It has been nearly a year since we discovered the new Chrome OS project called ‘Lacros’. While the purpose of Lacros was initially unclear, it was apparent that Google was working on some way to severe the Chrome browser from the Chrome operating system to allow the two pieces of software to live harmoniously yet ship updates independently. My first thought was that Lacros could be a method by which Chrome could continue to get updates beyond a device’s end of life. This would allow users with capable hardware the ability to still surf the web safe and secure with the latest updates to the browser.
As it has evolved, Lacros has taken a turn towards something more viable for use in the Stable Chrome OS environment. The Chromebook-specific Linux build of Chrome has been frequently updated and is now nearly indistinguishable from the baked-in Chrome browser that has been at the core of Chrome OS for over a decade. One of the most recent clues to the future of Lacros on Chrome OS came when the Chrome dev team announced that the Chrome browser would soon be moving to a 4-week update cycle. If Lacros splits the browser from Chrome OS, it could theoretically follow the same update schedule as the desktop version of Chrome while Chrome OS receives feature and security updates as needed or planned by developers. In my humble opinion, this theory was greatly reinforced when CEO Sundar Pichai not-so-subtly tweeted that it was time to update the browser on his beloved Google Cr-48 Chromebook.
The latest development for Lacros was unearthed by Dinsan Francis of Chrome Story and it lends even more weight to the idea that this could be the standard browser for future builds of Chrome OS. The discovery comes in the form a commit labeled “Add feature flag to control Primary browser on Chrome OS.” The description of the flag is a bit vague but digging down into the comments reveals that the “primary browser” in question is, indeed, Lacros.
Use Lacros-chrome as the primary web browser on Chrome OS. This flag is ignored if Lacros support is disabled.Chromium Repository
This commit points out that Lacros as the primary browser is ignored is Lacros support is disabled. That’s because, in its current state, Lacros is disabled by default. Once this flag lands in the Canary channel, enabling it should cause Lacros-Chrome to launch when clicking a link that would normally open the native Chrome browser. Additionally, another Lacros-related flag has appeared in the Canary channel that adds PWA support to Lacros. This will be a necessary piece of the puzzle if Lacros is to handle the current workload of the in-built Chrome browser. After all, a PWA on a Chromebook is simply a fancy Chrome instance wrapped in a custom skin. All of these pieces are the nail in the coffin as far as I’m concerned. I really believe that Lacros will eventually be the standard Chrome browser on Chrome OS when it finally makes its official appearance. Stay tuned.