Chromium is an open-source browser project designed for security and speed. It is a powerful and malleable tool that lives at the heart of popular Internet browsers such as Google Chrome, Opera, Vivaldi, Epic, Yandex, and Brave. Chromium's source code serves as the backbone for these browsers, and serves as a raw powerhouse that lets users take the reigns and custom build a better browser.
The roots of the modern browsing experience
The primary reason for downloading Chromium is that it will provide a very similar browsing experience to that of Google Chrome, the most impressive (and best known) fruit borne from Chromium's branches. Aside from that connection, Chromium is not inherently tied to Google. Unlike the Google search engine or browser, Chromium will not collect your personal information.
Google Chrome does Chromium's heavy lifting
Put in the most simple way, the Google Chrome browser is based very closely on Chromium. Chromium in a way is like an unrefined version of Google Chrome. So much so, in fact, that when Google releases updated versions of Chrome the stable code is imported directly from Chromium. They then add their own proprietary code to add convenient features such as automatic updates or browsing preferences.
By comparison Chromium does not auto-update, but it's for a good reason: The main appeal of Chromium to begin with is that it's more susceptible to being molded by its user. An auto-update runs the risk of removing or redefining any source code that users have manually altered. Think of using Chromium as choosing to manually install software, or driving a vehicle with a stick shift.
The Google Chrome OS also includes certain binary packages that are not allowed to be included in the Chromium project. This aspect can make the difference if you're on the fence about which browsing experience is better for you. Some of the more common utilities in question are 3G Cellular support, Adobe Flash, or (in some cases) a DisplayLink Manager for video over USB.
Chromium vs Google Chrome
Without Google monitoring your activity you can enjoy a browsing experience devoid of the trackers, cookies, or intrusive banners that come with using Chrome. The catch, however, is that you will also be missing out on the protection and stability of Google Chrome. For many users this is a price worth paying, though in the case of privacy most would opt instead for Brave or Firefox.
Chromium does have one leg up over Firefox or Safari, though: Since Chrome is built on the tools and source code of Chromium, using the raw Chromium browsers means all your favorite Google extensions will still work. Once Chromium is downloaded, installed, and up and running, you'll be able to seamlessly integrate these extensions along with the knowledge that Google isn't looking over your shoulder.
The choice between Google Chrome versus Chromium depends on whether you value convenience or personalization. Chrome optimizes its hardware so that the end user gets the benefit of ease of use, enhanced performance, and superior security. Chromium is supported by the open source community, and relies on the talents of the user to tackle any security issues. Such is the price of freedom!
The freedom and accessibility of Chromium comes at a cost, and the biggest drawback is an overall loss in stability. While Chromium's aesthetic is very akin to that of Google Chrome, the tenuous, constantly evolving nature of Chromium means that the build you install is likely to encounter errors and suffer instability. Crashes are frequent, Chromium should be used with caution for any long-term work.
Chromium lacks the stability of Chrome, but oddly enough it's actually the better browser for security. Since Chromium source code updates more frequently, any security patches that go to Chrome must first go through Chromium as a first line of testing. The caveat is that this makes it possible for users to be running a version of Chromium that's still vulnerable.
The only way to keep your version of Chromium up-to-date is to manually install these patches regularly. Unlike Chrome, Firefox, or Edge, Chromium will not auto-update privacy or security settings - as with every other part of the Chromium experience, doing this is up to the user. You won't even receive a prompt to tell you that a newer version is available.
If you regularly download, update, and compile new versions of the browser on your own, then Chromium can be every bit as secure as Google Chrome. If that sounds like too much micromanagement but you still like the idea of new builds coming in on the regular, then Chrome Canary is a great alternative that serves as a solid middle ground.
Chrome Canary has all the speed and power of Google Chrome, but benefits from the more frequent refreshes and updates that Chromium users enjoy. Any time that a new build goes through Chromium, Canary automatically adds all the new features and security patches. It's like the perks of Chromium without the hassle of having to manually download updates all the time.
The beauty of Chromium is in its purity; it's like a Google Chrome prototype in the best and worst way. 'Best' in that it doesn't seek to put its hooks in you and track your every move on the Internet, but 'worst' in that if you don't know what you're doing it can quickly snowball into a mess of problems you don't know how to fix.
Its open source nature means that anyone can download, tweak, and alter Chromium to suit their needs, and if you're the type who enjoys tinkering with source code you'll find few options better than Chromium. Still, exercise caution and patience if you choose to use Chromium. It is not as reliably stable as other browsers, and is more a customizable foundation than a complete browser.
One of the selling points of Chromium is that it's constantly being refreshed and retooled as new bug fixes and updates are made available. Some sites have also begun posting pre-built versions of the Chromium OS. Some of these already include commonly downloaded plugins (such as Adobe Flash) which may speed up your Chromium setup. Be aware, however, that these downloads are not all verified by Google.