Procedures determine how new features are added to Chromium and the Google browser. They are usually integrated in Chromium first, make their way to the Canary and Dev builds of Google Chrome, then the beta and finally, after some time, into the stable release builds.
Features are sometimes not tested enough to be made available directly in the web browser and Google until recently did only offer command line switches to enable those features.
This ensured that users who wanted to test those features could do so by starting the browser with those startup parameters while users indifferent to those new features did not have to worry about bugs or other problems associated with them.
Command line parameters on the other hand are not the most comfortable way of enabling those features in the browser considering that there are more than just a few available for the Chrome browser and that you needed to know them first before you can make use of them.
Chrome Labs has been introduced in a recent Chromium build to provide users with an easier option to enable specific experimental features in the browser. The new page can be accessed by entering chrome:flags in the Chromium address bar.
Chromium Labs is a testing ground for experimental features that aren't quite ready for primetime. They may change, break or disappear at any time.
The first release contains just one feature for Windows, the ability to display tabs in the left sidebar. It is however likely that future builds will offer access to additional features.
Tabs on the left can be enabled with a click, which is way more comfortable than adding --enable-vertical-tabs to the startup of the browser.
The browser needs to be restarted before changes take effect, a restart option is directly provided on the chrome:flags page.
Chromium Labs currently offers one experimental feature on Windows and Mac. Linux users at this point in development do not get anything, which is likely going to change in future builds.
Mac users do not get tabs on the left though, what they get is a tab overview option which displays an overview of all open tabs by swiping down with three fingers on the trackpad.
Labs will bring experimental features to a larger audience, considering that many Google users are already familiar with Labs in other Google products such as Gmail.
Expect the labs feature to hit Chrome Dev in one of the next public releases.
Update: Labs are now part of all versions of the Chrome web browser. Just load chrome:flags in the browser to display the list of available experiments for that particular channel and operating system. Note that Google modified the address of the page from about:labs to chrome:flags. We have modified the article to reflect that.