What Is Chromium?

The best browser you've never heard of

Chromium web browser on a laptop
Chromium is a cutting edge web browser that fuels the progress of mainstream browsers like Chrome.

Bogdan Vija / EyeEm / Getty

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 that Chrome emerges from.

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, figure out what needs to be tweaked, and to see how well different changes perform. You can also use Chromium for this same basic purpose if you aren't a developer by reporting bugs.

The main reason that most regular users install Chromium is that it provides a similar browsing experience to Chrome without the 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 also constructed on the same basic building blocks. 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 based on 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 Mozilla, but it's based on Chromium. The selling point is that Brave removes intrusive ads and prevents sites from tracking user behavior without needing 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 proactively removes cookies and clears your cache and browsing history every time you shut it down.

    Where and How to Get Chromium On Your Computer

    screenshot of the chromium download page
    You can download Chromium yourself with a couple of clicks.

    If you're willing to play a little fast and loose with the stability of your web browser, installing Chromium is easier than you might 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.

    Here's the easiest way to get your hands on the Chromium web browser to check it out for yourself:

    1. Navigate to download-chromium.appspot.com.
      1. Note: 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. Select your operating system where it says SUPPORTED PLATFORMS.
    3. Click the download chromium button.
    4. Unzip the compressed file and open it.
      1. Tip: 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 click on the appropriate file for your operating system, e.g. Windows users need to unzip the chrome-win32.zip file and then click on Chrome.exe.
    Important: When you launch Chromium, you will find that it looks and feels a whole lot like the Chrome browser that you're probably already familiar with. You may even be tempted to switch over entirely, but it's important to note that raw builds of Chromium are not stable. If you use your web browser to do actual work, or do anything else important, you need to be aware that it could 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 actually receives security patches before Chrome.

    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 as passed.

    Chromium relies on the user to download, or compile, fresh versions on their own. So even though the Chromium source code receives security patches and bug fixes before Chrome, it's entirely possible for a user to continue running a vulnerable version of Chromium without even realizing 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 a completely legitimate browser that is in no way a virus or malware. Even though the Chromium project is open source, only trusted developers are allows 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 might 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, and even including your computer in a malicious botnet.

    How to Get Rid of Chromium

    uninstall chromium
    Uninstalling Chromium is easy, unless you have a fake version.

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

    Uninstall Chromium on Windows 10:

    1. Press the Windows key + S.
    2. Type uninstall.
    3. Click Add or remove programs.
    4. Locate Chromium and click Uninstall.
    Note: If you don't see Chromium in the Add or remove programs list, and you downloaded Chromium yourself 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.

    Uninstall Chromium on Mac:

    1. Click Finder on your dock.
    2. Locate and right-click Chromium.
    3. Click Move to Trash.

    In cases where you find that 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 may have an infected version of Chromium, check out our guide to removing 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.

    The Canary version of Chrome can be downloaded directly from Google.

    Warning: 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.