Wednesday, May 26, 2010
Google announced today the official release of Chrome 5 for Windows, Linux, and Mac OS X. It arrives less than a month after Google made the new version available through its beta channel. This release reflects Chrome's rapid pace of evolution and Google's strong commitment to advancing Web technology and performance.
Google has enhanced the browser's cloud synchronization framework, extending it to support browser preferences and themes in addition to bookmarks. Chrome 5 ships with the Flash plugin included by default, an addition that was made possible by Google's recent partnership with Adobe.
This release marks a significant milestone for the browser, because it is the first official stable release of Chrome for Mac and Linux. Chrome was previously only distributed for those platforms in the form of beta and developer builds.
"Since last December, we've been chipping away at bugs and building in new features to get the Mac and Linux versions caught up with the Windows version, and now we can finally announce that the Mac and Linux versions are ready for prime time," Google said in a statement on its official blog.
When Chrome was first launched in 2008, it was only available for the Windows operating system. Mac and Linux versions emerged the following year and quickly advanced towards parity with the Windows version.
Although building Chrome for Linux posed some early challenges, the developers were able to deliver an impressive port with native theming and a complete feature set. Chrome development now appears to be largely in sync across all three of the major operating systems. It seems likely that we can expect to see simultaneous cross-platform releases for subsequent versions.
Chrome and the open source Chromium variant are rapidly gaining traction on Linux and Mac OS X. Statistics from popular Linux websites such as OMG!Ubuntu show that Chrome and Chromium are collectively approaching almost 40 percent market share among Linux enthusiasts.
Chrome was a hot topic at the recent Ubuntu Developer Summit, which I attended earlier this month. The Ubuntu developer community elected to include Chromium as the default browser in the next major version of the Ubuntu Netbook Edition. The browser's excellent performance and highly responsive user interface make it an obvious choice for netbooks, but it won't displace Firefox yet as the default browser in the conventional desktop version of Ubuntu. One of Google's Chrome engineers attended the event and participated in the discussions.
Google intends to use Chrome as the centerpiece of its own Linux-based mobile operating system, which could potentially start appearing on devices later this year. The idea of a browser-centric Chrome OS seemed a bit far-fetched when it was first announced last year, but it's starting to look a lot more attractive as said browser matures.