Fast forward: What's coming in future Chrome updates?

Every time Google updates its browser, it publishes release notes aimed at enterprises to highlight upcoming additions, substitutions, enhancements and modifications. Here's a sneak preview of what's coming.

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October 2020

Chrome is the tops.

With 70% of the world's browser user share — a measure of browser activity calculated by analytics company Net Applications — Google's Chrome has led the rankings for over four years. Rivals, from Microsoft's Edge to Mozilla's Firefox, survive on single-digit shares that pose no threat to Chrome's dominance.

So, it's no surprise that Chrome's changes have an outsized impact. With each upgrade — which Computerworld tracks in the What's in the latest Chrome update? series — and at whenever Google talks of future plans, everyone pays attention, from the browser's users and IT administrators to competitors.

Every Chrome upgrade is accompanied by enterprise-centric release notes that highlight some of the additions, deletions, enhancements and modifications slated for the future. We've collected the most important for this refresh of Computerworld's latest what's-coming round-up.

But nothing is guaranteed, least of all prospective features. As Google says: "They might be changed, delayed, or canceled before launching to the Stable channel."

Chrome 87: Tab throttling

Chrome 87 will curtail the amount of power that background tabs consume by throttling them to a maximum of 1% of CPU time. Background tabs will be allowed to "wake up" — to repaint the page, for instance — only once each minute.

Administrators will be able to control this throttling with the IntensiveWakeUpThrottlingEnabled policy.

More information about this feature, dubbed "Intensive JS Timer Throttling," can be found here.

Note: Google in July said that tab throttling would debut in Chrome 85. But in late August, Google said tab throttling had just been added to Chrome Beta, signaling that it had yet to make it into Chrome Stable. This, then, is the third time Google has promised to add tab throttling to Chrome.

Chrome 87: Revamped PDF user interface

Google continues to plan for a new PDF viewer user interface (UI) in November's Chrome 87.

When a user opens a PDF document, a toolbar will appear under the new UI that concentrates previous functions — such as zooming in and out on the document — as well as new options, such as the current page number and a fit-to-width command. The new viewer will also include a two-up view — two pages, shown side by side, the document's table of contents and a mode to see added annotations. Chrome 86, which launched last week, does not include the new viewer UI, but will display most of it after a setting an option in the chrome://flags page. Users should search for "viewer" to find the #pdf-viewer-update item, set it to "Enabled" on the right and relaunch the browser.

When Computerworld set that flag, the view UI switched on, with one caveat: The thumbnails of each page — those thumbnails were displayed in a sidebar at the left — remained blank, no matter which PDF was opened.

Chrome's PDF viewer Google

Chrome's PDF viewer redesign — set to debut in Chrome 87 — features a two-page mode, toolbar and thumbnails in the sidebar. (The thumbnails wouldn't resolve for us.)

Chrome 88: Experiment with a new permission 'chip'

Google will begin seeding some copies of Chrome with a new permissions request that the firm called a "chip" to differentiate it from the usual pop-up prompt.

Actually a small UI element at the left end of the address bar — next to the padlock icon — the chip is less intrusive, Google asserted. (When Computerworld enabled the chip, for example, it appeared as a blue oval enclosing the words "Use your location?" After a few moments, the oval shrunk to a small blue circle. Clicking on the chip displayed the usual location request pop-up.)

"Since the prompt doesn't intrude in the content area, users who don't want to grant the permission no longer need to actively dismiss the prompt," Google said after arguing that many users immediately dismiss such permission requests simply to clear the screen.

Chrome 86 users can see the chip in action by typing chrome://flags, searching for #permission-chip, changing the field at the right to "Enabled" and relaunching the browser.

Chrome permissions 'chip' Google

Some users will see the new permissions 'chip' — that's the blue oval next to the address bar — as a replacement for intrusive pop-up requests from websites.

Chrome 88: Say goodbye to Yosemite

Google will pull support for Chrome on Apple's 2014 desktop OS, dubbed Yosemite and also known as OS X 10.10. Apple stopped serving Yosemite-powered Macs with security updates in the second half of 2017.

Chrome 88 on the Mac will require OS X 10.11, aka El Capitan or later, Google stated.

Chrome 88: Yank Legacy Browser add-on from Store

Google will remove the Legacy Browser Support (LBS) add-on from the Chrome Web Store when version 88 releases next month.

LBS, now baked into Chrome, was designed so IT admins could deploy Google's browser but still call up Microsoft's Internet Explorer (IE) to render intranet sites or written-for-IE apps. The add-on debuted in 2013, when Chrome's share of 18% lagged far behind IE's still-dominant 58%.

But because it has been built into Chrome, the old extension is no longer needed. So, as of Chrome 88, Google warned: "You can no longer install the Legacy Browser Support extension and the extension will fail to install on new devices. Existing installs might no longer work and will no longer be updated."

Information for enterprise administrators on using the integrated LBS can be found here.

Chrome 89: Won't work on really, really old PCs

"Chrome 89 and above will require x86 processors with SSE3 support," Google wrote. "Chrome will not install and run on x86 processors that do not support SSE3."

SSE3, which stands for "Streaming SIMD Extensions 3," was one of several — the third, in fact — add-ons to the x86 instruction set used by Intel (and later, AMD) processors. Intel introduced SSE3 to its Pentium 4 processor in early 2004, while AMD did the same a year later in their Athlon 64 CPUs.

Although there are likely few pre-2004 PCs still in operation — George W. Bush was in his first term, an eon ago it seems now — there are always exceptions.

The restriction does not apply to Chrome running on ARM silicon.

Chrome 91: TLS 1.0 and 1.1 bow out, even in enterprises

By agreement, Chrome, Microsoft's Internet Explorer (IE) and Edge, and Mozilla's Firefox, have disabled support for the aged encryption protocols Transport Layer Security (TLS) 1.0 and 1.1 because they had been made obsolete by TLS 1.2 and 1.3.

IT admins, however, can continue to use the SSLVersionMin policy to block the usual warnings of outdated versions of TLS, at least until Chrome 91.

Previously, Google had set January 2021 as the call-it-quits deadline for SSLVersionMin. By tying that with Chrome 91, the Mountain View, Calif. company has extended the deadline to May 2021.

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