What Is Chromium?

The best browser you've never heard of.

Chromium is the open source project that underpins Google's Chrome browser. Since the project is open-source, both Google and others are able to build on and use the Chromium source code. In fact, anyone can download, compile, and tinker with the source code for Chromium.

As a web browser, Chromium is inherently less stable than Chrome, which means it crashes more often and can exhibit other types of undesirable behavior. However, it is compatible with Chrome browser extensions and offers a very similar user experience without submitting to any invasive information-gathering from Google.

How is Chromium Related to Chrome?

Screenshots of Chrome and Chromium
Chromium and Chrome look and feel a lot alike because Chrome is based on Chromium.

Chromium and Chrome are very closely related. In very simple terms, Chrome is based almost entirely on Chromium. When Google releases a new version of Chrome, they take stable code from the Chromium project, and they add their own proprietary code to implement features like automatic updates.

In this way, Chrome is essentially Chromium with some extra features, and Chromium is the primordial soup from which Chrome emerged.

What is the Purpose of Chromium?

The purpose of the open-source Chromium project is to provide the source code for Google's Chrome browser, which isn't open source. This allows Google to receive input from outside sources and iterate on new ideas very quickly. In fact, there are several new builds of the Chromium browser released every single day.

Who Uses Chromium, and Why Do They Use It?

Chrome store viewed with Chromium
Chromium is compatible with extensions from the official Chrome store.

There are few different reasons to use Chromium instead of, or in addition to, Chrome and other browsers. The first is that developers need to use it to see how it works, how it needs to be tweaked, and how well updates perform. If you are not a developer, you can also use Chromium for the same purpose by reporting bugs.

A major reason why non-developers use Chromium is that it provides a similar browsing experience without any overt connection to Google. Chromium does not collect any of your information and deliver it to Google, so some users are willing to trade stability for privacy.

In addition to working like Chrome, but without intrusion from Google, Chromium also has the benefit of working with regular Google extensions. That means you can usually transition from Chrome to Chromium, install all of your favorite extensions, and not skip a beat.

Which Browsers Rely on Chromium?

The main web browser that relies on Chromium source code is Chrome, but there are a number of others that are built on the same platform These browsers take the Chromium source code and add their own proprietary features and interfaces to create a different user experience.

Here are some of the more popular browsers that are built on Chromium:

  • Opera - This browser has been around for decades, and it used to be based on its own proprietary code. Since 2013, it has relied on Blink, which is part of Chromium.
  • Yandex - This is a Russian browser from the search engine of the same name, but it's based on the same Blink engine that powers Chrome, Opera, and other Chromium-based browsers.
  • Vivaldi - This Chromium-based browser is also a spiritual successor to Opera, as it was created by a former Opera CEO to add back features that had been removed from that browser.
  • Brave - This browser was developed by the co-founders of Mozilla but is based on Chromium. The selling point is that Brave removes intrusive ads and prevents sites from tracking user behavior without requiring any plugins. It also includes an option to pay your favorite content creators in lieu of viewing ads.
  • Epic - This is another privacy-focused browser built on Chromium. It's always in privacy mode, so it removes cookies and clears your cache and browsing history every time you close a browsing session.

Where and How to Get Chromium On Your Computer

If you're willing to risk some stability, Chromium is a nifty browsing experience, and it's easier to install than you may think. While advanced users do have the option of downloading and compiling the source code manually, the rest of us can download and run a fresh build of Chromium with just a few clicks.

You can download Chromium yourself with a couple of clicks.

Here's the easiest way to get your hands on the Chromium web browser:

  1. In any browser, go to download-chromium.appspot.com.

    There are other ways to download and compile Chromium builds manually, but this is the easiest way for a regular user to get their hands on the browser. Visit chromium.org for more detailed information about how to access source code for Chromium and Chromium OS.

  2. At the bottom of the page, next to SUPPORTED PLATFORMS, select the appropriate version of Chromium for your operating system.

  3. Select downloadchromium.

  4. Once the download has finished, select and unzip the compressed file to open it.

    If you are unfamiliar with compressed folders and files, check out our guides to unzipping files on Mac, unzipping files on Windows, or extracting files on Linux.

  5. Locate and select the appropriate file for your operating system. Windows users, for example, need to unzip the chrome-win32.zip file and select Chrome.exe. Mac users can simply select the Chromium application icon to open it.

When you launch Chromium, you will find that it looks and feels a lot like the Chrome browser. Accordingly, you may be tempted to make a permanent switch, but it's important to note that raw builds of Chromium are not stable. If you use your web browser for important work, be aware that it may crash at any time.

Does Chromium Have Security Issues?

Chromium has all of the same security strengths and weaknesses as the more stable Chrome browser. Since Chromium is updated far more frequently, it receives security patches before Chrome does.

The issue with Chromium is that it lacks any kind of automatic update feature. Browsers like Chrome, Firefox, and Edge all prompt the user to update on a regular update. In some cases, the browser may even download and update automatically after enough time has passed.

Chromium relies on the user to download updates. So even though the Chromium source code receives security patches and bug fixes before Chrome, it's possible for a user to continue running a vulnerable version of Chromium without knowing it.

If you manually update your copy of Chromium on a regular basis, then it's no less secure than Chrome.

Is Chromium a Virus?

When you download Chromium from a reputable source, like the locations provided in this article, then it is in no way a virus or malware. Even though the Chromium project is open source, only trusted developers are allowed to submit changes to the source code.

The issue that many users run into is that bad actors take the Chromium source code and combine it with malware or other malicious code. If you accidentally install a fake version of Chromium, a relatively benign result may provide you with a browser that looks like Chrome on the surface but injects obnoxious pop-up ads where they don't belong.

More serious issues include keylogging, data theft, or including your computer in a malicious botnet.

How to Get Rid of Chromium

If you downloaded Chromium from a reputable source, and you have a legitimate copy, then uninstalling it is a straightforward process. The general procedure is exactly the same as it is for uninstalling other programs on your computer.

To uninstall Chromium on Windows 10 follow these steps:

  1. Press the Windows key + S.

  2. Type uninstall.

  3. Select Add or remove programs.

  4. Locate Chromium and select Uninstall.

    Uninstall Chromium in Windows
    Uninstalling Chromium is easy, unless you have a fake version.
  5. The program will be completely removed from your system. Remember that you may need to restart your computer once the uninstall is complete.

If you don't see Chromium in the Add or remove programs list, and you downloaded Chromium from download-chromium.appspot.com, deleting the files you downloaded will remove Chromium. If you obtained Chromium from another source, or you don't remember installing it at all, you may have a malware-infested version.

To uninstall Chromium on a Mac follow these steps:

  1. Select Finder on your dock.

  2. Locate and right-click Chromium. (In most systems it will be found in the Applications folder.)

  3. Select Move to Trash.

In cases where you are unable to delete or install Chromium, you may have malware disguised as Chromium or a version of Chromium that has been modified with malicious code.

If you suspect that you have an infected version of Chromium, we can help you remove that malware.

Is There a Safer Way to Experience Chromium Features Early?

Chrome Canary alternative to Chromium
Chrome Canary isn't updated as regularly as Chromium, but it does update automatically.

Chromium is perfectly safe to use if you download it from a reputable source and proactively update it on a regular basis. If you prefer the safety of automatic updates and an official Google download, then Chrome Canary is almost as cutting edge as Chromium without giving up those automatic security features.

Chrome Canary sees frequent updates, so it gets new features, new bugs, and new security patches more quickly than regular Chrome. Since it's still Chrome, it gets those updates automatically, so you don't need to worry about performing manual updates on a regular basis. You can download the Canary version of Chrome directly from Google.

Like Chromium, Canary is unstable. Do not use Chromium or Canary for important tasks, as your work or progress may be lost at any time due to an unexpected crash.

  • Who owns Chromium?

    Chromium is owned, developed, and maintained by Google. Google created Chrome and Chromium, which both became available to the public in 2008.

  • Can I trust Chromium?

    Yes. Like Chrome, users have full control over what information is shared online. And, as long as you keep Chromium up-to-date, you'll have the latest security patches.

  • Is Chromium better than Chrome?

    It depends. Chromium and Chrome offer nearly identical experiences, but Chromium receives updates from Google before Chrome does. However, unlike Chrome updates, Chromium updates aren't automatic, so neglecting updates can leave your computer vulnerable to malware.

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