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Saucy Salamander Could Ship with Chromium

Ubuntu 13.10 is hoping to ship with Chromium as the default web-browser in place of Mozilla Firefox.

In a discussion on the subject at the current Ubuntu Developer Summit developers expressed broad support for the change, saying that they are “leaning towards” supporting such a switch.

Ubuntu ‘s Desktop Manager, Jason Warner, who says the switch ‘feels like the right decision for the general user’, shared the main rationale behind it:

  • Google Chrome has ‘leapfrogged’ Firefox in usage
  • There is ‘clear demand’ for it from users; supplying Chromium would meet expectations
  • Switching to webkit-based browser offers consistency across convergent platforms

Warner stressed that updated versions of Firefox will remain readily available to install from the Ubuntu Software Center.

‘Concerns Addressed’

The session also saw developers tackle concerns and complaints that have prevented Chromium becoming the default browser in the past. Security, PC support, user-preferences, and methods of delivering updated packages were all touched upon.

One commonly raised ‘issue’ is that of extensions, or rather lack thereof, available the open-source browser in comparison to Firefox. Chad Miller, maintainer of Chromium in Ubuntu, explained that the Chrome Webstore offers a massive choice already, adding that “if it’s recent code, it’s almost certain someone has built it for Chrome.”

Switching to Chromium will also allow Unity Web Apps to appear in so-called ‘chromeless’ windows. At present the Firefox implementation of Unity Web Apps opens in a ‘new tab’ rather than a chromless window).

Sadly for those using PowerPC versions of Ubuntu Chromium’s V8 rendering engine is not available, meaning Firefox would have to ship in its place.

A final decision on whether to default to Chromium will be taken following further consultation with the Ubuntu community in the coming weeks.

Key Points:

  • Developers debating switch to Chromium
  • Chormium ‘more popular’ than Firefox, as well as more performant
  • Switch would create ‘consistency’ between Ubuntu Touch & Ubuntu desktop as both use Webkit
  • Unity Web Apps will be able to use Chromium ‘Chromeless’ mode
  • Stable releases of Chromium will be released as they’re available, much like Firefox
  • Firefox will remain updated and available to install from Software Center
  • Final decision to be taken after feedback with community
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