Chrome dev too stable? Try new Chrome Canary

With a new fast-moving, developer-oriented version of Chrome, Google hopes to find trouble spots sooner. Canary runs alongside other versions of Chrome.

Stephen Shankland Former Principal Writer
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Stephen Shankland
2 min read
Chrome Canary is a faster-moving version of Google's browser geared for developers.
Chrome Canary is a faster-moving version of Google's browser geared for developers. Screenshot by Stephen Shankland/CNET

Google has released a fourth version of Chrome called Canary for those keen on the latest features but willing to put up with more bugs and crashes.

Chrome Canary installs alongside any of the three existing versions of Chrome--stable, beta, and developer, according to a mailing list message by Google programmer Huan Ren last week. That lets developers test different versions more easily on the same computer, although Canary is available only for Windows at present.

Perhaps more interesting to Chrome enthusiasts is that Google plans to update Canary more often than the developer release, new versions of which arrive roughly every two weeks.

"The canary usually updates more frequently than the Dev channel (higher risk of bustage), and we're working on making it update as often as we have successful nightly builds," said Mark Larson, "I recommend it for anyone who wants to help test the latest Chrome features. The data we get back from canary users--especially crash statistics--helps us find and fix regressions faster."

In other words, it's the canary in the coal mine--something that will indicate early signs of trouble.

While Chrome Canary could be updated as often as once a day, Google plans to release stable versions of Chrome more frequently as well. Stable versions have arrived roughly once a quarter, and Google wants to double that pace.

The next major version of Google's browser, Chrome 6, likely will arrive in beta form soon since developers recently froze the code base to stabilize it.

Chrome has steadily gained usage share since its first beta release in September 2008. With version 5, Chrome arrived in stable form for Mac OS X and Linux as well.

Google later this year plans to release a browser-based operating system called Chrome OS. Although it runs Linux under the hood, the applications run within the browser, one incarnation of the concept known as cloud computing.

Although Canary is installed in a separate area of a hard drive from what's already installed, it can behave similarly through Chrome's gradually expanding synchronization ability.

At present, Chrome can sync bookmarks, preferences, themes, form data, and most recently, extensions. Under development is syn for passwords and some browsing history.

The current Canary build is 6.0.472.0, the same version number as the Chrome developer build. However there are apparently some differences. For example, tab-to-search didn't work in my test on Canary.

Canary has a significant limitation besides just its availability only for Windows, though, as Chrome leader Darin Fisher asked on the mailing list: "One question: Why can't I make this be my default browser?"

Via the unofficial Google Operating System blog.