It's Official: Google Chrome Exits Beta

Google has officially announced that its Chrome browser is no longer a beta version and made a full version of the product available for download.

An update completed Thursday -- the program's 15th since its inception in early September -- is now available without a beta label attached. The news follows speculation started by an interview with a company executive just one day ago.

"We have removed the beta label as our goals for stability and performance have been met, but our work is far from done," an announcement by Product Management VP Sundar Pichai and Engineering Director Linus Upson states.

The update will be automatically installed within the next few days for current Chrome users.

Chrome Changes

Chrome programmers say they have fixed a multitude of bugs that plagued the browser's early days, including video and audio glitches and other plug-in performance-related issues. Chrome's V8 JavaScript engine is also said to have grown 1.5 times faster since the software's first beta release. Recent speed tests by PC World sister publication Computerworld did, in fact, find Chrome's performance to be faster than the recently released Firefox 3.1 beta 2's TraceMonkey JavaScript alternative, even before Thursday's updated version.

Other improvements in the first full Chrome release include improved bookmarking options that make importing and exporting saved sites simpler, as well as a retooled privacy control panel within the program for more user-friendly access.

Atypical Timing

An independent analysis released Wednesday did find Chrome to be the buggiest browser when compared to recent Firefox and IE betas. That study, however, focused on Chrome's latest beta -- not the new full release -- so some of the issues identified may have now been fixed.

Still, taking a product out of beta this quickly is anything but ordinary for Google. Gmail, which launched in 2004, is still listed as a beta. Google Finance, Google Health, Google Docs, and Google Blog Search all debuted long before Chrome and are still in beta. Yet Chrome, just 100 days after its birth, is now a full-fledged release.

The fierce competition among the big browsers in beta may be one reason for the rush. After the initial excitement surrounding Chrome's introduction, its market share quickly plummeted. Even with recent fluctuations, most statistics suggest Chrome still holds less than a single percentage of overall browser usage.

What's Next

Google has previously indicated it was waiting to start its major marketing push until after the completion of Chrome's beta phase. The company has been planning to "throw [its] weight behind" the product as soon as a full release was ready, executives have said. Rumors have even swirled of possible deals that would offer Chrome as preinstalled software on new PCs in the near future.

Other progress expected for Chrome includes the addition of Mac and Linux support, as well as expanded features such as autofill form support and RSS integration. Google also says it plans to work on its extensions platform for developers in the coming months.

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