Most modern operating systems now natively support 64-bit processors, but even though many developers now offer 64-bit versions of their applications, browsers have generally lacked behind this move (though there are a number of unofficial 64-bit versions of Firefox, for example). Google, however, is releasing its first 64-bit version of Chrome today into the highly experimental Developer and Canary channels for Windows, which puts it on the road to a potential mainstream release later this year. It’s unclear when Google will release this 64-bit version for the Mac.
For the longest time, whenever somebody brought up the question of where the 64-bit versions of most browsers were, people would answer that there isn’t a real advantage to this change anyway. Google, however, clearly answers this charge with today’s release. Google engineer Will Harris today explains that this change brings a significant speed improvement with it, for example.
“64-bit allows us to take advantage of the latest processor and compiler optimizations, a more modern instruction set, and a calling convention that allows more function parameters to be passed quickly by registers,” Harris writes. “As a result, speed is improved, especially in graphics and multimedia content, where we see an average 25% improvement in performance.”
Google also argues that its tests have shown that the 64-bit version of Chrome has been far more crash-resistant than its 32-bit counterpart. Specifically, the renderer process now only crashes half as often as before, according to Google’s own data.
Security also benefits from a 64-bit implementation. 64-bit apps can take advantage of built-in security features like High Entropy ASLR — a way to prevent exploits by putting key data areas of a program into random parts of the computer’s memory so attackers can never know exactly where to find it — on Windows 8, for example.