Google declares Chrome stable for Mac, Linux

It took a year, but the long-awaited stable version of Chrome for Mac and Linux comes as Google upgrades the stable branch of the browser to version 5, which includes several HTML5-based features.

Just shy of a year after releasing the first rough developer's build of its Chrome browser for the Mac, Google announced stable versions of Chrome for Mac and Linux, and upgraded the stable release of the browser to version 5. Available for Windows, Mac, and Linux, Chrome v5.0.375.55 includes support for extensions and themes, improved bookmark management and synchronization, browser preferences syncing, and the most recent stable updates to Chrome's trailblazing JavaScript engine, V8.

Chrome's geolocation feature asks whether you want to permit a Web site to know your location.
Chrome's geolocation feature asks whether you want to permit a Web site to know your location. (Credit: Screenshot by Stephen Shankland/CNET)

The browser also offers several HTML5-based features, including geolocation APIs, App Cache, Web sockets, and attachment drag-and-drop in Gmail. Although Adobe's Flash player was integrated into the development versions of Chrome 5, it has been touch-and-go in the beta versions and has not yet made it to the stable release of Chrome 5. The developer's version is now on version 6.

Unlike previous stable versions of the browser, this is the first one that feels like it can stand on equal footing with Firefox. Although there are some anecdotal complaints about Chrome rendering Web pages improperly, these are the vast exception to the rule. The extension gallery has also now been around long enough to give it some depth, and offers more than 4,500 ways to tweak your browser experience. As with Firefox, overloading extensions will decrease browser stability in general.

In JavaScript-only benchmark tests from SunSpider, Chrome 5 performed about the same on a Mac as on a PC. On a Windows 7 x64 running on an Intel Core 2 Duo T6570 at 2.10 GHz, with 6GB of RAM, Chrome took an average of 413.13 milliseconds over three runs to complete the test. On a Mac running OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard on an Intel Core 2 Duo at 1.83 GHz, with 1GB RAM, the browser averaged 521.67 over three runs. Since Chrome landed on the browser scene in September 2008, its speed at page rendering has been its biggest selling point. It's now arguable that Chrome is the fastest browser out there, with increasingly tough competition from Opera, and Firefox's nightly builds on the horizon, but there's no doubt that it continues to be the driving force in accelerating browser page-load times.

The Mac version will only work on Intel-based Macs running OS X 10.5 Leopard or later. Somewhat annoyingly, Google will automatically upgrade Mac beta users to the stable version. Since there's no Chrome Channel Changer for Mac, you'll have to download the beta installer again to use that version. However, Mac users do finally get a full-screen mode, which had been previously unavailable in the beta.

There were also multiple security fixes introduced in Chrome 5, including two high-level repairs. One corrected possible URL bar spoofing from unload event handlers, and the other addressed incorrect JavaScript execution in extensions.

For users who've been playing around with the dev and beta versions of Chrome, these changes aren't new. The developer's channel was even elevated to version 6 last week, although not much was new in it. But with Chrome finally on stable footing that allows it to compete on all three major platforms, users shouldn't be surprised to see heightened efforts from Google to expand Chrome's user base.