Chrome continues to gobble up the browser market, leaving rivals to split a pile of crumbs.
Now with nearly 69% of world’s browser user share – a measure of browser activity calculated monthly by metric vendor Net Applications – Google’s Chrome has no popularity peer. Its rivals barely qualify as such, with Microsoft’s Edge adopting Google’s technology and Mozilla’s Firefox trying to keep its head above 8%.
So, when Chrome speaks, everyone listens, whether about each browser upgrade – something Computerworld tracks in the What’s in the latest Chrome update? series – or about Google’s plans for the future.
Every Chrome upgrade is accompanied by release notes aimed at enterprises that highlight some of the upcoming additions, substitutions, enhancements and modifications planned for the browser. We collected the most important for this “Coming soon” round-up. Just remember that nothing is guaranteed; Google pointedly notes: “”The items listed below are experimental or planned updates. They might be changed, delayed, or canceled before launching to the Stable channel.”
Chrome 77: Lowering (the number of) flags
“Many flags in chrome://flags will be removed in upcoming Chrome versions, starting with Chrome 77,” Google said, repeating a warning from June about Chrome 76 that didn’t come to pass. “You shouldn’t use flags to configure Chrome because they’re not supported. Instead, configure Chrome for your enterprise or organization using policies.”
The macOS version of Chrome 76 Stable listed 307 available flags and another 15 unsuitable for Apple’s operating system.
Chrome 77: Nuclear group policies, toe-to-toe with the Rooskies
Google will assemble some Chrome policies into what it calls “atomic policy groups” to make sure settings that depend on each other to control a feature come from a single source, such as Windows Group Policy or Google’s Admin Console.
“This may be a breaking change if you set GPOs ((Group Policy Objects)) from multiple sources,” Google said. “You can check if any GPOs are in conflict by visiting chrome://policy in Chrome.”
Chrome 77: Welcome, welcome, welcome
Chrome 77 features a new “first run experience,” the label for how a new program poses questions and offers options to set up the software. The new flow, said Google, will “get ((users)) set up with popular Google services and set a default web browser.” That last is of special importance in Windows 10, which pre-sets Microsoft’s Edge as the out-of-the-box browser. The PromotionalTabsEnabled policy will disable the new first run experience, Google said.
Chrome 78: Experimenting with DNS-over-HTTPS
“Starting in Chrome 78, the DNS ((Domain Name System)) requests of some users will auto-upgrade to DNS-over-HTTPS if they are using a DNS provider that supports it,” Google noted. For background, DNS-over-HTTPS would better secure domain requests between browser and domain servers by blocking man-in-the-middle attempts to eavesdrop and/or fiddle with the in-transmission data. Google and Mozilla – maker of Firefox – are both testing the proposed standard.
Users will be able to opt out of the trials Google will conduct by disabling it through chrome://flags. Administrators will be allowed to do likewise via policy. “Instructions will be provided in a future Chromium blog post and release notes,” Google promised.
Chrome 78: Browser add-ons reducing requests for data
Starting Oct. 15, Google will require that add-on developers reduce their data access requests to the least amount possible. “While this has previously been encouraged for developers, now we’re making this a requirement for all extensions,” Google said.
Although there’s nothing that will change in Chrome itself related to this new requirement, version 78 – set to debut Oct. 22 – may be affected if, for instance, an add-on developer refuses to follow the rules. “After October 15, 2019, items that violate these updates to the User Data policy will be removed or rejected from the Web Store and will need to become compliant to be reinstated,” Google said.
Chrome ??: Chrome address bar searches return results from Google Drive
“Soon, users will be able to search for Google Drive files that they have access to from the address bar,” Google wrote. Again.
This has been on the Chrome to-do list for months.
In March, Google began testing integrations between Chrome and Google Drive for G Suite Business, Enterprise, and Enterprise for Education productivity subscriptions. (The beta testing required Chrome 69 or later; Google shut down the preview program in mid-June.)
Key to this feature is Google’s assertion that, “This goes beyond current functionality, which lets users search for Google Drive files that they have recently accessed,” likely making it a tool eventually available only to G Suite users.