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The Computer Corner

Chromium: Google’s Programming Code That Launched a Thousand Browsers

By Charles Miller

Google’s Chrome browser is now the most used web browser software in the world. Last week, I had some extremely critical things to say about the dishonest and deceitful marketing tactics Google employed to obtain that number one status. I want to balance that this week by giving credit where credit is due.

A decade ago, Google created two projects, Chrome and Chromium. Chrome is Google’s web browser you probably have on your computer or phone now; Chromium is the underlying computer code. After spending millions to develop Chromium, Google then proceeded to release it under an open-source license that permits anyone to examine the code and use it for free.

That stands in strong contrast to other web browsers.

Apple’s Safari is proprietary, and its source code is secret.

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Likewise, Microsoft’s software is proprietary and its source code is a carefully guarded secret. But Chromium is not secret, meaning that any knowledgeable computer programmer can examine the code to verify what it does.

For computer programmers, having Chromium available means it is no longer necessary to reinvent the wheel. Anyone can use Chromium as a starting point to create a new browser and concentrate efforts on developing new features and other improvements.

Google Chrome is Chromium to which features that integrate with other Google products, such as Gmail, have been added. Google also adds spyware to track and report on users’ online activities, and all of that tracking stuff that Google adds to Chrome is secret.

“Brave” is another browser that started off with the same Chromium source code but went in the opposite direction, adding features to block spyware and features to protect users against being tracked online. Among the other browsers based on Chromium are Amazon Silk, Opera, Torch, and Vivaldi.

Microsoft spent millions writing the code for its all-new Edge browser, then this year announced it was abandoning that investment in favor of using Chromium. This decision is huge! I liken this to the day in the nineteenth century when all the American railroads got together and agreed to use the same track gauge. With that agreement, it became possible for trains to run coast to coast on the tracks of different railroads.

So, thanks to Google, the information technology world has a well-written, nonsecret Internet browser code base called Chromium that even Microsoft wants to use. Since the code is public, nobody can tamper with it without others noticing. Because it is developed in a collaborative public manner, anyone—including you—can suggest an improvement. All this is because Google magnanimously decided to give Chromium away for the greater benefit of all who use the Internet. In this one case, Google is living up to its new company motto: “Do the right thing.”

Charles Miller is a freelance computer consultant, a frequent visitor to San Miguel since 1981, and now practically a full-time resident. He may be contacted at 044 415 101 8528 or email FAQ8 (at) SMAguru.com.

 

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