Google Chrome Builds Explained (and How To Experiment with Builds without the Risk)

Paul Lilly

So we already told you that Google just pushed out a pre-release version of its upcoming Chrome 8 browser to its developer channel, but what does that even mean? Do you have to be a developer to use it? And how does that differ from Google's beta channel?

Let's answer those questions by having a look at the various channels, including Chrome's relatively new Canary channel, which offers all the fun without the risk.

Stable Channel

Unless you installed an experimental version of Chrome, you're subscribed to Google's Stable Channel. It's basically just Chrome in it's finished form, and as the name implies, it's stable. It's also the last channel to receive new features, the upshot being that they've been fully cooked and are ready for mass consumption. By installing Chrome, you're automatically subscribed to this channel.

Beta Channel

The Beta channel gives you access to experimental features that are destined for a final build, but may lack a bit of polish or simply need more testing before kicking them out to the general public. These builds tend to run fairly stable, but at the end of the day, it's still beta and shouldn't be used if rock-solid stability is your primary concern

Dev Channel

Google doesn't call this the Alpha channel, but that's essentially what it is. Developer builds give you an early look at upcoming features, many of which are experimental and may or may not make the final cut. These features also tend to be rough around the edges, meaning you'll sometimes have to get your hands dirty with command lines to enable them. In our experience, Google's developer builds aren't nearly as crash prone as you might think, but still shouldn't be used in mission critical environments.

Canary Build

A relatively new channel, the Canary build is updated more often than even the developer builds. But unique to the Canary build, this version installs in a separate directory, so it doesn't muck with the settings of whatever other version of Chrome you have installed. It's really the best of all worlds. Because of its highly experimental nature, you can't configure it to run as your default browser, but you can run it alongside the Stable build and get a glimpse of what's coming down the pipeline and still be able to resort to a more stable build whenever you need it.

To subscribe to any of these channels/builds, head over to the Chromium landing and click the appropriate link. If you want to install Canary alongside your existing version of Chrome, you can grab it here .

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