 displaying Wikipedia on Windows 7
Developer(s) Google Inc.
Initial release September 2, 2008 (2008-09-02)
Stable release (Windows browser), (chrome frame)  (January 25, 2010; Template:Error) [+/−]
Preview release (Linux Beta) (Mac Beta)
5.0.307.1 (Windows, Linux & Mac Dev channel)
 (January 29, 2010; Template:Error) [+/−]
Written in C++, Assembly
Operating system Windows (XP SP2 and later)
Mac OS X (10.5 and later)
Engine WebKit (Based on KHTML)
Size 11.7 MB (Windows)
Available in 50 languages
Development status Active
Type Web browser
License Google Chrome Terms of Service (Google Chrome executable),
BSD (source code and Chromium executable)

Google Chrome is a web browser developed by Google that uses the WebKit layout engine and application framework. It was first released as a beta version for Microsoft Windows on 2 September 2008, and the public stable release was on 11 December 2008. The name is derived from the graphical user interface frame, or "chrome", of web browsers. As of 1 February 2010 (2010 -02-01), Chrome was the third most widely used browser, with 5.20% of worldwide usage share of web browsers according to Net Applications.[1]

In September 2008, Google released the entire source code of Chrome, including its V8 JavaScript engine, as an open source project entitled Chromium.[2][3] This move enabled third-party developers to study the underlying source code and help port the browser to Mac OS X and Linux. A Google spokesperson also expressed hope that other browsers would adopt V8 to help web applications.[4] The Google-authored portion of Chromium is released under the permissive BSD license,[5] which allows portions to be incorporated into both open source and proprietary software programs.[6] Other portions of the source code are subject to a variety of open-source licenses.[7] Chromium implements the same feature set as Chrome, but without Google branding and automatic updates, and it has a slightly different logo.[8]




The release announcement was originally scheduled for 3 September 2008, and a comic by Scott McCloud was to be sent to journalists and bloggers explaining the features of and motivations for the new browser.[9] Copies intended for Europe were shipped early and German blogger Philipp Lenssen of Google Blogoscoped[10] made a scanned copy of the 38-page comic available on his website after receiving it on 1 September 2008.[11] Google subsequently made the comic available on Google Books[12] and mentioned it on their official blog along with an explanation for the early release.[13]

At a media and technology conference in July 2009, Eric Schmidt, Google's Chief Executive, said for six years he was against the wish of co-founders Sergey Brin and Larry Page to build an independent web browser and operating system. He explained that the company was small at the time and he didn't want it to endure bruising browser wars. After the founders hired several Firefox developers and built a demonstration of Chrome, however, he changed his mind and became a huge supporter of Chrome and Chrome OS.[14]

Public release

An alpha version of Chromium for Linux, showing the default home page
The browser was first publicly released for Microsoft Windows (XP and later only) on 2 September 2008 in 43 languages, officially a beta version.[15] Chrome quickly gained about 1% market share despite Mac OS X and Linux versions still being under development.[13][16][17][18] After the initial surge, usage share dropped until it hit a low of 0.69% in October 2008. It then started rising again until by December 2008, Chrome again passed the 1% threshold.[19]

In late 2008, a message saying that a "test shell" is available to build on Linux was placed in the Chromium project's developer wiki.[20] Some tried this shell, which apparently lacked many features, but appeared to function quite well in rendering web sites (including JavaScript).[21][22] In early January 2009, CNET reported that Google planned to release versions for Mac OS X and Linux in the first half of the year.[23] By March 2009, it was possible to build a pre-alpha version of the Chromium browser, which looked similar to the Windows release, but was still very far from complete.[24]

The first official Chrome Mac OS X and Linux developer previews[25] were announced on 4 June 2009 with a blog post[26] saying they were missing many features and were intended for early feedback rather than general use. On 9 October 2009, Google CEO Eric Schmidt stated that Chrome for Mac would be released "in a couple of months."[27] On 30 November 2009, it was reported that the Mac OS X beta would be available by the end of 2009, lacking such features as App Mode, a bookmark manager, 64-bit support, Bookmark Sync, and extensions.[28] Official betas for Mac OS X and Linux were released on 8 December 2009.[29][30]


Chrome was assembled from 25 different code libraries from Google and third parties such as Mozilla's Netscape Portable Runtime, Network Security Services, NPAPI, as well as SQLite and a number of other open-source projects [31] The JavaScript virtual machine was considered a sufficiently important project to be split off (as was Adobe/Mozilla's Tamarin) and handled by a separate team in Denmark coordinated by Lars Bak at Aarhus. According to Google, existing implementations were designed "for small programs, where the performance and interactivity of the system weren't that important," but web applications such as Gmail "are using the web browser to the fullest when it comes to DOM manipulations and Javascript", and therefore would significantly benefit from a JavaScript engine that could work faster.

Chrome uses the WebKit rendering engine to display web pages, on advice from the Android team.[12] Like most browsers, Chrome was extensively tested internally before release with unit testing, "automated user interface testing of scripted user actions" and fuzz testing, as well as WebKit's layout tests (99% of which Chrome is claimed to have passed). New browser builds are automatically tested against tens of thousands of commonly accessed websites inside of the Google index within 20–30 minutes.[12]

Chrome includes Gears, which adds features for web developers typically relating to the building of web applications (including offline support).[12]

The results of the Acid3 test on Google Chrome 4.0

The first release of Google Chrome passed the Acid1 and Acid2 tests, but not Acid3. On Acid3 it scored 79 out of the 100 subtests, higher than contemporary versions of Internet Explorer 7 (14/100), Firefox 3 (71/100), and Safari 3 (75/100); but lower than Opera 9 (83/100).[32] When compared with contemporary development builds of Firefox, Internet Explorer, Opera, and Safari, Chrome scored lower than Firefox 3.1 Beta 1 (85/100), Opera (100/100), and Safari 4 (100/100); but still higher than Internet Explorer (21/100).[32] However, version 2.0 of Google Chrome passed all 100 subtests (but still failed the link test).[citation needed] Google Chrome 3.0 scored 100/100 but showed a 'X' in the upper right corner because downloadable fonts were disabled until security concerns surrounding them could be resolved.[33] Releases of Google Chrome starting with version 4.0 and higher pass all aspects of the Acid 3 test, including the link test and downloadable fonts.[34]

On 7 July 2009, Google announced plans for a Google Chrome OS based on the Chrome browser and Linux.[35]

Google released Chrome 2.0 on 21 May 2009, citing increased speed and stability. New features included form autofill, an improved New Tab Page, and full screen mode.[36]

Version 3.0 was released on 15 September 2009, bringing with it a 25% speed improvement, HTML5 capabilities (such as <video> and <audio> elements with native support for Ogg Theora video, Ogg Vorbis audio, H.264 video, AAC and MP3 audio), an improved Omnibox, theme support, and a redesigned New Tab Page.[37][38][39][40][41]

Version 4.0 was released for Windows on 25 January 2010, adding extension support, bookmark sync, improved developer tools, better HTML5 support, performance improvements, and increased security.[34][42]

Release history

Color Meaning
Red Old release
Green Current stable release
Purple Current test release
Major version Release date WebKit version[43] V8 engine version[44] Operating system support Significant changes
0.2 2008-09-08 522 0.3 Windows First release
0.3 2008-10-29 Improved plugin performance and reliability. Spell checking for input fields. Improved web proxy performance and reliability. Tab and window management updates.
0.4 2008-11-24 525 Bookmark manager with import and export support. Privacy section added to the application options. New blocked popup notification. Security fixes.
1.0 2008-12-11 528 First stable release
2.0 2009-05-24 530 0.4 35% faster JavaScript on the SunSpider benchmark. Mouse wheel support. Full-screen mode. Full-page zoom. Form autofill. Sort bookmarks by title. Tab docking to browser and desktop edges. Basic Greasemonkey support.[45]
3.0 2009-10-12 532 1.2 New "new tab" page for improved customization. 25% faster JavaScript. HTML5 video and audio tag support. Lightweight theming.
4.0.249 2010-01-25 1.3 Extension support, bookmark sync, improved developer tools, better HTML5 support, Acid3 test compliance. Web SQL Database, Web Storage, Application Cache, and Web Sockets support.[46]
5.0.307 2010-01-30 2.0 Windows


Google Chrome aims to improve security, speed, and stability. There are extensive differences from its peers in Chrome's minimalistic user interface,[12] which is atypical of modern web browsers.[48] Chrome's strength is its application performance and JavaScript processing speed, both of which were independently verified by multiple websites to be the swiftest among the major browsers of its time.[49][50] Many of Chrome's unique features had been previously announced by other browser developers, but Google was the first to implement and publicly release them.[51] For example, its most prominent graphical user interface (GUI) innovation, the merging of the address bar and search bar (the Omnibox) was first announced by Mozilla in May 2008 as a planned feature for Firefox.[52]


Chrome periodically downloads updates of two blacklists (one for phishing and one for malware), and warns users when they attempt to visit a harmful site. This service is also made available for use by others via a free public API called "Google Safe Browsing API". Google notifies the owners of listed sites who may not be aware of the presence of the harmful software.[12]

Chrome will typically allocate each tab to fit into its own process to "prevent malware from installing itself" and prevent what happens in one tab from affecting what happens in another, however the actual process allocation model is more complex.[53] Following the principle of least privilege, each process is stripped of its rights and can compute, but cannot write files or read from sensitive areas (e.g. documents, desktop)—this is similar to the "Protected Mode" used by Internet Explorer on Windows Vista and Windows 7. The Sandbox Team is said to have "taken this existing process boundary and made it into a jail";[54] for example, malicious software running in one tab is supposed to be unable to sniff credit card numbers entered in another tab, interact with mouse inputs, or tell Windows to "run an executable on start-up" and it will be terminated when the tab is closed.[12] This enforces a simple computer security model whereby there are two levels of multilevel security (user and sandbox) and the sandbox can only respond to communication requests initiated by the user.[55]

Typically, plugins such as Adobe Flash Player are not standardized and as such, cannot be sandboxed as tabs can be. These often need to run at, or above, the security level of the browser itself. To reduce exposure to attack, plugins are run in separate processes that communicate with the renderer, itself operating at "very low privileges" in dedicated per-tab processes. Plugins will need to be modified to operate within this software architecture while following the principle of least privilege.[12] Chrome supports the Netscape Plugin Application Programming Interface (NPAPI),[56][57] but does not support the embedding of ActiveX controls.[57] Java applet support is available in Chrome with Java 6 update 12 and above.[58]

A private browsing feature called Incognito mode is provided that prevents the browser from storing any history information or cookies from the websites visited.[59] Incognito mode is similar to the private browsing feature available in Apple's Safari, Mozilla Firefox 3.5, Opera 10.5, and Internet Explorer 8.[citation needed]

A denial-of-service vulnerability was found that allowed a malicious web page to crash the whole web browser.[60][61] Google Chrome developers confirmed the flaw, and it was fixed in the release.[62] Other security issues have been discovered in Chrome, including a vulnerability in versions prior to that would allow a malicious or compromised web site to crash the browser and execute hostile code on a victim's system.[63]


The JavaScript virtual machine used by Chrome, the V8 JavaScript engine, has features such as dynamic code generation, hidden class transitions and precise garbage collection.[12] Tests by Google in September 2008 showed that V8 was about twice as fast as Firefox 3.0 and the WebKit nightlies.

Several websites performed benchmark tests using the SunSpider JavaScript Benchmark tool as well as Google's own set of computationally intense benchmarks, which include ray tracing and constraint solving.[64] They unanimously reported that Chrome performed much faster than all competitors against which it had been tested, including Safari (for Windows), Firefox 3.0, Internet Explorer 7, Opera, and Internet Explorer 8.[65][66][67][68][69][70]

On September 3, 2008, Mozilla responded by stating that their own TraceMonkey JavaScript engine (then in beta), was faster than Chrome's V8 engine in some tests.[71][72][73] John Resig, Mozilla's JavaScript evangelist, further commented on the performance of different browsers on Google's own suite, finding Chrome "decimating" other browsers, but he questioned whether Google's suite was representative of real programs. He stated that Firefox 3.0 performed poorly on recursion intensive benchmarks, such as those of Google, because the Mozilla team had not implemented recursion-tracing yet.[74]

Two weeks after Chrome's launch the WebKit team announced a new JavaScript engine, SquirrelFish Extreme,[75] citing a 36% speed improvement over Chrome's V8 engine.[76][77][78]

Chrome also uses DNS prefetching to speed up website lookups.[79] This feature is available in Internet Explorer as an extension, and is built-in and enabled by default in Firefox 3.5.


The Gears team implemented a multi-process architecture in Chrome,[80] similar to Loosely Coupled Internet Explorer (LCIE) implemented by Internet Explorer 8.[81] By default, a separate process is allocated to each site instance and plugin, a procedure referred to as process isolation.[82] This prevents tasks from interfering with each other, increasing security and stability. An attacker successfully gaining access to one application cannot gain access to others[citation needed], and failure in one instance results in a Sad Tab screen of death, similar to the well-known Sad Mac, except only a single tab crashes instead of the whole application. This strategy exacts a fixed per-process cost up front, but results in less memory bloat overall as fragmentation is confined to each instance and no longer requires further memory allocations.[83]

Chrome includes a process management utility called Task Manager which allows the user to "see what sites are using the most memory, downloading the most bytes and abusing [their] CPU" (as well as the plugins which run in separate processes) and terminate them.[12]

User interface

By default, the main user interface includes back, forward, refresh, home, bookmark, go, and cancel buttons. The home button can be configured through options to take the user to the New Tab Page or a custom home page.

Tabs are the primary component of Chrome's user interface and as such, have been moved to the top of the window rather than below the controls. This subtle change contrasts with many existing tabbed browsers which are based on windows and contain tabs. Tabs (including their state) can be transferred seamlessly between window containers by dragging. Each tab has its own set of controls, including the Omnibox.[12]

The Omnibox is the URL box at the top of each tab, which combines the functionality of both the Address bar and search box. If a user enters the URL of a site previously searched from, Chrome allows pressing Tab to search the site again directly from the Omnibox. When a user starts typing in the Omnibox, Chrome provides suggestions for previously visited sites (based on the URL or in-page text), popular websites (not necessarily visited before - powered by Google Suggest), and popular searches. Chrome will also autocomplete the URLs of sites visited often.[12] If a user types several keywords into the Omnibox and press enter, Chrome will conduct the search using the default search engine.

When Google Chrome is not maximized, the tab bar appears directly under the title bar. When maximized, the tabs become flush with the top of the titlebar. Like other browsers, it has a full-screen mode that hides the operating system's interface as well as the browser chrome.

One of Chrome's differentiating features is the New Tab Page, which can replace the browser home page and is displayed when a new tab is created. Originally, this showed thumbnails of the nine most visited web sites, along with frequent searches, recent bookmarks, and recently closed tabs; similar to Internet Explorer and Firefox with Google Toolbar 6, or Opera's Speed Dial.[12] In Google Chrome 2.0, the New Tab Page was updated to allow users to hide thumbnails they didn't want to appear.[36]

Starting in version 3.0, the New Tab Page was revamped to display thumbnails of the 8 most visited web sites. The thumbnails could be rearranged, pinned, and removed. Alternatively, a list of text links could be displayed instead of thumbnails. It also features a "Recently closed" bar that shows recently closed tabs and a "tips" section that displays hints and tricks for using the browser.[84]

Chrome includes a bookmark manager that can be accessed from a menu. Adding the command-line option: --bookmark-menu adds a bookmarks button to the right of the Omnibox that can be used in place of the bookmarks bar.[85] However, this functionality is currently unavailable on the Linux and Mac platforms.[86]

Popup windows "are scoped to the tab they came from" and will not appear outside the tab unless the user explicitly drags them out.[12]

Google Chrome's options window has three tabs: Basic, Personal Stuff, and Under the Hood. The Basic tab includes options for the home page, search engine, and default browser. The Personal Stuff tab lets users configure saved passwords, form autofill, browsing data, and themes. The Under the Hood tab allows changing network, privacy, download, and security settings.

Chrome allows users to make local desktop shortcuts that open web applications in the browser. The browser, when opened in this way, contains none of the regular interface except for the title bar, so as not to "interrupt anything the user is trying to do." This allows web applications to run alongside local software (similar to Mozilla Prism and Fluid).[12]

Chrome does not have a status bar, but displays loading activity and hover-over information via a status bubble that pops up at the bottom left of the relevant page.

For web developers, Chrome features an element inspector similar to the one in Firebug.[79]

As part of Google's April Fools' Day jokes, a special build of Chrome was released on 1 April 2009 with the additional feature of being able to render pages in anaglyph 3D.[87]


When Google launched Chrome in September, 2008, they stated that an application programming interface was planned.[88] On 1 December 2008, they announced that development of an extension system had begun.[89] Details were announced in May 2009, at Google I/O.[90]

On 9 September 2009, Google enabled extensions by default on Chrome's Dev channel, and provided several sample extensions for testing.[91] On 23 November 2009, Google opened Chrome's extension gallery to developer submissions, promising a public beta launch soon.[92] The extension gallery beta was officially launched on 8 December 2009, containing over 300 extensions.[93][30]


Starting with Google Chrome 3.0, users can install themes to alter the appearance of the browser.[94] Many free third-party themes are provided in an online gallery,[95] accessible through a "Get themes" button in Chrome's options.[96]

Usage tracking

Chrome sends details about its usage to Google through both optional and non-optional user tracking mechanisms.[97]

Tracking methods
Method[98] Information sent When Optional?
RLZ identifier[99] Encoded string, according to Google, contains non-identifying information such as when Chrome was installed, where Google Chrome was downloaded from, and when certain features were first used, such as search.[100]
  • On Google search query
  • Every 24 hours
  • When "certain significant events occur"[100]
clientID[101] Unique identifier along with logs of usage metrics and crashes. Template:Unk Yes[102]
Suggest[101] Text typed into the address bar While being typed Yes
Page not found Text typed into the address bar Upon receiving "Server not found" response Yes
Bug tracker Details about crashes and failures Template:Unk Yes[102]

Some of the tracking mechanisms can be optionally enabled and disabled through the installation interface[citation needed] and through the browser's options dialog.[101] Unofficial builds, such as SRWare Iron, seek to remove these features from the browser altogether.[98] The RLZ feature is not included in the Chromium browser either.[100]

Release channels and updates

On 8 January 2009 Google introduced a new release system with three distinct channels: Stable, Beta, and Developer preview (called the "Dev" channel). Before this change there were only two channels: Beta and Developer preview. All previous Developer channel users were moved to the Beta channel. The reason given by Google is that the Developer channel builds are less stable and polished than those that Developer channel users were getting during Google Chrome's Beta period. The stable channel will be updated with features and fixes once they have been thoroughly tested in the Beta channel, and the Beta channel will be updated roughly monthly with stable and complete features from the Developer channel. The Developer channel is where ideas get tested (and sometimes fail) and can be very unstable at times.[103][104]

Chrome automatically keeps itself up to date. The details differ by platform. On Windows, it uses Google Updater, and autoupdate can be controlled via Group Policy,[105] or users can download a standalone version that does not autoupdate.[106][107] On Mac, it uses Google Update Service, and autoupdate can be controlled via the Mac OS X "defaults" system.[108] On Linux, it lets the system's normal package management system do the updates.

Google uses its Courgette algorithm to provide the binary difference of the user's current version in relation to the new version that's about to be automatically updated to. These tiny updates are well suited to minor security fixes and allow Google to push new versions of Chrome to users quickly, thereby reducing the window of vulnerability of newly discovered security flaws.[109]


The Daily Telegraph's Matthew Moore summarizes the verdict of early reviewers: "Google Chrome is attractive, fast and has some impressive new features, but may not—yet—be a threat to its Microsoft rival."[110]

Microsoft reportedly "played down the threat from Chrome" and "predicted that most people will embrace Internet Explorer 8." Opera Software said that "Chrome will strengthen the Web as the biggest application platform in the world."[111] Mozilla said that Chrome's introduction into the web browser market comes as "no real surprise", that "Chrome is not aimed at competing with Firefox", and furthermore that it should not affect Google's revenue relationship with Mozilla.[112][113]

Chrome's design bridges the gap between desktop and so-called "cloud computing." At the touch of a button, Chrome lets you make a desktop, Start menu, or Quick Launch shortcut to any Web page or Web application, blurring the line between what's online and what's inside your PC. For example, I created a desktop shortcut for Google Maps. When you create a shortcut for a Web application, Chrome strips away all of the toolbars and tabs from the window, leaving you with something that feels much more like a desktop application than like a Web application or page.

On 9 September 2008, when Chrome was still in beta, the German Federal Office for Information Security (BSI) issued a statement about their first examination of Chrome, expressing a concern over the prominent download links on Google's German web page, because "beta versions should not be employed for general use applications" and browser manufacturers should provide appropriate instructions regarding the use of pre-released software. They did, however, praise the browser's technical contribution to improving security on the web.[115]

Concern about Chrome's optional usage collection and tracking have been noted in several publications.[116][117] On 2 September 2008, a CNET news item[118] drew attention to a passage in the terms of service for the initial beta release, which seemed to grant to Google a license to all content transferred via the Chrome browser. The passage in question was inherited from the general Google terms of service.[119] On the same day, Google responded to this criticism by stating that the language used was borrowed from other products, and removed the passage in question from the Terms of Service.[120] Google noted that this change would "apply retroactively to all users who have downloaded Google Chrome."[121] There was subsequent concern and confusion about whether and what information the program communicates back to Google. The company stated that usage metrics are only sent when users opt in by checking the option "help make Google Chrome better by automatically sending usage statistics and crash reports to Google" when the browser is installed.[122]

Reverse-engineering issues with Windows

On 11 September 2008, a few days after the release of Chrome's source code, Scott Hanselman noticed a comment in Chrome's code saying "You can find this information by disassembling Vista's SP1 kernel32.dll with your favorite disassembler."[123] Ars Technica published an article asking, "Did Google reverse-engineer Windows?" Google later denied disassembling Vista and referred to previous public discussion of the undocumented APIs that Google used.[124]

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