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Google Chrome Leaves Beta

Josh Catone

Just over three months after launching their browser, Google has removed the beta tag from Chrome. This might be the quickest a Google product has dropped the beta from its moniker — Gmail, for example, was in beta for almost 3 years has been in beta for 4 years. “We have removed the beta label as our goals for stability and performance have been met but our work is far from done,” write Google’s Sundar Pichai, a VP of Product Management, and Engineering Director Linus Upson in a blog post today.

Though Chrome may be stable enough to drop the beta tag, the browser is still far from complete enough to be a truly viable competitor to other alternative browsers like Firefox and Safari. Chrome still lacks support for basic features like form autofill and RSS, and perhaps more crucially, has no official support for the Linux and Mac platforms.

Another major feature that Chrome currently lacks is extensions. Adding support for browser plugins is a priority, though, and a Google recently published a document that details their plans for extensions for the Chromium project (Chromium is the open source project behind Chrome). We predicted earlier this month that once Chrome adds extensions support, the browser will become instantly more attractive to early adopters and will start to pull more users away from Firefox.

Chrome’s share of the browser market is still tiny, but Google has not been shy about putting a download link on Google.com, even when the product was still in beta. With that kind of exposure, and with Chrome now proclaimed stable, Chrome could start to creep up from its current ~1% share (Google claims 10 million active users — including on Antarctica, apparently). That could be especially true once some of the feature we mentioned above make an appearance.

We noted earlier this week that Chrome is an important part of Google’s 3-pronged Web OS strategy. Along with Gears (offline data store) and Native Client (local CPU resources for web apps), Chrome gives Google a compelling platform for the delivery of web applications. In that respect, Chrome is less an attack on Firefox and Internet Explorer, and more of a thrust at Windows. Google is pushing for a computing future in which applications are delivered from the cloud and the computer operating system doesn’t really matter. Whether the client is running Windows, Mac, Linux or something else is irrelevant for Google’s Web OS vision.