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Chrome for Mac to desert early Intel Mac owners by October

Gregg Keizer | Sept. 1, 2014
Google yesterday advanced its 64-bit Chrome browser to beta status, and told owners of the very earliest Intel-based Macs that they would soon be left behind.

Google yesterday advanced its 64-bit Chrome browser to beta status, and told owners of the very earliest Intel-based Macs that they would soon be left behind.

The promotion of the 64-bit Chrome for OS X to the "Beta" channel followed a move earlier this month by Google to push the browser to the rougher-edged "Dev" build. It also came on the heels of Chrome 64-bit for Windows making it to the more-polished "Release" status on Tuesday.

Google trumpeted the 64-bit Chrome for Mac as faster to start, less of a memory hog and more secure.

"Most programs on a modern Mac are already 64-bit apps," Mark Mentovai, a Chrome software engineer, said in a Thursday blog. "In cases where Chrome was the last remaining 32-bit app, there were launch-time and memory-footprint penalties as 32-bit copies of all of the system libraries needed to be loaded to support Chrome. Now that Chrome's a 64-bit app too, we expect you'll find that it launches more quickly and that overall system memory use decreases."

Chrome has long had a voracious memory appetite, in part because of its design, which runs each tab as a separate process. That feature allows Chrome to continue running even when individual tabs crash.

Like the 64-bit Chrome for Windows, the one for OS X does not support older 32-bit plug-ins in the NPAPI format. NPAPI (Netscape Plug-in Application Programming Interface), goes back to Netscape, the 1990s browser that Microsoft drove out of the market. Google has already blocked all but a handful of NPAPI plug-ins from running in 32-bit Chrome, although a few have been whitelisted and will still work, including Microsoft's Silverlight.

There are 64-bit versions for the most popular plug-ins, including Silverlight and Oracle's Java. Because Adobe's Flash Player is baked inside Chrome, a plug-in is unnecessary.

Google has not yet set a timetable for scrubbing all NPAPI plug-ins from Chrome, but next month the company will yank Web apps and add-ons which use NPAPI from the Chrome Web Store.

Unlike with Chrome for Windows, the Mac browser will not be maintained in separate 32- and 64-bit versions: People running the beta will automatically be updated to the latter. And when Chrome 38 reaches Release status, the 32-bit Chrome will be retired.

While Google does not hew to a definitive release schedule for Chrome, as does Mozilla's Firefox, it upgrades Chrome about every six to eight weeks. Because Chrome 37 shipped on Tuesday, the first 64-bit-only browser for OS X will probably debut in mid-October.

At that point, some Mac users of Chrome will either have to switch browsers — likely to Firefox, which includes both 32- and 64-bit versions in each edition's package — or risk running an unpatched browser.

 

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