Archive for the ‘chrome’ Category

Google partially backtracks on Chrome changes that would break ad blockers

February 18th, 2019

Google has said that it will revise the proposed changes to Chrome's extension API that would have broken or reduced the functionality of a wide range of ad-blocking extensions, to ensure that the current variety of content-blocking extensions is preserved. The initial plans generated a wide backlash from both the developers and users of those extensions, but Google maintains that "It is not, nor has it ever been, our goal to prevent or break content blocking" [emphasis Google's] and says that it will work to update its proposal to address the capability gaps and pain points.

The advertising company is planning an overhaul of its extension interface to, among other things, increase user privacy, make it harder for extensions to perform malicious actions, and make the browser's performance more consistent. Together, this work is documented as Manifest V3.

One of these changes in particular had grave consequences for ad blockers. Currently, ad blockers make extensive use of an API named webRequest. This API allows extensions to examine every single network request made by a page and either modify it (to, for example, redirect it to a different address or add or remove cookies), block it altogether, or allow it to continue unhindered. This has both a substantial privacy impact (an extension can see and steal your cookies and hence masquerade as you) and, Google said, some performance impact, as every single network request (of which there may be dozens in a single page) has to wait for the extension to perform its analysis.

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Posted in ad blockers, chrome, Chromium, development, google, Open Source, Tech, Web | Comments (0)

With experimental “Never slow mode,” Chrome tries to stop Web devs making it slow

February 6th, 2019
The word SLOW has been painted on a street for the benefit of drivers.

Enlarge / Google wants less of this. (credit: Vegansoldier / Flickr)

Since Chrome's very first release, performance has been one of Google's top priorities. But Google is against a competing force: Web developers. The Web of today is a more-complex, bandwidth-intensive place than it was when Chrome was first released, which means that—although Internet connections and the browser itself are faster than they've ever been—slow pages remain an everyday occurrence.

Google engineers have been developing "Never Slow Mode" in a bid to counter this. Spotted at Chrome Story (via ZDNet), the new mode places tight limitations on Web content in an effort to make its performance more robust and predictable.

The exact design and rationale of Never Slow Mode aren't public—the changelog for the feature mentions a design document but says it's currently Google-internal. But taken together, that design and rationale will ensure that the browser's main thread never has to do too much work and will never get too delayed. They will also ensure that only limited amounts of data are pulled down over the network. This should make the browser more responsive to user input, lighter on the network, and a bit less of a memory hog than it would otherwise be.

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Posted in browsers, chrome, Chromium, google, HTML, Open Source, Tech, Web | Comments (0)

Etch a Sketch lives on in browser-based Chrome Labs project

January 10th, 2019
Etch a Sketch lives on in browser-based Chrome Labs project

Enlarge (credit: Rowan Merewood, Twitter)

Everyone who remembers the Etch A Sketch slabs of yesteryear remembers how difficult it was to translate your vision onto its "magic screen," and how proud you felt upon success. Now, Google's Chrome Labs has translated that experience (quite literally) for the digital age with the fun Web A Skeb project. It's a browser-contained version of an Etch A Sketch that you can use to draw and doodle—if you can get the hang of its dials.

Web A Skeb creator Rowan Merewood explained on Twitter that the goal of the project was to create Web-friendly dials. Those in Web A Skeb work just like those on the old Etch A Sketch toys, so you have to learn which direction to "turn" them in to move your strokes up and down or left and right. Currently, only cursors and mice can control the dials on desktop browsers, but greater accessibility is being considered (like using letter or arrow keys to control the dials).

Buttons at the bottom of Web A Skeb let you enter fullscreen mode, "shake" the drawing area to erase your work, and liven up the sketch with shadows and rainbows using the "fancy" and "fanciest" options.

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Posted in browser, chrome, chrome labs, etch a sketch, Gaming & Culture, google, Tech, web a skeb | Comments (0)

Chrome’s getting a dark mode on Windows to match the one for macOS

January 3rd, 2019
Chrome's dark mode.

Enlarge / Chrome's dark mode.

Chrome 73 is going to include support for macOS 10.14's dark mode, with an alternative color scheme for its user interface that cuts the brightness. It's now clear that a Windows version of the same is in development, though it seems to trail the macOS version.

A bug report was spotted by Techdows, and preliminary work has been started to bring Windows its dark mode. Unlike its macOS counterpart, which should track the operating-system mode, the Windows dark mode currently has to be forcibly turned on with a command-line switch. Adding "--force-dark-mode" to the command line of current builds of Chrome 73 makes everything dark.

The dark theme is still unfinished, hence this menu with almost illegible black text on a dark grey background.

The dark theme is still unfinished, hence this menu with almost illegible black text on a dark grey background.

The macOS work has top priority (P1). The Windows work is only P2 (originally P3), surprisingly suggesting that it's less important, enough though Chrome has far more Windows 10 users than it does macOS users. Development of the Windows theme was at least, for a time, hindered by one of the developers not having a Windows laptop to use.

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Google isn’t the company that we should have handed the Web over to

December 17th, 2018
The word

Enlarge (credit: Aurich Lawson / Getty Images)

With Microsoft's decision to end development of its own Web rendering engine and switch to Chromium, control over the Web has functionally been ceded to Google. That's a worrying turn of events, given the company's past behavior.

Chrome itself has about 72 percent of the desktop-browser market share. Edge has about 4 percent. Opera, based on Chromium, has another 2 percent. The abandoned, no-longer-updated Internet Explorer has 5 percent, and Safari—only available on macOS—about 5 percent. When Microsoft's transition is complete, we're looking at a world where Chrome and Chrome-derivatives take about 80 percent of the market, with only Firefox, at 9 percent, actively maintained and available cross-platform.

The mobile story has stronger representation from Safari, thanks to the iPhone, but overall tells a similar story. Chrome has 53 percent directly, plus another 6 percent from Samsung Internet, another 5 percent from Opera, and another 2 percent from Android browser. Safari has about 22 percent, with the Chinese UC Browser sitting at about 9 percent. That's two-thirds of the mobile market going to Chrome and Chrome derivatives.

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macOS Mojave’s dark mode is coming to Google Chrome

December 11th, 2018
Google Chrome in macOS Mojave.

Enlarge / Google Chrome in macOS Mojave. (credit: Samuel Axon)

Apple added dark mode to macOS with its Mojave software update on September. Since then, third-party apps have been adding dark themes to go along with it, but there have been a handful of notable outliers, like Slack and Google Chrome. We've now learned that the latter of those will get a formal dark mode in an upcoming release, likely Chrome 73.

As noted on Reddit and reported by MacRumors, a code change was submitted to Chromium on December 5 that lays the groundwork for the future public release. Here are the notes on the change from the Chromium issue page:

Mac: Change dark mode optout logic and respond to system changes

This change hooks up the "DarkMode" feature, allowing for three states
in Mojave:
- --force-dark-mode for dark appearance unconditionally
- --enable-feature=DarkMode to track system dark mode status
- No flags/default state is light appearance unconditionally

Since we build with an SDK < 10.14, we still need the Info.plist
key, but it now must be false.

Some related changes:
- Make Omnibox tint respond to OnNativeThemeChanged
- React immediately to changes in high-contrast mode setting

Chromium is the first stop for changes to Chrome, with more steps along the way like the beta release, before the changes finally make it to the public release. Even in Chromium, the feature requires digging into code to activate, so this is early along. But dark mode is clearly on the way.

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Posted in apple, browser, chrome, dark mode, google, MacOS, macOS Mojave, Tech | Comments (0)

Post-mortem: Tying Edge to Windows 10 was a fatal error

December 6th, 2018
Post-mortem: Tying Edge to Windows 10 was a fatal error

Enlarge (credit: @AndreTelevise)

As reported earlier this week, Microsoft is going to use Google's Blink rendering engine and V8 JavaScript engine in its Edge browser, largely ending development of its own EdgeHTML rendering engine and Chakra JavaScript engine. This means that Microsoft will be using code from—and making contributions to—the Chromium open source project.

The company's browser will still be named Edge and should retain the current look and feel. The decision to switch was motivated primarily by compatibility problems: Web developers increasingly test their pages exclusively in Chrome, which has put Edge at a significant disadvantage. Microsoft's engineers have found that problematic pages could often be made Edge compatible with only very minor alterations, but because Web devs aren't using Edge at all, they don't even know that they need to change anything.

The story is, however, a little more complex. The initial version of Edge that shipped with the first version of Windows 10 was rudimentary, to say the least. It was the bare bones of a browser, but with extremely limited capabilities around things like tab management and password management, no extension model, and generally lacking in the creature comforts that represent the difference between a bare rendering engine and an actual usable browser. It also had stability issues; crashes and hangs were not uncommon.

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Posted in Blink, chrome, Chromium, development, EDGE, google, JavaScript, microsoft, Open Source, Tech, WebKit | Comments (0)

Report: Microsoft is scrapping Edge, switching to just another Chrome clone

December 4th, 2018
Report: Microsoft is scrapping Edge, switching to just another Chrome clone

Enlarge (credit: Getty / Aurich)

Windows Central reports that Microsoft is planning to replace its Edge browser, which uses Microsoft's own EdgeHTML rendering engine and Chakra JavaScript engine, with a new browser built on Chromium, the open source counterpart to Google's Chrome. The new browser has the codename Anaheim.

The report is short on details. The easiest thing for Microsoft to do would be to use Chromium's code wholesale—the Blink rendering engine, the V8 JavaScript engine, and the Chrome user interface with the Google Account parts omitted—to produce something that looks, works, and feels almost identical to Chrome. Alternatively, Redmond could use Blink and V8 but wrap them in Edge's user interface (or some derivative thereof), to retain its own appearance. It might even be possible to do something weird, such as use Blink with the Chakra JavaScript engine. We'll have to wait and see.

Since its launch with Windows 10, Edge has failed to gain much market share. The first iterations of Edge were extremely barebones, offering little more than a basic tabbed browser—no extensions, little control over behavior. Early releases of Edge were also not as stable as one might have liked, making the browser hard to recommend. Three years later on and Edge is greatly—but unevenly—improved. The browser engine's stability seems to be much better than it was, and performance and compatibility remain solid (though with the exception of a few corner cases, these were never a real concern).

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Posted in browsers, chrome, EDGE, microsoft, standards, Tech, Web, Windows | Comments (0)

Chrome 71 will block any and all ads on sites with “abusive experiences”

November 5th, 2018
Chrome 71 will block any and all ads on sites with “abusive experiences”

Enlarge (credit: Isaac Bowen / Flickr)

Google is promising to punish sites that offer what the company calls "abusive experiences." Chrome 71, due for release in December, will blacklist sites that are repeat offenders and suppress all advertising on those sites.

The behaviors deemed abusive cover a range of user-hostile things, such as ads that masquerade as system error messages, ads with fake close boxes that actually activate an ad when clicked, phishing, and malware. In general, if an ad is particularly misleading, destructive, or intrusive, it runs the risk of being deemed abusive.

Chrome already takes some actions against certain undesirable website behaviors; it tries to block popups, it limits autoplay of video, and it blocks certain kinds of redirection. These measures have been insufficient to prevent misleading or dangerous ads, hence Google taking further steps to banish them from the Web.

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Posted in Advertising, chrome, Chromium, development, google, Open Source, Tech, the web | Comments (0)

Apple, Google, Microsoft, and Mozilla come together to end TLS 1.0

October 16th, 2018
A green exterior door is sealed with a padlock.

Enlarge (credit: Indigo girl / Flickr)

Apple, Google, Microsoft, and Mozilla have announced a unified plan to deprecate the use of TLS 1.0 and 1.1 early in 2020.

TLS (Transport Layer Security) is used to secure connections on the Web. TLS is essential to the Web, providing the ability to form connections that are confidential, authenticated, and tamper-proof. This has made it a big focus of security research, and over the years, a number of bugs that had significant security implications have been found in the protocol. Revisions have been published to address these flaws.

The original TLS 1.0, heavily based on Netscape's SSL 3.0, was first published in January 1999. TLS 1.1 arrived in 2006, while TLS 1.2, in 2008, added new capabilities and fixed these security flaws. Irreparable security flaws in SSL 3.0 saw support for that protocol come to an end in 2014; the browser vendors now want to make a similar change for TLS 1.0 and 1.1.

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Posted in apple, browsers, chrome, EDGE, Firefox, google, microsoft, Mozilla, Safari, security, standards, Tech, TLS | Comments (0)