What Is Google Chrome Canary, and Should You Use It?

Google Chrome Canary logo

Chrome Canary is the most experimental release channel for the Google Chrome web browser. It may be prone to crashing, but is generally safe to use on your PC or Android phone.

Google Chrome is available in four different release channels: Stable, Beta, Dev, and Canary. But what exactly is Chrome Canary, and should you use it on your PC?

Chrome Beta, Dev, and Canary: What’s the Difference?

When you download Google Chrome normally, you get the Stable Channel, which is the branch with the most testing and minimal bugs. Google rolls out new updates to the Stable Channel in waves, so if a problem is detected, the update can be put on hold for everyone else while a fix is developed. As a side effect, it might take a few extra days for your PC to get the latest update in the Stable Channel.

The next level out is the Beta Channel, where Google is testing the next major release of Chrome. For example, if the stable Google Chrome release is on version 100, the Beta Channel will be version 101. The Beta Channel might have some additional bugs, as well as experimental features that might or might not eventually show up in the Beta Channel. Beyond the Beta Channel is the Dev Channel, which is intended for web developers who want to test new features and APIs before they are widely available. Both the Beta and Dev are updated on a weekly basis.

Chrome Canary image

The Canary Channel is the most bleeding edge and unstable version of Chrome, beyond the Beta and Dev Channels. It’s updated with the latest changes every single day, with minimal or no testing from Google. It’s always three releases ahead of the Stable Channel — if Chrome is on version 100, Canary is testing version 103.

Since there’s a new Canary build each day, it’s the fastest way to see experimental features in development, though you might still need to enable some flags to see them in action. It’s also one way to try out web apps and other projects that rely on brand new APIs, but that use case is probably better served with Chrome Dev.

What Features Are in Chrome Canary?

Chrome Canary has all the features of normal Chrome, as well as experimental functionality that isn’t ready for a wide rollout. Most of these are accessible through Chrome flags, but Canary also highlights some of them in the Labs section. You can click the Labs button in the main toolbar (it looks like a science lab beaker) to see which experiments are available.

Experiments popup in Chrome Canary

Canary’s features are always changing, with some “graduating” to the more stable versions of Chrome (before eventually rolling out to all Stable Channel users), and others being phased out after a while.

It’s worth noting that features in Chrome don’t usually depend on which version or release channel you’re on — you can still try unfinished features in the regular stable version of Chrome. The release channel is just about how close you are to changes in the codebase, and how much testing Google has completed. For example, a change in Chrome’s codebase might show up the next day in the Canary Channel, but it could take several weeks to appear in the Stable Channel.

Should I Use Chrome Canary?

Even though “experimental” and “unstable” are scary words, you’re not actually risking much by installing and using Canary. It uses a separate local profile, so you can run it alongside a regular Chrome (Stable Channel) installation and no data will be shared. In fact, you can have the Stable, Beta, Dev, and Canary builds of Chrome all on the same PC, and each of them will be completely isolated. You have the option of signing into your Google account, if you want.

The most significant risk is just that the browser might crash more often, causing any unsaved data to disappear. Canary is also where “breaking” changes show up first — updates to web APIs that have the potential to break some sites. If a site isn’t working in Canary, you might need to try it in the Stable Channel instead (or pull up a different web browser).

Google also has the same Canary release channel for Chromebooks, which is the same basic premise of experimental software that might crash. However, unlike the regular browser builds, you can’t have regular ChromeOS and ChromeOS Canary installed at the same time. You have to flip a few switches to move a Chromebook to the Canary channel, and then do a complete system wipe to go back to the Stable Channel.

How to Download Chrome Canary

You can download Chrome Canary from Google’s website. It’s available for Windows PCs (both 32-bit and 64-bit x86), Mac, and Android phones. If you’re on Linux, the most experimental channel with pre-compiled builds is Chrome Dev.

Canary is installed separately from Chrome (or any other release channel), so you don’t have to worry about it replacing or overwriting your regular Chrome installation.

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