Google Chrome is based on the open-source Chromium browser project. Anyone can take Chromium’s source code modify it to build their own browser. These browsers all build on the core browser and offer unique twists on Chrome.
Each alternative browser has its own focus, whether it’s security, social networking, privacy, additional features, or portability.
Comodo Dragon is developed by Comodo, which develops Internet security, firewall and antivirus applications. Comodo touts Dragon as having “superior security and privacy” over Chrome.
Comodo Dragon can use Comodo’s SecureDNS servers, which block access to websites that have been flagged as malicious. There’s also a button on the toolbar to quickly scan the current website with Comodo’s Site Inspector tool.
Comodo also adds additional privacy features. It can always launch in incognito mode or permanently disable the browser’s HTTP referrer header. Comodo also includes its own updating service, which you can disable if you want to manually install updates.
RockMelt is a social browser with tight Facebook integration. It has a similar concept to the now-discontinued Flock browser. Install RockMelt and you’ll be prompted to log in with Facebook.
You can opt out and use RockMelt without Facebook, but there’s not much point. RockMelt’s strength is its Facebook integration.
At the top of the screen, you’ll find Facebook notifications. The right side lets you chat with your Facebook friends, while the left side contains “RockMelt apps” — mobile versions of websites that appear in small pop-up windows.
If you’re a Facebook addict, RockMelt might just be for you.
We’ve covered SRWare Iron in the past. It’s a privacy-conscious version of Google Chrome with many features removed completely. It also removes Chrome’s auto-updater — you’ll have to manually download new versions from the SRWare Iron website.
To be honest, SRWare Iron doesn’t offer much over Chrome. You can change the privacy options in Chrome yourself. SRWare Iron also ships with a custom start page with advertisements and, when you click the “Get more extensions” link, it takes you to SRWare Iron’s own page listing extensions — also filled with ads.
SRWare Iron can also install extensions from the Chrome Web Store, but you have to head there yourself.
CoolNovo, formerly known ChromePlus, is a version of Chrome created by programmers in China. It adds a pile of new user interface features, including a sidebar. It also adds some other features that you can get in Chrome with extensions, such as mouse gestures and the ability to run Internet Explorer in a tab.
CoolNovo also has a wide variety of options for controlling tab behavior — there’s an entire section dedicated to tabs on the Options page.
The official version of Google Chrome can’t be installed as a portable app. Google Chrome Portable is a slightly modified version of Google Chrome that you can install on a USB flash drive and take with you. No more, no less.
Okay, Chromium isn’t technically based on Google Chrome — it’s the other way around; Chrome is based on Chromium. Chromium is the completely open-source version of Google Chrome. Chromium lacks many features found in Chrome, including the Google Updater, the bundled Flash plugin, the service that optionally sends usage data to Google, and non-free codecs like MP3 and AAC. Without the update service, you’ll have to update Chromium yourself.
Google doesn’t release stable builds of Chromium. If you want to use Chromium, check out the Chromium Portable website.
Do you use any of these browsers, or do you prefer Google Chrome itself? Let us know in the comments.
Chris Hoffman is a technology writer and all-around computer geek. He's as at home using the Linux terminal as he is digging into the Windows registry. Connect with him on Google+.
- Published 03/15/12