Chrome vs. Chromium: What's the Difference?

These closely related browsers have slight differences to consider

Chrome is a web browser that was developed and released by Google. Chromium is a niche open-source browser with fewer users, also developed by Google. Chrome uses the same source code as Chromium, but with fewer extra features and add-ons. We looked closely at the pros and cons of each browser to help you make an informed decision about which one is best.

Illustration showing Chrome and Chromium
Lifewire / Miguel Co

Overall Findings

Chrome
  • Proprietary. It's free to download and use, but you cannot decompile, reverse engineer, or use the source code to build another program.

  • Unlike Chromium, Chrome has automatic updates, browsing data, and native support for Flash.

Chromium
  • Free and open-source. Anyone can modify the source code however they please.

  • Supplies most of the source code for Chrome.

  • No auto updates, browsing data, or Flash support.

Chrome is a proprietary web browser developed and maintained by Google. Because it is proprietary, anyone is free to download and use it, but the code cannot be decompiled, reverse engineered, or used to build other projects.

Chrome is built on Chromium, which means that Google developers take the open-source Chromium source code and add their proprietary code. For example, Chrome has an automatic update feature, is capable of tracking browsing data, and includes native support for Flash—all of which Chromium lacks.

Two people using either Chrome or Chromium browsers
Lifewire / Miguel Co

Chromium is an open-source web browser developed and maintained by the Chromium Projects. Because it is open-source, anyone is free to modify the source code as they please. However, only trusted members of the Chromium Project development community can contribute code.

Regular users can download a frequently updated version of Chromium, compiled and ready to use, from download-chromium.appspot.com.

Chrome Pros and Cons

Advantages
  • Updates automatically.

  • Native support for Adobe Flash and media codes.

  • More stable and easier to use.

Disadvantages
  • No support for extensions not found at the Chrome Web Store.

  • Tracks browsing history and data.

For regular web users, Chrome is likely the better choice. It is a safe and stable browsing experience due to the automatic updates and error reports. Unlike its open-source alternative, Chrome offers native support for Adobe Flash, as well as closed-source media codecs like AAC, H.264, and MP3.

Moreover, Chrome's few drawbacks likely aren't noticeable if you're not a superuser. For example, unlike Chromium, Chrome tracks browsing habits, cookies, history, and other data. But you can always use the Chrome Incognito Mode to delete that data at the end of a browsing session.

By default, Chrome on Windows and Mac only lets you install extensions that are downloaded from the Chrome Web Store. This compares with other browsers that allow outside extensions. However, an open platform demands greater scrutiny from the user, as outside extensions are sometimes untested or malicious. If you want the freedom to install outside extensions in Chrome, enable developer mode.

Chromium Pros and Cons

Advantages
  • More frequent updates.

  • Does not track browsing data.

  • Open-source.

Disadvantages
  • Updates must be manually downloaded and installed.

  • No native support for Flash or media codecs.

As an open-source platform, Chromium is better for advanced users and web developers. Many users like how the browser does not track browsing data or provide Google with information about user history and behavior. There are also no limitations on what kinds of browser extensions can be added.

Since Chromium is compiled from the Chromium Projects source code, it changes constantly. Chrome has several release channels, but even the bleeding edge Canary channel updates less frequently than Chromium. Routine updates are posted on the Chromium Projects website.

While the browser is updated more frequently than Chrome, those updates must be downloaded and installed manually. There are no automatic updates.

Chromium doesn't offer native support for Adobe Flash. While Flash isn't as widespread as it once was, some sites don't work well without it. Because Flash isn't open-source, Chromium does not natively support it. If you want to use Flash in Chromium, you'll need to write or add the necessary code to support it.

Chromium doesn't support licensed media codecs like AAC, H.264, and MP3. Without these codecs, you won't be able to play media in Chromium. If you want to stream video from sites like Netflix and YouTube, either use Chrome or install these codecs manually.

Finally, Chromium doesn't always have the security sandbox enabled by default. Both Chrome and Chromium have a security sandbox mode, but Chromium has it turned off by default in some cases.

Chrome vs. Chromium: Which One Wins?

Since Chrome and Chromium are similar, and each has benefits, it isn't easy to say which is best. For regular users, Chrome is probably the better choice. For advanced users and for those who place a high value on privacy and coding, Chromium may be the way to go.