On Chrome OS, the browser and the operating system are deeply intertwined. Google can't update one component without the other, making development a hassle. The company is looking to change that by introducing a decoupled version of Chrome (dubbed "Lacros"), which could simplify processes for developers and might even extend Chromebooks' lives. New evidence suggests that Google is inching closer to publicly testing Lacros.

Chrome Story found an under-development feature in the Chromium Gerrit that adds a flag allowing Google to change the primary browser on Chrome OS. One of the latest tweaks to the code explains exactly what it's meant to achieve:

@@ -4569:4572, +4569:4571 @@
-      "Use Lacros-chrome as the primary web browser on Chrome OS. This works "
-      "only when Lacros support is enabled, otherwise ignored even if it is "
-      "enabled.";
+      "Use Lacros-chrome as the primary web browser on Chrome OS. "
+      "This flag is ignored if Lacros support is disabled.";

The flag will only work when the Lacros browser is activated, meaning that the test is solely aimed at making the decoupled version of Chrome the new default. It's not clear if users will even get to see a toggle to make the switch themselves or if they will be forced to move at some point with or without their cooperation. Since the flag isn't live in Chrome Canary yet, the change is at least a few months away, and Google will almost certainly have more to share on the subject long before making such fundamental changes to the OS.

While it was already clear that Google is working on Lacros integration with Chrome OS, this is further evidence that the company is making strides towards its goal to separate the browser and the OS. We assume Google's move is aimed at keeping Chromebooks secure beyond their end-of-life dates, but Lacros could also help make development simpler, without necessarily extending Chromebooks' lives. We're hopeful about that aspect, though, especially considering that many schools buy older, cheaper Chromebooks approaching end-of-life, rapidly becoming security nightmares.