What's the Difference Between Chromium and Chrome?

These closely related browsers each have unique features to consider

chrome vs chromium web browsers


Chrome is a massively popular web browser that is developed and released by Google, and Chromium is a niche open-source browser that has far fewer users. However, Chrome and Chromium have a lot more similarities than differences. In fact, Chrome uses the same source code as Chromium, just with extra features that Google adds on top.

What Is Chromium?

Chromium is an open-source web browser that's developed and maintained by the Chromium Project. Since it's 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.

What Is Chrome?

Chrome is a proprietary web browser that is developed, maintained, and released by Google. Since it's proprietary, you are free to download and use it, but you can't decompile, reverse engineer, or use the source code to build your own project.

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

Chrome is available directly from Google.

The Biggest Differences Between Chromium and Chrome

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

Within those two broad categories, here are the seven most important specific examples where Chromium and Chrome are different from each other:

  • Chromium updates more frequently - Since Chromium is compiled directly from the Chromium Project source code, it changes constantly. Chrome has several release channels, but even the bleeding edge Canary channel updates less frequently than Chromium. If you want to get your hands on the absolute latest code that the Chromium Project has to offer, you need to use Chromium.
  • Chrome updates automatically - Chromium lacks an automatic update feature. So 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. If you ever get too far out of date, it will even let you know.
  • Chrome tracks your web browsing - Chromium doesn't track your information, and Chrome does. If you don't want to provide Google with any information about your browsing habits on the internet, but you like Chrome, then Chromium may be an option.
  • Chrome locks you into the Google Play Store - By default, Chrome on Windows and Mac only lets you install extensions that you download from the Google Play 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 right if you don't have it. Since Flash isn't open source, Chromium doesn't support it natively. So if you want to use Flash in Chromium, and you aren't an expert, you may be in for a headache.
  • Chromium doesn't include closed-source media codecs - Chrome also includes licensed media codecs like AAC, H.264, and MP3 that Chromium doesn't. 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.

Chromium vs. Chrome: Which One Wins?

Since Chromium and Chrome are so similar, and each one has benefits, it's difficult to say which one actually wins in a head to head fight. For most regular users, Chrome is the better choice, but for more advanced users, those who place an especially high value on privacy, and some Linux users, Chromium may be the way to go.

Who Should Use Chrome?

Anyone who wants to download a web browser and have it just work, right out of the box, should use Chrome instead of Chromium. This is especially true if you use either Windows or Mac.

Chrome is extremely easy to download and install, doesn't require any configuration, and you can use it to view movies and listen to music on the internet, and even view websites that use Flash, without a lot of extra headaches.

Who Should Use Chromium?

Chromium is a better choice for more advanced users who don't care about getting their hands a little dirty, and anyone who likes Chrome but doesn't want to be tracked by Google. It's also a viable choice for users of some Linux distributions that offer a modified version of Chromium that comes closer to matching Chrome in terms of features.