Google released Chrome for Mac OS X and Linux on Thursday -- but only in rough developer preview versions that the company warned are works in progress.
"In order to get more feedback from developers, we have early developer channel versions of Google Chrome for Mac OS X and Linux, but, whatever you do, please don't download them," Google product managers Mike Smith and Karen Grunberg said in a blog post, evidently trying to employ a little reverse psychology. "Unless of course you are a developer or take great pleasure in incomplete, unpredictable and potentially crashing software."
Until now, Google's open-source browser has been a Windows-only product, and some Mac and Linux users have been clamouring for their own version. Google coders have been working to rebuild some Chrome components, such as its graphical interface and its sandbox that isolates different processes from each other, to move beyond just Windows.
Google offers three versions of Chrome: stable, beta and developer preview. The Mac OS X and Linux versions fall into this last category, the most buggy and least tested and complete.
The Flash plug-in won't work, for example, so forget watching YouTube videos. Printing and bookmark management aren't implemented yet. And privacy controls aren't fully baked. Google said there are more than 400 bugs that need to be stomped.
Even though only released for the experimental crowd, the new versions are a big step forward for the browser. Firstly, the versions will plug into Google's auto-update service that automatically downloads new versions. Secondly, the products bear the Google Chrome brand, not just the Chromium label of the only incarnations available until now. And thirdly, a much larger audience will be helping Google debug the code through automated crash reports.
Not everyone can try the Mac and Linux versions, though. Google spokesman Eitan Bencuya said the Linux version supports only the Debian and Ubuntu incarnations of Linux, and the Mac OS X version only works on Intel-based Macs.
We gave the Mac OS X version a 40-minute whirl and were delighted to find one of our favourite Windows features -- fast launch. Pages loaded reasonably quickly, too, although a few times the browser seemed to hang while loading one.
Google isn't saying when the new versions will make it to beta status, or become stable. "It's unclear. This is a first step," Bencuya said.
According to Net Applications statistics, Internet Explorer remains the king of browsers, with 65.5 per cent market share in May 2009. Firefox has 22.5 per cent, Safari 8.4, and Chrome has edged up to 1.8 per cent since its launch in September.