Google’s Chrome browser was launched in September 2008 and is now dominant in the desktop web browser market, with approximately 1 in 4 Internet users.
It is based off the open source Chromium browser, also developed by Google and, Up until today, Chrome for Android differed from the desktop version regarding the codebase, which wasn’t open source, meaning that the code for the app wasn’t publicly available for other developers to view, modify, and build upon.
In a post in the /r/Android subreddit, a Google Chrome for Android engineer announced that the mobile browser is now “almost entirely open source” with the bulk of its code made available in the open source Chromium repository just like the desktop version. To explain the use of the word “almost” in layman’s terms, Google saves certain features (sucha as those which communicate with Google account) for the commercial version of Chromium, the Chrome browser.
Since Google’s main revenue comes from a very specific ad targeting, from information collected through its services, they obviously want to keep its control over the technologies (Search, Gmail, etc) powering that data collection. Copyright and intellectual property, or how Google protects the technologies that make it money, are antithesis to the concept of open source, which is to share everything in order to be used freely. Since the browser itself doesn’t generate income, by open-sourcing it Google gets the benefit of free development resources from community members, through improvements in areas like load times and rendering capabilities, for example.
Now that Chrome for Android has been open-sourced through a Chromium version, developers can create new mobile browsers, plugins and customizations, with their own unique features and improve the web browsing experience using the same solid codebase powering Chrome and 1-in-4 desktop Internet users window to the web. The desktop version of the browser already powers popular alternatives like Opera and Vivaldi, so it can expect some new features available for mobile very soon.