All posts tagged ‘Google Chrome’

File Under: Browsers, Multimedia

Chrome 9: Faster 3-D Graphics, Instant Search and an App Store

Google has updated the stable channel of its Chrome web browser. This release is technically labeled Chrome 9, though Google ceased focusing on version numbers some time ago, opting for a rolling, every-six-weeks update schedule.

If you’d like to take the latest version of Chrome for a spin, head over to the Chrome downloads page. If you’re already using Chrome, the update will arrive automatically.

If you’ve tested the beta release of Chrome 9, there won’t be anything new to see in this update. But for those that prefer to stick with the stable channel, Chrome 9 brings several features from the beta channel to prime time — notably, support for 3-D WebGL hardware acceleration. This release also adds support for the new Chrome Web Store, and Chrome Instant, a tool that loads web pages as soon as you start typing in the URL bar.

WebGL, which was originally developed by Mozilla, acts as a bridge between the browser and the desktop hardware acceleration tool OpenGL. The WebGL project gives web developers a way to connect the HTML 5 Canvas tool, which can be used to display complex graphics in the browser without plug-ins like Flash, to the operating system’s native, hardware accelerated graphics engine — in this case, OpenGL. The result is much improved performance for 3-D apps on the web. Google notes a couple of demos you can try out, the Google Body experiment in particular does a nice job of showcasing the power of WebGL.

This release is also notable for being the first stable version of Chrome to include access to the new Chrome Web App Store (U.S. users only). To check it out, just click the new link on the New Tab page.

Chrome Instant mimics Google’s instant search feature when you type a search in the URL bar. If you type a web address, Chrome Instant will start loading the page as you type, which makes getting to your favorite sites a bit faster. The only catch is that Chrome Instant is disabled by default. To turn it on, head to the “basic” tab on Chrome’s preferences page and check the “Enable Instant” option under Search.

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File Under: Browsers, Identity, Security

Chrome Add-on Kills Tracking Cookies

Not to be outdone by Mozilla, Google has released a new add-on for its Chrome web browser that allows users to opt-out of online advertising tracking. While Mozilla’s privacy tool is still just a proposal, and involves a new HTTP header, Google’s add-on uses the more practical, cookie-based approach and works today.

The Keep My Opt-Outs add-on works like a very persistant cookie, but this one is working in your favor. The add-on uses Chrome’s internal cookie APIs to set the opt-out flag for each advertising network that participates in the opt-out program created by the ad industry. Not only is it easier than setting those cookies yourself, the add-on ensures that, even if you clear the rest of your cookies, the opt-out cookies remain intact.

While it works, Google’s approach is something of a hack. The add-on intercepts and rewrites cookies, which is not exactly an ideal solution. Still, if you’re a Chrome user and you’ve been looking for a way to stop advertising cookies today, the Keep My Opt-Outs add-on has you covered.

Keep My Opt-Outs also makes a viable alternative to ad-blockers, particularly for those concerned that ad-blocking add-ons are denying their favorite sites much needed revenue. Provided you don’t mind a few advertisements here and there, using the new add-on in conjunction with some smart cookie settings, you can support your favorite sites without forfeiting your privacy. And for those that do use ad blockers, keep in mind that just because the ad is not shown, doesn’t always mean it can’t set cookies.

In the long term, Mozilla’s header-based approach to stopping cookie-based tracking is a better solution, and we expect, if the idea catches on, Chrome and other browsers will support it as well. For those who want something that works today, Google’s new add-on fits the bill.

Footprints photo by Vinoth Chandar/Flickr/CC

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File Under: Browsers

Chrome 10 ‘Obliterates’ Your Browsing History

Version 10 of Google’s Chrome web browser has entered the dev channel, available to those who enjoy living on the edge. This release features an update to the V8 engine that powers Chrome’s speedy JavaScript, a more refined preferences dialog and print and save options for any PDF files you view in Chrome.

If you’re already subscribed to the dev release channel you should be automatically updated. If you’d like to take the dev channel for a spin, Google has instructions on how to switch Chrome channels.

Of course the dev channel releases often have bugs and Chrome 10 is no exception. Commenters on the Google Chrome blog report that Google Sync no longer works with this release. If that happens to you, you might try disabling any startup flags you might have been using with previous releases, which reportedly solves the problem.

Along with the update to the JavaScript engine, this release features a number of bug fixes (particularly on the Mac platform) and some welcome refinements to the new tabbed preferences dialog. In addition to a better looking UI, the new settings page now has a search box to quickly find the preference setting you’re looking for.

Chrome 10 also features an updated message for the “clear browsing data” option on the preferences page. Instead of just deleting your browsing history and other items, you can now “obliterate the following items from the beginning of time.” We doubt that bit of linguistic whimsy will make it all the way to the stable release of Chrome 10, but it’s certainly more entertaining than the old “clear browsing data” message.

Provided Google sticks with its six week update schedule, Chrome 10 should arrive as a stable release in April 2011.

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Google Dropping H.264 Codec from Chrome Browser [Updated]

Google has rather nonchalantly dropped a bombshell on the web — future versions of the Chrome browser will no longer support the popular H.264 video codec. Instead Google is throwing its hat in with Firefox and Opera, choosing to support the open, royalty-free WebM codec.

Google says the move is meant to “enable open innovation” on the web by ensuring that web video remains royalty-free. While H.264 is widely supported and free for consumers, sites encoding videos — like YouTube — must pay licensing fees to the MPEG Licensing Association, which holds patents on AVC/H.264

Prior to Google’s announcement, the web video codec battle was evenly split — Firefox and Opera supported the open Ogg and WebM codecs, while Safari and Internet Explorer supported H.264. Google took the egalitarian path and supported all three codecs.

Google’s move away from H.264 makes sense given that Google is already heavily invested in WebM. In fact, the only reason the WebM codec exists is because Google purchased On2, the creators of the VP8 codec. Once Google acquired the underlying code it turned around and released VP8 as the open source WebM project.

There’s been considerable outcry from developers concerned that they now need to support two video codecs to get HTML5 video working on their sites. However, given that Firefox — which has a significantly greater market share than Google’s Chrome browser — was never planning to support the H.264 codec, developers were always going to need to support both codes for their sites to work across browsers.

Google’s decision to drop H.264 from Chrome does raise some questions though. For instance, Android also ships with H.264 and so far Google hasn’t made any announcement regarding the future of H.264 on the Android platform. One of the reasons H.264 has become so popular is that the codec enjoys robust hardware support across devices — whether it’s desktop PCs, mobile devices or set top boxes. While WebM has made some strides in hardware acceleration since it was originally released, it still lags well behind H.264. At least for now it seems that Android most likely needs to continue supporting H.264.

The move also raises questions about YouTube, still the largest video site on the web. Currently the site serves H.264 videos to most browsers, whether through the HTML5 version of the site or using the Flash Player. It seems obvious that Google must be hard at work converting the site to use WebM, but will it continue to support H.264 for those browsers and devices that don’t support the WebM codec? So far Google hasn’t made any announcements regarding YouTube and H.264.

Critics of Google’s decision to drop H.264 support in Chrome point out that Chrome ships with Flash, which, like H.264, is not really an open web technology. Indeed it would seem hypocritical for Google to dump some closed tools while keeping others, but, in Chrome’s defense, Flash is well entrenched in the web and ditching it really isn’t practical. Rather Google’s decision seems to be pragmatic — the company is in a position to take a stand on video codecs and it is doing so before H.264 becomes as entrenched as Flash.

[Google did not respond to a request for comment on this article. A Google Spokesperson tells Webmonkey that the announcement is related to “Chrome only and does not affect Android or YouTube.” Presumably both will continue to offer H.264 support. As for Flash, the Spokeperson says, the Chrome announcement “is about the importance we place on open technologies being the foundation of the emerging web platform moving forward.” In other words, dropping Flash support isn’t practical.]

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File Under: Browsers

Chrome Gets New ‘Crankshaft’ Engine, Syncing, WebGL Support

SAN FRANCISCO, California — Google has rolled out some enhancements to its Chrome web browser, adding a new JavaScript engine, more hardware acceleration, and finalizing its system that keeps all of your copies of Chrome in sync.

The enhancements were debuted as part of a press event for Chrome OS and the Chrome Web Store here Tuesday.

The new JavaScript component is called Crankshaft, and it’s built on top of the open source V8 JavaScript engine that currently powers Chrome.

Google VP of product management Sundar Pichai says the boost makes Chrome 50 times as fast as web browsers were just two years ago when Chrome launched.

“Something that took a minute to happen in JavaScript two years ago can now happen in under a second,” he said.

We haven’t been able to verify Google’s speed claims yet (we’re still at the press event) but you can test out Crankshaft now. It’s available in the bleeding-edge Canary build of Chrome right now.

The syncing feature, which Google has had kicking around in developer and beta releases for months, offers “the same Chrome experience everywhere,” Pichai says. It syncs your bookmarks, preferences, auto-fill information and themes across all copies of Chrome, and you sync up your browsers by logging in to your Google Account. You can choose which datatypes you want to sync and which you don’t.

Also on display were the new WebGL features, which offload the most processor-intensive tasks for graphics and page rendering to the machine’s GPU. The demo featured the familiar “look at how fast the fish swim around the fish tank” method of showing off hardware acceleration, but Google added a nice touch by introducing sharks with lasers coming out of their eyes. The laser beams even refracted when they passed through the glass of the tank.

Google says Chrome 9 beta will have WebGL enabled.

Pichai also showed off some of Chrome’s other recent enhancements, like sandboxing for plug-ins.

He also said Chrome now boasts 120 million users worldwide.

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