One of the defining characteristics of a Chromebook is how users can add and remove accounts at will. Whether it’s signing in to a completely different user in a sandbox or adding additional Google Accounts to a signed-in primary user, account management on Chrome OS is quite flexible and very useful. With 10 years of managing Google Accounts in a relatively similar fashion, there must be some consistency in this activity if / when the new Lacros detached version of the Chrome browser lands on a Chromebook near you.
What is Lacros, again?
We haven’t covered it a bit, but the setup here is pretty straightforward: Lacros will be a new way for Chromebooks to leverage the Chrome browser that’s detached from Chrome OS. As it stands, Chrome OS and Chrome, the browser, are quite closely related. They share some things and are separate in others, but the setup is very different in Chrome OS compared to what we see in Chrome for Linux, MacOS, and Windows.
While we don’t know exactly how Google plans to implement Lacros in the near future (will it be a replacement for everyone or just Chromebooks that are out of their update cycle?), It does. It’s clear that this “other” version of Chrome on Chromebooks is coming one way or the other. And if so, account management needs to be addressed.
Synchronized account management
According to a new commit we encountered, Lacros is already configured to handle accounts the same way other apps do on Chromebooks. For example, when I sign in to Gmail with a secondary account, I need to add this account to my Chromebook first, and then it will become visible in Gmail’s switch account menu. In fact, this is true for any Google app. If I want to see my Keep notes from my Chrome Unboxed account, I need to sign in to that account through my Chromebook settings.
Chrome behaves this way on other operating systems by default. On the Mac Mini company, for example, we can all have a profile or two signed in to Chrome and switch to our profile as needed while browsing. This means that my favorites, history, and preferences follow as they would on a Chromebook. Lacros will be like these other versions of Chrome and will allow switching between accounts, but it’s not clear how this will work on a Chromebook as we don’t really have the option of simply adding users to the Chrome browser on a Chromebook. this point. From the look of the commit I mentioned above, it looks like the Chrome team is tackling this in a way that keeps things consistent from a Chrome OS user’s perspective.
Based on the appearance of this upcoming flag (it is still an active commit that has not yet been merged), Lacros will handle the accounts added to the browser as you would expect on a Chromebook: via the Chrome OS accounts section in the settings menu. When you stop and think about it, that’s the only way it makes sense. If Lacros ends up replacing the existing version of Chrome OS of the Chrome browser, you will need to be able to quickly switch between accounts and the Chrome OS Account Manager already allows that. All Lacros needs is to be able to sync with this manager and allow access to the same accounts.
With that in place, the overall experience of using Lacros will continue to be less of a difference to users and more similar instead. We’ve tried Lacros on and off and it has gotten to the point where it’s almost indistinguishable from the Chrome OS version of Chrome that we all use right now. And it’s a good thing. With proper access to switching accounts, it will only seem much more native to those of us who have been around for a decade, and I’d bet that’s the point of it all. If Lacros is indeed set up to replace the Chrome OS version of Chrome, it needs to be solid and have all of the features Chromebook users expect. It’s a big step in that exact direction for sure.