After 15 releases, Google Chrome goes gold

Posted by Wolfgang Gruener

Mountain View (CA) – That was quick: Google surprised web users today with releasing the first final versions of its web browser. “We have removed the beta label as our goals for stability and performance have been met but our work is far from done,” Sundar Pichai, Google vice president of product management, announced today. Among the improvements: More speed.

Google’s beta phases can last years and no one really cares. So if Google approves the removal of the beta label after just one hundred days, it may be something special and something important.

The Chrome web browser was updated to version 1.0.154.36 earlier today. According to Google, the software has matured enough since its initial release on September 1 to justify this move. The company says Chrome now starts up much faster and loads page much quicker: “Since the first beta, the V8 JavaScript engine runs 1.4 times faster on the SunSpider benchmark and 1.5 times faster on the V8 benchmark — and there is more speed to come,” Google said.

Critical bugs have been fixed, including glitches relating to video and audio playback. There are also a few new features, such as a bookmark manager and privacy controls. It is unclear at this time what improvements version 1.0 offers vs. the previous 0.4 versions. At least as far as the Acid3 web compatibility test is concerned, Chrome still scores 79/100 (like the beta versions) and is behind Firefox, Opera and Safari.

We previously reported that Google was much more active updating its browser in recent weeks. There were 14 product updates since September 1, but it appeared that the gaps between those updates were getting shorter lately – and the accelerated update cycle clearly attracted attention and market share. Chrome hit a market share of more than 1% shortly after its initial release, but dropped into the 0.70% neighborhood by the end of October, according to NetApplications.

Chrome’s share has been climbing steadily since then and hit 1.0% again on December 6. Chrome’s market share tends to be higher on weekends; during the week, the browser’s share is at about 0.9%.

These numbers compare to about 0.75% held by Microsoft’s Internet Explorer 8 Beta (1 and 2) and about 0.70% of Opera browsers.        

Google said Chrome currently has more than 10 million active users around the world (on all seven continents.