Here’s some bittersweet news for those of you eagerly awaiting Google’s Chrome browser for Mac or Linux: tonight Google is publicly releasing developer versions of the Chrome browser for both operating systems, and anyone will be able to download them. Unfortunately you won’t be able to ditch Safari or Firefox just yet — these builds are not close to stable, and you won’t be able to use them on a day to day basis. But you’ll still be able to put something in your Dock that says Chrome, so that’s something, right?
For those who haven’t been paying close attention to the progress of Google’s browser on platforms other than Windows, you’ve actually been able to download builds of the open-source project behind Chrome, which is called Chromium, for quite a while. In our testing these builds have proven to be quite speedy, somewhat stable, but nowhere near ready for prime time — they don’t yet support plugins (including Flash), and there are a number of options that you’d expect out of a browser that simply aren’t there yet.
This developer version of Chrome is essentially a rebranded version of the Chromium project, and doesn’t represent a much-improved new branch that Google has quietly been working on. It still doesn’t support plugins, and there are still some other missing key features, like printing.
My initial impression to tonight’s news was that, while the stable version of Chrome might be a little ways away, tonight’s release might indicate that we’re at least getting close. Unfortunately, it still sounds like we have a while to wait (or at least, Google doesn’t want to get our hopes up early). This is the first part of Google’s three step release channel, which begins with the Developer version, continues to Beta, and finishes up with a build the company is comfortable deeming ‘Stable’. We’re at step one.
Google’s spokesman went as far as to say that the company doesn’t want us to download this version of Chrome unless we’re ready for frequent crashes and a generally not-so-great experience. But if you’re looking to start testing the evolving browser under the name ‘Chrome’ rather than ‘Chromium’, then have at it.