Google has reversed last December's decision to ditch the "beta" label from its Chrome browser, saying it is restoring the moniker to some builds to get faster feedback to developers.
"Since we took the 'beta' tag off Google Chrome in December, we've been updating two release channels: developer and stable," said Brian Rakowski, a Chrome product manager, in a new blog Google that kicked off Tuesday. "With our latest release, we're re-introducing the beta channel for some early feedback."
[ Related: Rival Micrsoft's IE8 browser is now available for download. | For the full Test Center rundown on browser security, see InfoWorld's special report and its security reviews of Firefox, Internet Explorer, Google Chrome, and Opera. ]
Google stripped the beta label from Chrome in mid-December, a little more than three months after it debuted its browser, saying then that the application was ready for prime time. Some users, however, disagreed.
In January, Google announced it was revamping how it distributed Chrome and said it would offer three separate "channels" to users: a finished, stable build; a beta build; and a developer preview build. In actuality, it only supplied builds to two of those channels: stable and developer preview.
Tuesday's move re-instituted the beta label and began feeding builds to that channel.
"Getting on the beta channel means your version of Google Chrome will regularly get updated with new speed enhancements, features, and bug fixes before most users see them," said Rakowski. "But don't be surprised to find some rough edges."
When Computerworld last benchmarked browsers three weeks ago, Chrome 220.127.116.11 -- a version slightly older than the new beta -- proved about 7 percent faster than the next-fastest browser, the beta of Apple's Safari 4 for Windows.
In additional tests run Wednesday by Computerworld, however, Chrome's beta proved 41 percent faster than the stable Chrome 18.104.22.168 build, and 20 percent faster than Safari 4 beta.
The beta can be downloaded from Google's Web site. Current Chrome users running either the stable or developer preview builds can switch to the beta channel by downloading and running the Chrome Channel Changer.
Chrome remains available only for Windows XP and Vista. Versions for Mac and Linux are in development, but Google has not spelled out a release timetable for either.
Computerworld is an InfoWorld affiliate.