Chrome Canary is the most experimental release channel for the Google Chrome web browser. It can be prone to crashes, but it’s generally safe to use on your PC or Android phone.
Google Chrome is available in four different release channels: Stable, Beta, Dev, and Canary. But what exactly is Chrome Canary? Should you use it on your PC?
Chrome Beta, Dev and Canary: what’s the difference?
When you download Google Chrome normally, you get the Stable Channel, which is the branch with the most testing and minimal bugs. Google rolls out new updates to the Stable Channel in waves, so if an issue is detected, the update can be put on hold for everyone else while a fix is developed. As a side effect, it may take a few more days for your PC to get the latest update on the stable channel.
The next level is the Beta Channel, where Google is testing the next major version of Chrome. For example, if the stable version of Google Chrome is at version 100, the Beta Channel will be version 101. The Beta Channel may have some additional bugs, as well as experimental features that may or may not appear in the Beta Channel. Beyond the Beta Channel is the Dev Channel, which is intended for web developers who want to test new features and APIs before they are widely available. Both Beta and Dev are updated weekly.
The Canary Channel is the most cutting-edge and unstable version of Chrome, beyond the Beta and Dev channels. It is updated with the latest changes every day, with minimal to no testing from Google. There are always three releases ahead of the stable channel: if Chrome is at version 100, Canary is testing version 103.
Since there’s a new Canary build every day, it’s the quickest way to see experimental features in development, though you may need to enable some flags to see them in action. It’s also a way to test web apps and other projects that are based on new APIs, but that use case is probably better served by Chrome Dev.
What features are in Chrome Canary?
Chrome Canary has all the features of regular Chrome, as well as some experimental functionality that isn’t ready for wide deployment. Most of these can be accessed via Chrome’s flags, but Canary also highlights a few of them in the Labs section. You can click the Labs button on the main toolbar (looks like a science beaker) to see what experiments are available.
Canary’s features are always changing, with some “graduating” to more stable versions of Chrome (before they are finally rolled out to all Stable Channel users), and others phasing out after a while.
It’s worth noting that Chrome features generally don’t depend on which version or release channel you’re on; you can still test unfinished features in the normal stable version of Chrome. The release pipeline is just about how close you are to codebase changes and how many tests Google has completed. For example, a Chrome codebase change might appear the next day on the Canary Channel, but it could take several weeks to appear on the Stable Channel.
Should I use Chrome Canary?
Although “experimental” and “unstable” are scary words, you’re not really risking much by installing and using Canary. It uses a separate local profile, so you can run it alongside a regular Chrome installation (stable channel) and no data will be shared. In fact, you can have the stable, beta, dev, and canary builds of Chrome on the same PC, and each will be completely isolated. You have the option to sign in to your Google account, if you wish.
The biggest risk is that the browser will crash more frequently, which would cause the unsaved data to disappear. Canary is also where “breakthrough” changes first appear: updates to the web APIs that have the potential to break some sites. If a site doesn’t work on Canary, you may need to test it on the Stable Channel (or open a different web browser).
Google also has the same Canary release channel for Chromebooks, which is the same basic premise of experimental software that could crash. Unlike regular browser builds, however, you can’t have regular ChromeOS and ChromeOS Canary installed at the same time. You have to flip a few switches to move a Chromebook to the Canary channel and then perform a full system wipe to get back to the stable channel.
How to Download Chrome Canary
You can download Chrome Canary from the Google website. It is available for Windows PCs (both 32-bit and 64-bit x86), Macs, and Android phones. If you’re on Linux, the most experimental channel with pre-built builds is Chrome Dev.
Canary installs separately from Chrome (or any other launch channel), so you don’t have to worry about it replacing or overwriting your regular Chrome installation.