Chrome Flags can be a great way to manipulate your Chrome OS device and empower it to do more than it would out of the box. These toggles enable features that aren’t yet released to the public, and that Google is building out and testing in real-time. Hiding them behind a “flag” allows them to do so without messing up the stability of the operating system for most people who just want to use their Chromebook to get work done.
For the rest of us, Flags provide a great way to tinker, get excited, and see what’s on the horizon for Google’s uber-popular laptop OS. However, with the introduction of the LaCrOS browser and the fact that it’s set to replace the built-in Chromium code base that drives Chrome OS today, we foresaw a few issues with existing features.
Replacing Chrome with the LaCrOS – essentially the same version of Chrome you’ll find on traditional desktop PCs – allows Google to extend updates and support for older devices since it’s effectively a tool that lets it separate the browser from the OS itself! Being no longer dependent on the browser means that there’s a lot more the company can do to keep the local hardware safer for longer.
Soon, it’s set to become the default web browser on Chrome OS, and there’s even a flag that allows you to enable this right now on the Canary channel. With that, we’ve known for some time now that any flags that altered the local system would really have no home. Sure, browser-related flags could remain at chrome://flags via the LaCrOS Omnibox, but any that specifically had to do with Chrome OS was kind of left out in the cold.
Now, it seems that Google has come up with a solution! Just as it’s done with the Crosh terminal and several other misfits before it, Chrome Flags are now housed in a dedicated standalone system web app or SWA for short. As you can see below, Chrome OS 98 Canary will now display a blue beaker icon within a white adaptive circle on the Chromebook’s shelf while the user peruses flags.
The new SWA icon can be pinned to the shelf for easy access, but it doesn’t show in the launcher via the Everything button. If you do visit chrome://flags via the browser, you’ll see a notice at the top that asks if you’d like to open “os://flags”, which is apparently the new home URL that this SWA is located at when not in a standalone wrapper, though I couldn’t simply type that into the browser to locate it.
I quite like the new icon, and it reminds me of the Chrome browser’s new “Labs” experiment logo where Reading List, Search with Lens, and Side Panel are located. I think that the beaker icon may need to go soon though because the company recently spun up Google Labs again, so ignoring the fact that it’s already a recycled branding from within its own walls, the Flags logo may end up getting mixed up with Labs if it also uses a beaker. After all, what else would you use for a Labs logo? Here’s to hoping Google tosses in a double helix or something to change the DNA of its branding efforts.