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Google could take the 'Chrome' out of 'Chrome OS' very soon

Google could separate Chrome from Chrome OS very soon, enabling faster browser updates in theory.
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Published onAugust 2, 2023

Acer Chromebook Spin 714 right profile
Eric Zeman / Android Authority
TL;DR
  • Google could be very close to separating the Chrome browser from Chrome OS.
  • Code references suggest that this change could come to users soon.
  • This would allow the Chrome browser to be updated independently of Chrome OS.

We’ve known for the past few years now that Google was working to decouple the Chrome web browser from Chrome OS itself. This project, dubbed Lacros, would see Google ditch the integrated Chrome browser in favor of a standalone Linux-based Chrome browser.

Now, About Chromebooks (h/t: Chrome Unboxed) reports that this process could get underway for users soon. The outlet spotted several code changes suggesting that you won’t have to manually enable the standalone Lacros browser in Chrome OS 116. The outlet also noted that they could no longer manually enable the standalone browser on a device running the Chrome OS 116 beta.

It’s also worth noting that previous versions of Chrome OS let you run both the regular Chrome browser and the Lacros browser on one device. However, the outlet enabled a flag on the Chrome OS 116 beta to make Lacros the only browser on the device, and it indeed results in only one browser being present on the computer.

Why should we look forward to this?

Lenovo IdeaPad 5i Chromebook app dock Shelf
Kris Carlon / Android Authority

Taken together, this suggests Google is very close to decoupling Chrome from Chrome OS. And there are a few reasons why this is a big deal.

This move would allow the Chrome browser to be updated independently of Chrome OS. Browser updates currently require a full system update, so the new approach would allow for faster browser updates in theory.

Decoupling Chrome from Chrome OS could theoretically have positive security implications for older Chromebooks too. Devices that no longer receive system updates wouldn’t receive Chrome browser updates. But the new approach means that the browser can still be updated to patch flaws and introduce new features, even if you’re stuck on an old Chrome OS version.

In saying so, we’re guessing that this separated browser/OS experience requires a recent version of the platform in the first place. So you might not want to dig out your Chromebook from 2013 just yet.