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 far fewer users, also developed by Google. Chrome uses the same source code as Chromium, but with fewer extra features and add-ons.

Chrome vs Chromium

Overall Findings

Chrome
  • Proprietary: 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 take and modify the source code however they please.

  • Supplies majority of source code for Google 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 own proprietary code. For example, Chrome has an automatic update feature, is capable of tracking your 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 take and modify the source code as they please. However, only trusted members of the Chromium Project development community can actually contribute their own code.

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

Features: Chrome Is More Fleshed Out But Offers Less Advanced Control

Chrome
  • Proprietary.

  • Updates automatically.

  • Tracks your web browsing.

  • Native support for Adobe Flash.

Chromium
  • Open source.

  • Updates more frequently.

  • Does not track your browsing history or data.

  • Flash support requires you to write or add the necessary code.

Since both browsers are built on the same source code, there are two major differences between Chrome and Chromium: Chromium is updated far more frequently, and Google adds in a whole lot of extra stuff that users may or may not want.

Here are the seven most important ways in which Chrome and Chromium are different:

  • Chromium updates more frequently: Since Chromium is compiled directly 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.
  • Chrome updates automatically: Chromium lacks an automatic update feature. Even though it updates more frequently, you need to update it manually. Since Chrome has an automatic update feature, it is capable of downloading and installing updates on its own.
  • Chrome tracks your web browsing: Chromium doesn't track your information, but Chrome does. If you don't want to provide Google with any information about your browsing habits, but you like Chrome, then Chromium may be the right choice.
  • Chrome locks you into the Chrome Web Store: By default, Chrome on Windows and Mac only lets you install extensions that you download from the Chrome Web Store, while Chromium allows outside extensions. If you want the same freedom in Chrome, you need to enable developer mode.
  • Chrome has native support for Adobe Flash: Flash isn't as widespread as it used to be, but there are still sites that don't work well without it. Because Flash is not open source, Chromium does not natively support it. If you want to use Flash in Chromium, you will need to write or add the necessary code to support it.
  • Chromium doesn't include closed-source media codecs: Chrome includes licensed media codecs like AAC, H.264, and MP3 while Chromium does not. Without these codecs, media won't play in Chromium. So if you want to stream video on sites like Netflix and YouTube, you need to either use Chrome or install these codecs manually.
  • 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 so similar, and each has its benefits, it's difficult to say which one is best. For regular users, Chrome is the better choice, but for more advanced users, those who place a high value on privacy and coding, Chromium may be the way to go.