Lacros browser user profile switching on Chromebooks

Here’s how the Lacros browser will improve profile switching on Chromebooks

As we get ready for Chrome OS 94 and skip version 95 for Chrome OS 96, expect some big changes. The largest could be a switch from the standard Chrome browser to Lacros. Don’t be worried though: This change to the Lacros browser will bring a number of benefits including one that will improve profile switching on Chromebooks.

If you’re not familiar with the Lacros browser, here’s a quick refresher. It’s essentially a Linux-based version of the Chrome browser but it’s not as tightly integrated with Chrome OS. It has the same features as the standard Chrome browser.

The reason Google is decoupling the Chrome browser from the Chrome OS system is to make it easier to manage changes across Chrome for all systems. This means the browser on a Chromebook can be updated separately from Chrome OS on a Chromebook.

Here’s a perfect example of how this helps you.

Today, Chrome users on Linux, macOS, and Windows have an easy way to switch user accounts or profiles in the browser. This has long been a pain point for the rest of us because profile switching on Chromebooks isn’t as robust. I have two Google accounts, for example. One for personal use and one with my local community college. It’s difficult to switch between the two in Chrome OS.

Lacros browser user profile switching on Chromebooks

That changes with Lacros.

I realized this when using both a Windows PC and a Linux machine over the past few days because the Chrome browser on both platforms supports different Google account profiles. I was easily able to add both personal and school accounts to those machines and then switch back and forth between the two.

Since this is a browser feature for Chrome, it appears in Lacros as well. That makes sense since Lacros is really just a fancy name for the project to separate the Chrome browser from Chrome OS. Lacros is the Chrome browser.

Lacros browser user profile switching on Chromebooks

I upgraded a Chromebook to the Chrome OS 94 Beta Channel as that’s what the next Stable Channel update will eventually be running. I opened the Lacros browser and noticed the same user profile switching feature I saw in Chrome on my other computers. And I was able to add my second account to support profile switching on Chromebooks.

Essentially, I can manage or access all of my Google information, apps, and emails for both Google accounts with this profile switching on Chromebooks feature. And that’s a huge benefit, at least for those who use multiple Google accounts in Chrome OS.

I’d love to see the Lacros browser and the benefits it brings arrive sooner than later to Chromebooks, but for now, it’s still an experimental feature. Having used it in both the Chrome OS 94 Beta Channel and the Chrome OS 96 Dev Channel, I can see there’s still some work to be done.

My guess is that it could become stable enough for a general release as early as Chrome OS 96 but that depends on the development teams, of course. And they have less time to make that happen now that Chrome and Chrome OS have moved from 6-week to 4-week release cycles.

Regardless of when it arrives, I’m looking forward to the Lacros browser and benefits like this one.

About the author

Kevin C. Tofel has covered technology since 2004. He's used ChromeOS since Google debuted the CR-48 in 2010, reviewing dozens of Chromebooks since then. He worked for Google's Chrome Enterprise team from 2016 to 2017, supporting the launch of Android app support. In his free time, he uses Chromebooks to learn software engineering at Launch School. In 2019, Kevin joined the CS Curriculum Committee at his local community college.

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10 thoughts on “Here’s how the Lacros browser will improve profile switching on Chromebooks

    1. Yes, you are right, and if everything proceeds in a perfectly logical manner Lacros will land with v96 (but not before). And, while that seems likely to happen there is just a bit of room for doubt. The duration between v96 and v97 is 5 weeks, which to state the obvious isn’t 4 or 6 weeks, so it is hard to assess the implications of that. So, again, Lacros probably will land with v96 but it definitely will feature by v98 (whether prominently or behind a flag).

      Kevin, are you seeing any speed ups in screen drawing/window rendering with v98/Beta channel? It is interesting that Chromebook enthusiasts invented the myth that extending the life of Chromebooks was the primary reason that Google sought to switch to Lacros when Google clearly stated in print that the reasons were to simplify and align development work with the teams that were best equipped to do the work and secondarily to achieve accelerated window rendering improving the user experience of the Chrome OS platform.

  1. I thought they needed the simplifying of Chrome OS that Lacros would bring (i.e. the decoupling of the browser from the OS) to allow them to achieve syncing the 4 week version cycle time of Chrome for Chrome OS (Lacros) with Chrome on the other platforms.. If that’s the case doesn’t a ‘ready for prime-time’ Lacros become a prerequisite of syncing to that 4 week cycle?
    Perhaps I’m over-simplifying it….

  2. “It’s difficult to switch between the two in Chrome OS.”

    I’m usually signed in to more than one account and switching is super simple:-

  3. If they push this too quick lots can can go wrong, after all it’s essentially changing the whole OS because the OS only ever was Chrome. Am sure everyone will say it’ll be easy but I bet it if they rush this a lot will go wrong or annoy people. On top of that I bet their will be a performance loss because of this and new security issues.

    Many risks to take just to please a handful of users. I’m not against this happening, but if they are not careful they will annoy a lot of people. Something like this needs to be handled very carefully or Google are just going to mess up like Microsoft.

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