Google Chrome, Ungoogled?

Category: Browsers

If you love the Google Chrome browser, but you have nagging doubts about how much data Google is able to collect from you while you're online, then you might be interested in a new web browser that has (almost) everything you like about Chrome, but doesn't phone home to the mothership. Read on to learn about Ungoogled-Chromium...

What is Ungoogled-Chromium?

Google’s Chrome has won the browser war. According to NetMarketShare, Chrome began to run away from its nearest rival, Internet Explorer, in January, 2016, and has held a steady, wide lead since May. Today, Chrome has about 54% of the browser market while second-place IE has just over 19%. Firefox is below 10%, and all the others barely register a blip on the radar.

A big reason for Chrome’s popularity is the huge ecosystem of Google-branded services: Google Mail, Docs, News, Drive, and so on. While they will work with other browsers, they work best with Chrome. Also, they’re all free, at least in basic versions.

But “free” comes with a price: your browsing history and other data about your location, devices you use, contacts, the types of files you keep, and much more. See my article, What Does Google Know About You? This data is used to target advertising more effectively. Some users are not comfortable with that. One user on Github, the open-source software depository, is doing something about it.

Ungoogled-Chromium browser

Github user “Eloston” has taken Chromium, the open-source version of Chrome, and modified it to strip out or disable background services that communicate directly with Google. These services range from little things, like automatic URL formatting in Chrome’s Omnibox, to big things like disabling Javascript dialogue boxes. A full statement of Eloston’s mission can be found on his Github project page.

If you want to try Ungoogled-Chromium, head over to its release page and scroll down to find the latest version for your operating system. Download the .zip file and extract all of its files to a folder of your choice. Then click on the file chromium.exe to start the browser. (You can make a shortcut for chromium.exe and place it where you wish.)

I tested ungoogle-chromium on a few of the more complex Web sites I visit. Nothing broke, and everything seems to load just as fast as it does in Chrome. But there are some changes to the Chrome experience.

Should You Switch to Ungoogled-Chromium?

I find that I cannot add extensions to Ungoogled-Chromium. Attempts to access the Chrome Web Store from the extensions page in the browser are blocked. Navigating to the store via a search in the Omnibox is possible, but no extensions found in the store can be installed. Instead of the green “Add to Chrome” button, I get a blue “Available in Chrome” button when using Ungoogled-Chromium. Clicking on that opens a tab in which a Google Chromebook ad is displayed.

Incidentally, Ungoogled-Chromium comes with three extensions installed: Bookmarks Manager, Chrome PDF Viewer, and CryptoTokenExtension. All of them were added by the author and are necessary.

The default search engine is Duck Duck Go, doubtless chosen because it does not save users’ search histories as Chrome does. But the default search engine can be changed to whatever you wish in Settings. My browsing history is still available to me via the Settings page. It’s just not shared with Google.

One big problem I see with Ungoogled-Chromium is that it appears to be an experimental project created by a student, for use by himself and friends. As such, it has no support, and lacks the automatic update feature found in Google Chrome.

Overall, Ungoogled-Chromium is a mixed bag of pros and cons. The lack of extensions makes it unacceptable for my daily browsing; your needs may vary. I also would find it cumbersome to check for and manually download new versions (if and when) they are available. There's no guarantee that the project will continue.

All of the mail, documents, and other files that I save on Google Drive will still get indexed by Google and contribute to my targeted-advertising dossier. For that matter, it doesn't bother me that Google may use my web browsing history to more accurately target the ads I see. Google's privacy policy says that they use this information only in aggregated form, and no personally-identifying information is shared with third parties.

Call me gullible, but I believe them. It would be terribly bad news for Google if they were found to be violating this policy, and in all the years I've been using Google products, I've never seen any evidence that they have. Does Ungoogled-Chromium sound like something you would use for your daily browsing? Your thoughts on this topic are welcome. Post your comment or question below...

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Most recent comments on "Google Chrome, Ungoogled?"

(See all 21 comments for this article.)

Posted by:

28 Oct 2016

Take a look a a Chrome clone browser called Iron Browser. It does all the stuff above plus all extensions and such from The Store are available. It does also load and browse faster than Chrome.

Posted by:

28 Oct 2016

So, you put your faith in Google to protect you? Sort of like trusting the fox to guard the hens or believing the line, "We are from the government and are here to help". Do you really think Google would, or has not, given your info over to governmental entities? If so, I have some land in NJ that you may want to buy.

Posted by:

28 Oct 2016

Getting big business and government out of the things that I do is always worth exploring.

Posted by:

Monte Crooks
28 Oct 2016

It's probably too late. I'm sure that anyone who might care, including our illustrious gubmint, already knows my feelings about hussein and hellery (and the evil triumvirate that would be the billary-hussein admin if it's elected). There, I said it again, and it was probably recorded again for posterity sake. Oh, well. We do thank you, Bob for all the great words of wisdom and information you give all of U.S.! As long as the PTB (Powers That Be) allow it, you will be an anxiously looked forward to part of our days!!

Posted by:

28 Oct 2016

Internet Explorer puked because of Microsoft Edge. It's very invasive thanks to Cortana. I find it difficult to get around in. I have "always" used IE since the days of Netscape, but now I use Google and go straight to Yahoo when I play on the 'puter.

Posted by:

28 Oct 2016

"...appears to be an experimental project created by a student, for use by himself and friends." So basically it's light years from becoming a stable, safe and reliable piece of software.
Save yourself a load of hassle and use Opera.

Posted by:

28 Oct 2016

I have used Chromium along with Firefox for many years on my desktop (after an article in PCMag and also recommended by CNET} (I hated IE) I have had no problems. Was just beginning to place on my new laptop.

Posted by:

Jay R
28 Oct 2016

I have used FF for years, but the thrill is gone. However, the antipathy towards IE remains strong. Chrome, at least on my old computer running Win10Home, is an incredible resource hog. But, Hey! It takes a LOOONG time to load.

I look forward to trying this one, or maybe the Avenger model. Or tune in to Opera.

Thanx to all!

Posted by:

28 Oct 2016

Chromium is fast! Have only spent 30 minutes with it but it looks good and works well. I had to import my Chrome bookmarks into Safari and then into Chromium since I could not find a way to export them rom Chrome to a file to be imported into Chromium. Now that I have that done I can go to all my favourite sites and put Chromium to the test.

Posted by:

29 Oct 2016

I have used Epic Privacy Browser, also based on chromium for some time and love it! Importing my favorites from IE was simple. Epic strips all ads and trackers from any page I visit automatically. It is supported and updated regularly and best of all it is FREE! So if you want to experiment,give it a try.

Posted by:

29 Oct 2016

I still use Firefox

Posted by:

Tom W
29 Oct 2016

Another alternative based on Chromium is the Slimjet browser. Many additional features and options have been added in Slimjet to make it more powerful, intelligent and customizable than Chrome. In addition to that, Slimjet DOES NOT send any usage statistics back to Google's server like Google Chrome.

Posted by:

29 Oct 2016

Hi Bob:

Have you tried Opera as an alternative to Google’s Chrome? I started using it recently and really like it. Apparently the "new Opera for computers" is partly based on code from the Chromium open-source browser project! I was not aware that Chrome had an open-source flavor until now and that Opera was involved with it. Perhaps you might devote a future article to this, since many of us are looking to avoid Google's invasive internet behavior!

Posted by:

29 Oct 2016

Speaking of no-plug-ins, I've been using Brave as my default browser for the last couple of months. It's based on Electron - which is based on Chromium.
So far, everything I need is built in - no tracking, ad blocking, tab preview, cross platform, and it's very fast. So far, it's a keeper.

Posted by:

29 Oct 2016

For those of us using outdated systems, and not having the funds to shell out for new systems....

Opera version 36.0.2130.80 is still supporting Vista and XP. (unlike Google!)

You can still use their older browser which is still better than any Chrome browser for downloading stuff and not losing partial downloads. (resume download is excellent in Opera Version 12.18)

I run both Opera versions side by side.

Posted by:

29 Oct 2016

Thanks Bob. Dislike Chrome here. Only found it useful to access Play store games and apps. Just ditched it several times. Opera. Now that is a behaved browser. Use it to stream and download. Always disliked IE. And Firefox may soon head for the trashcan with me. 3 updates ago it set all options to default. Like a fool I hadn't saved my speed dial addresses. And FF's defaults set it to auto-update which trashes all my settings 3 updates later. Either I search for a solution or trash FF if it continues to do this. Emailed FF support twice, got no answer. Also had made a small donation in the past to help continuing development. Not going to happen again. FF is not playing nice.

Posted by:

Gary in wisconsin
30 Oct 2016

Have used both IE and FF for many years with no issues. I also use FF and Opera on some of my olde r workhorse XP machines. No complaints (ymmv)

Posted by:

30 Oct 2016

Surprised no mention of Vivaldi here, not even in comments. Cross between Opera and Chromium. Love it!

Posted by:

02 Nov 2016

Testing browsers is a bit of a compulsion of mine. Iron Browser is the best of the Chrome style browsers: fast, secure, allows addons. Just add uBlock Origin and visit ad filled streaming sites with minimal popups. Add WEB RTC and use CyberGhost free VPN. Thats all you need. Fast and anonymous for free!!!

Posted by:

John Q
26 May 2020

You can manually install extensions.. just takes a little research. Running ublock origin on ungoggled chromium right now. No problems

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