All posts tagged ‘Google Chrome’

File Under: Browsers, HTML5

Chat Up the Web With the New Chrome 11 Beta

The Google Chrome team has pushed out a new beta release of the Chrome web browser, which adds support for the nascent Speech Input API. Yes, now you can talk to the web, it just might not exactly understand what you’re saying.

If you’d like to try it out, subscribe to the Chrome beta channel and then head over to Google’s voice-controlled demo app.

The Speech Input API is designed to give developers a way to write web apps that allow full speech recognition — the transcription from speech-to-text occurs on a speech server after your voice is recorded.

Chrome 11 beta is currently the only browser that supports the brand new Speech Input API and in my testing the results were mixed. So long as you raise your voice the app generally gets things right, though “Webmonkey” was interpreted as, ahem, “wet monkey.”

It’s worth noting that I did my testing using a built-in mic on my MacBook Pro, which is perhaps not the best sound source, especially since others seem to have had better luck. But, like most software that uses voice input, clearly the transcription in Google’s sample app is far from perfect.

However, as the Speech Input API gains more support it will open an entirely new set of possibilities for web apps, enabling everything from online speech-to-text services, realtime video transcriptions, voice chat logs or song lyric generators. Voice input could be particularly helpful on mobile devices and would go a long way toward making web-based apps as compelling as native apps. Voice input also opens up a whole new range of possibilities in creating a more accessible web — fill in forms via speech, browse by voice and so on. Not all of these features are specifically addressed in the new API or Google’s demo, but it’s not hard to imagine creative developers finding a way to make them possible.

Unfortunately, based on this early, very experimental example of the Speech Input API it’s going to be a while before you’re talking your way around the web.

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Yahoo’s YSlow Page Speed Tool Now Available for Chrome

Every web developer wants to speed up their site, and Yahoo’s YSlow plugin for Firefox is a great way to find out what’s slowing your pages down. Now, Yahoo has announced YSlow for Chrome, which brings all the goodness of YSlow to Google’s popular web browser.

In Firefox YSlow requires (and builds on) the Firebug plugin, but the Chrome version stands on its own. You can grab the new beta version of YSlow for Chrome from the Google Chrome Extension website (note that you’ll need to be using Chrome 10 or better).

Once installed, YSlow for Chrome works just like the Firefox version, with one nice difference — instead of being added to the bottom of the webpage as a kind of frame, YSlow for Chrome floats in its own window, which makes it easier to compare YSlow data from multiple websites.

The Yahoo developer blog notes that the current version of Chrome does not provide extensions access to its network panel. That means that YSlow for Chrome uses Ajax calls to cull its data and provide speed reports. As a result it’s possible that some rules might be affected and differ slightly from what the Firefox version reports. I tested a handful of domains in both Chromium and Firefox and didn’t notice any differences between the two, but be aware that it’s possible there might be some discrepancies.

For more information on how to use YSlow to speed up your websites, see our post, How to Speed Up Your Site With YSlow and Page Speed. Sadly, there’s still no Page Speed add-on for Chrome; Google’s Speed Tracer extension covers similar ground, but you’ll need to jump through some hoops to get it working.

Given Chrome’s already awesome built-in developer tools — which do more or less everything Firebug can do, no extensions necessary — adding YSlow to the mix puts Chrome on par with Firefox when it comes to the best browser for building and debugging your websites.

Illustration from “Physics for Entertainment” by Yakov Isidorovich Perelman from Archive.org

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File Under: Browsers

Chrome 10 Brings More Speed, Sandboxed Flash

Google has released version 10 of its Chrome web browser. Chrome 10 is a major overhaul for the Chrome line, with better performance, new malware protection, a sandboxed Flash Player and GPU accelerated HTML5 video.

If you’re already using Chrome the update should be applied automatically. If you’d like to try out Google Chrome, head over to the Chrome download page.

The most noticeable visual change in this update is the new preferences page, which is now a tab in your browser, complete with URLs to all the various settings. There’s also a new search box on the preferences page, which allows you to quickly find the setting you want without wading through every tab and menu item.

If you’re a fan of Chrome’s sync features, this release adds support for encrypting your passwords with your own secret sync passphrase. The new encryption setup works much like Firefox’s sync encryption — just create a passphrase and enter it on every machine that syncs to that account. Chrome sync has always worked well, but if you’ve been holding off because it wasn’t encrypted, well, now you can dive in.

Under the hood Chrome 10 packs a brand new, faster version of Chrome’s V8 JavaScript engine. Google has previously claimed a 66 percent improvement over Chrome 9 on the V8 benchmark suite, but of course that benchmark suite was written specifically for Chrome. At this point JavaScript benchmarks have come to seem largely irrelevant — it’s hard to tell how much improvement comes from optimising for the benchmark, which doesn’t necessarily translate to real-world performance gains. Let’s simply say that Chrome 10 is fast; faster than Chrome 9 and, in my experience, on par or faster than Firefox 4 and Opera 11.

Google has also enabled support for GPU-accelerated video in Chrome 10. Provided you have a capable graphics card, HTML5 video should be considerably easier on your CPU.

Other behind the scenes changes include sandboxing the Flash Player to avoid crashes and possible Flash-based security flaws, as well as a new update check that will disable any outdated plugins when it finds them. And yes, the linguistic whimsy of the new “obliterate web history” message did indeed make it all the way to the Chrome 10 final release.

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File Under: Browsers

Chrome 10 Beta Offers Faster JavaScript, Less CPU Usage

Google has released version 10 of its Chrome web browser to the beta release channel. Chrome 10 is a major overhaul, featuring a new version of the V8 JavaScript engine, which is 60 percent faster than the version of V8 found in Chrome 9. Faster JavaScript means faster web apps, and the Chrome 10 beta is definitely the speediest version of Chrome yet.

To get the update you’ll need to be using the Chrome beta release channel. Head over to the Google Chrome channels page to download the latest beta.

JavaScript isn’t the only speed improvement in Chrome 10, Google has also enabled experimental support for GPU-accelerated video. Provided you have a capable graphics card, HTML5 video should be considerably easier on your CPU. The Chrome blog says that, in fullscreen mode, CPU usage “may decrease by as much as 80 percent.” I didn’t see anything quite that dramatic, but it’s definitely an improvement over Chrome 9.

If you’re a fan of Chrome’s sync features, this release adds support for encrypting your passwords with your own secret sync passphrase. The new encryption setup works much like Firefox’s sync encryption — just create a passphrase and enter it on every machine that syncs to that account.

Although its been in the dev channel for some time, Chrome’s new tab-based settings panel has now made its way to the beta channel. Having settings appear in a tab rather than a separate window is mildly more convenient, but the real win is the new search box, which allows you to quickly find the setting you want without wading through every tab and menu item.

To go along with Chrome 10 moving to beta, the Chrome dev channel has also been updated to a new version of Chrome 11. The dev channel update is primarily a bug fix release, though for Mac OS X users their is one small change — the tab overview mode is now on by default.

If you’re not one to trust your daily web browsing to beta or dev channel releases, fear not, Chrome 10 should be headed for prime time just six weeks from now (and, for those keeping score, it’s only another year and four months until Chrome overtakes Emacs in version number).

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File Under: Browsers

New Chrome Add-on Blocks Sites From Search Results

Blocking a domain with Google's new Chrome add-on

Google has released a new add-on for its Chrome web browser that allows you to block domains and subdomains from search results. The new extension is aimed at so-called “content farms,” which often rank high in Google search results, but feature low quality content.

If you’d like to blacklist some domains from your search results, and you’re using the Google Chrome web browser (or Chromium), you can download the new add-on from the Chrome Web Store. Once the add-on is installed, you’ll see a new option to “block this domain” beneath each search result. To edit your list of blocked sites, just click the red hand icon in the toolbar.

The add-on is part of Google’s plan to cut down on content farm spam. Google defines content farms as “sites with shallow or low-quality content.” Often the content is written for no other reason than to show up in Google’s search results and pull in traffic. However, because content farms often have some pages of valuable content, classifying them as outright spam might not be accurate either. And of course what constitutes a “content farm” is open to debate.

In a thread about the new add-on over at Hacker News, Google’s principal engineer, Matt Cutts writes “people feel comfortable with Google removing blatant spam: hidden text, cloaking, sneaky JavaScript redirects, etc. People tend to feel less comfortable if they feel like Google is making an editorial decision.”

The new Chrome add-on turns that editorial decision over to you. Don’t want to ever see another eHow or Yahoo Answers link in your search results? Just block the domains and you’re done.

That said, the add-on is far from ideal. It only works in Chrome (or Chromium) and instead of truly removing the results, it merely hides them. That means that if the first page of results for your search contain only one result from a domain that isn’t in your blocklist, you’ll only see one result on the initial page. There is no reflowing of results. To get more than that one result, you’ll have to click through to the next page.

Ultimately the ability to block sites from Google’s search results is useful enough that it seems destined to end up on the server side — perhaps as a Google Labs experiment. Cutts says that Google started with the add-on because it was quick, but the company is working toward a server-side solution.

Cutts also says that Google is collecting the sites you block and may use them to influence search results in the future. As it stands, there’s nothing to stop a company from blocking its competitors’ sites, which is obviously a problem. Cutts makes it clear that Google is only looking at the sites people block, not actually using that information to re-rank sites.

Still, if there are sites you’d love to block from your Google search results, there’s now a way to do it — provided you use Google Chrome.

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