Thursday, August 4, 2011

Why I do not use Chrome - even though it is fantastic

Is captured in the below screenshot

Click for full resolution.
Left Firefox 5, middle Safari 5.1, right Chrome 13.0.782.107. As you can see, Chrome renders the desert sunset image drastically different. The subtle orange hue turns into red.
This is as seen on my wide gamut display that was calibrated user a Spyder 3. I converted the screenshot from my display profile to sRGB for web display so this cut down a large portion of the difference as the red orange is out of sRGB gamut. In reality it is more drastic than can be shown on the web. The sidebar image of the patch of marsh flowers in Mayflower Gulch for example renders in a very garish green and comically red mountain range. The shadow portions under the flowers are too dark and some detail disapears.

The reason for these differences is that Google in their infinite wisdom when they released chrome cut out color management which had been enabled and present in the developer releases for mac. And despite widespread outcries, it hasn't been fixed and the flag that you can use on windows to enable color management does not work on Macs and apparently not even on windows anymore. If you are a photographer or designer who calibrates their screens, this really impacts you and all your images will display wrong in Chrome on your system. Only Safari and Firefox (if you make sure to calibrate to a v2 icc profile) will work correct. Firefox has an advantage over Safari in that it will even color manage untagged images if you set it up to do so in the secret settings. The failing of Chrome in rendering images correctly is especially strong if you work on a wide gamut display or on a laptop display. On good normal (sRGB gamut) screens it is even a problem for shadow rendering where unmanaged browsers will show you plugged up shadows. This is due to the fact that the display is calibrated for gamma 2.2, while sRGB has a linear tone curve in the shadows. This might not be that big of a deal as the hyper saturation that you get on wide-gamut displays though.

I understand that Chrome cut out its color management to make sure Chrome renders like Internet Explorer and to be slightly faster than with color management, but why would you want to target the lowest common denominator? It's a pity because it is otherwise a fast and capable browser and I actually prefer it for most other uses especially Google+. I would be happy with a simple flag I can enable somewhere as I realize that not everybody needs this.

Please Google, give me a flag!

Links: Why color management is so important in browsers. All about color profiles and color managed apps here.


  1. Color management switch still works here. Just checked. Running 13.0.782.107 in Windows 7.

    P.S. Phew...

  2. Yeah Alexander Kunz checked for me on Google+ On windows the flag works but has simply changed. On Mac OS X, the flag does not work however you try it whether from the commandline or by setting the commandline parameters in the apps internal configuration. I found some references on Google programmers fora that this is because they use a different image library on Mac than on Windows. One that is not the system library too as that would give color management for free. This should really be a configuration flag and it should work on Mac OS X.

  3. Thanks for your post. I was going crazy today, trying to figure out why images in a web gallery looked completely different in chrome then they did in Aperture. I thought I had messed something up or there was a problem with my system. Then I checked in Firefox and they looked fine. I recently switched to Chrome because it's much faster, but now I may have to go back to FF.

  4. Andrew,

    the latest versions of Chrome on Mac OS X do color manage for me. I would try again after updating Chrome.