Google Adds a Little Sparkle to Chrome for Linux

Google has updated the beta version of its Chrome for Linux with a variety of fixes designed to make the browser more reliable, the company announced Thursday.

Version 5.0.307.7 of Chrome for Linux addresses several bugs that were problematic in the previous version. One fix, for example, changes an out of memory (OOM) killer mechanism so that it terminates runaway tabs before it closes the browser when memory is low.

The upgrade was released in tandem with a similar update to the Mac version that adds extensions, bookmark sync and other features that had previously been absent on that platform.

Better Support for Complex Text

“We’ve been adding many of the features that were missing on the Mac, and working hard on making Google Chrome on both platforms more reliable,” wrote the Chrome team’s Mark Larson in the announcement. “We’ve spent a lot of time making plug-ins like Adobe Flash Player more reliable.”

The Chrome for Linux beta supports Debian, Ubuntu, Fedora and openSUSE. It was first released in December along with the Mac version, both trailing the Windows version by more than a year.

Also added to the Mac version are a bookmark manager, a task manager and a cookie manager. Fixes in the Mac version add support for pinch-to-zoom capabilities, for example.

Other enhancements in the latest upgrade to the Linux version, meanwhile, include improved performance on Web sites that use custom fonts and better support for complex text such as in Hebrew, Arabic and Hindi. Improvements in GTK theme mode, on the other hand, mean that it now uses system colors in more places, such as highlights and scroll bars.

GTK, or GIMP Toolkit, is a cross-platform widget toolkit for creating graphical user interfaces.

‘Welcome’ Improvements

Though the improvements included are “actually relatively minor,” they’re still “welcome because the reliability of the browser on the Linux platform has been down of late,” RedMonk analyst Stephen O’Grady told LinuxInsider.

What’s particularly interesting about the announcement, however, “is the fact that features such as extensions are appearing in Linux before they do on the Mac,” O’Grady added.

In fact, Chrome on Linux “seems to be accelerating,” he asserted. “It still lags Windows, but is ahead of the Mac as mentioned above, and it’s really not too far behind.”

‘The Timing Is Indicative’

When Chrome originally came out, 451 Group analyst Jay Lyman wrote a blog post on why it didn’t seem to make sense that the browser was only for Windows.

“I guess I figured a company such as Google that is heavily using Linux and employs large numbers of Linux developers should be able to come up with a Linux version alongside the Windows release,” Lyman told LinuxInsider.

Of course, “the timing is also indicative of how the Chrome browser is intended to compete primarily with Internet Explorer on the many Windows PCs out there,” he added.

‘Continued Traction for Chrome’

Now that improved versions of Chrome for Mac and Linux are beginning to appear, “it will be interesting to see the impact on Safari and Firefox,” Lyman said.

Indeed, in a year-end report released last month, market researcher Net Applications found that Chrome had already edged past Apple’s Safari to take third place in the browser market.

Chrome now accounts for 4.63 percent of the market, Net Applications found, while Microsoft’s Internet Explorer holds 62.69 percent, Mozilla Firefox claims 24.61 percent and Safari accounts for 4.46 percent.

“I expect we’ll see some movement and continued traction for Chrome,” Lyman predicted, “but also response from the other browser developers and communities.”

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