Wow. I’m legitamately blown away right now. ChromeOS 116 has started rolling out today and while we’re still looking for any other new stuff to talk about in this latest update, the one thing I’ve been a bit fixated on this week has been the new, decoupled Chrome browser for ChromeOS devices called Lacros.
On the outside, Lacros is Chrome, but in order to talk about it while we’re still in the possibly-year-long roll-out of the new Chrome browser for Chromebooks, we’ll keep referring to it as Lacros for now. You can read our how-to post about Lacros, why it is important, and how to get it enabled (we’ll cover that quickly here, too), but the main thing you need to understand is this: Lacros separates Chrome (the browser) from ChromeOS (the operating system) so that updates can happen for your browser in-step with other desktop Chrome versions in the future.
And if you know anything about ChromeOS, you fully understand that at one point nearly a decade ago, it was little more than just the Chrome browser. So ripping out the ChromeOS version of Chrome is a bigger deal than you might initially think, given the fact that the current version of Chrome on your Chromebook is interwoven deeply into the fabric of ChromeOS. This has been no small feat for the ChromeOS team to pull this off.
ChromeOS 116 is one hell of a start
With the roll-out of ChromeOS 116, the promise of the beginning of the long roll-out for Lacros looks to be in full swing, though you wouldn’t know it on the surface. Google isn’t yet making most people aware of all the things happening behind the scenes, but believe me when I tell you that ChroemOS 116 makes the move to Lacros (if you want to try it out) a far more seamless affair than it has been in the past.
As I’ve used Lacros this week, I’ve been impressed by how finished the entire thing feels, but the move to enable it definitely felt like I had to do a bit of the legwork. Upon enabling Lacros, all my signed-in accounts in Chrome were gone and all my PWAs were reset to their pre-logged-in states as well. This makes sense since Lacros is a completely different browser than the ChromeOS version of Chrome.
But with 116, this isn’t the case at all. In fact, things went so smoothly that I pulled another Chromebook out, powerwashed it, updated it, and recreated the entire process to make certain there wasn’t any carryover from my prior Lacros experiments that helped to smooth things over on my primary Chromebook.
After setting up that device fully on ChromeOS 116 and getting all my accounts logged in and my PWAs configured, I made the move to this latest iteration of Lacros for ChromeOS 116 and just as I expected, there was barely an indication that I’d changed anything. I didn’t have to wait for my apps to reload, I didn’t have to sign back into anything, and all my accounts were right where I left them. My primary Chromebook account was even signed into the Chrome browser without any need of addititonal steps on my part.
And if you ask me, this is the way the transition to Lacros needs to be when it officially rolls out. I’m not kidding, apart from some (likely) lurking bugs, Google could flip the Lacros switch with an incremental update and I’d bet almost no one would even notice. The only visual cue would be the addition of the profile switch at the top of the Chrome browser. Even the Canary-yellow Chrome icon is gone this time around. It’s just a seamless, well-integrated transition.
How to give it a try
A caveat for this: if you are reading this a week or two down the road, this could change as the flags for Lacros changed greatly from ChromeOS 115 to ChromeOS 116. Also, once Lacros is enabled, you’ll need to go to os://flags to remove it. There’s a chance bugs could persist and something Google’s yet to encounter internally could rear its head. In that case, you’ll need to get back to the ChromeOS version of Chrome and you’ll need to remember how.
For now, however, simply head to chrome://flags/#lacros-only and then to chrome://flags/#lacros-availability-ignore and turn both of those on. Hit the restart button at the bottom and when your device comes back, you’ll be up and running. Again, you’ll likely not notice much difference, but if you head to the settings in your Chrome browser and head to the About Chrome section, you’ll see a clear indication that you’ve in fact transitioned to the Lacros browser. And so far, it’s really smooth sailing.