Google Chrome Team Accelerates Stable Build Cycle

Google is speeding up the delivery pace for its Chrome Web browser, cutting stable release time to six weeks from three months. Chrome, challenging Microsoft Internet Explorer, Mozilla Firefox and Apple Safari in the browser market, currently has 7.2 percent market share.

Google July 22 said it is ramping up its build cycle for Chrome, the Web browser that will serve as the platform for running Web applications on Chrome Operating System.

Chrome Program Manager Anthony LaForge said his team is establishing a new release process to speed stable Chrome releases to users every six weeks, or twice as fast as the current pace.

Full-bodied new versions of Chrome currently appear only every three months and the company is working its way toward Chrome 6 after releasing Chrome 5 in late May.

While the average Chrome user probably feels unaffected by the change, this news will likely be received with joy from developers building extensions on top of Chrome, which commands 7.2 percent market share.

In reducing the cycle time, LaForge said he hopes to make the schedule more predictable and easier to scope for developers and end users alike.

"Predictable fixed duration development periods allow us to determine how much work we can do in a fixed amount of time, and makes schedule communication simple," LaForge explained in a blog post.

"We basically wanted to operate more like trains leaving Grand Central Station (regularly scheduled and always on time), and less like taxis leaving the Bronx (ad hoc and unpredictable)."

Finally, he wants to take the pressure off software engineers to finish features in a single release cycle.

Apparently, when facing a deadline with an incomplete feature in the old release model, the Chrome team would rush or work overtime, delay the release or simply disable the utility until the next build.

The new schedule will simply enable the incomplete feature to wait for the next release, or six weeks away.

Not everyone was thrilled with the speedier development model in comments left after LaForge's blog post.

Most crave a Chrome road map, but that is generally anathema to the development processes of any programming team at Google, whose mantra is usually iterate early and often.

One developer named Wes said in comments appearing after LaForge's blog post that:

"I don't see how having shorter deadlines will reduce stress on developers, and there is also less time to find bugs for stable release. Is this a decision pushed by the developers or the project managers? If it were me, I would appreciate an extra few weeks to find and remove any bugs before they make it into the stable build."

If LaForge's new mission for Chrome is any indication, Chrome 6 should come out any day now; it's been two months since Chrome 5 launched.

In addition to being faster than previous versions of the browser, Chrome 6 will support the open source VP8 video codec and its royalty-free container WebM.

There is also faster scrolling and a download shelf that slides out instead of collapsing.

Chrome 6 is coming as Google prepares its Chrome OS for Web apps for launch this holiday season on netbooks from Dell, and possibly Acer and Lenovo.