Google Chrome for Mac and Linux leaves beta

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Google has announced the official release of Chrome 5 for Windows, Mac and Linux, with the latter two platforms seeing their first "stable" release of the web browser.

The most recent Chrome beta emerged just last month, but Google has been "chipping away" at the remaining bugs and has now reached parity across all three versions. That's particularly good news for Mac and Linux users, as it marks the first time a stable version of the browser has been released outside of Windows.

"We can finally announced that the Mac and Linux browsers are ready for prime time," Chrome product manager Brian Rakowski wrote on the Google blog.

The latest version of the browser features expanded cloud synchronisation tools to share not just bookmarks across computers, but a wide range of browser preferences too.

Chrome's HTML5 credentials have also received a boost through the incorporation of features such as Geolocation APIs, App Cache, web sockets and file drag-and-drop, as well as a reorganised HTML5 bookmark manager. Adobe Flash Player integration, meanwhile, remains in beta testing, but Rakowski said this would be enabled with the full release of the forthcoming Flash Player version 10.1.

Aside from various feature enhancements and patches for six security vulnerabilities that have been identified since the last release, Rakowski also claims the latest versions of Chrome are faster too, particularly Javascript execution. "They incorporate one of most significant speed improvements to date," he wrote.

But for Mac OS X and Linux users, the official rubber-stamp confirming Chrome as "stable" is likely to be equally significant.

"We believe that [Chrome] provides not only the stability, performance and polish that every Mac user expects, but also a seamless native Mac application experience that Mac users will feel instantly at home with," Google's Mike Smith wrote in an entry on Google's Mac blog.

Chrome has risen steadily in popularity since its Windows-only launch in 2008, and is now the third most used web browser, behind Internet Explorer and Mozilla Firefox, but ahead of Apple's Safari.

Chrome 5 can be downloaded for Windows, Mac OS X and Linux from the Chrome home page, while users already running earlier versions of the browser will be updated automatically.