Google has just unleashed a new Chrome update that includes notable performance improvements for its fast Web browser. Current Chrome beta users will automatically receive the new beta release over the next few days, Google Chrome Program Manager Mark Larson said.
Beyond introducing a number of fixes the company previously rolled out to its development channel, Chrome beta 0.4.154.25 adds features such as a new bookmark manager. Users will be able to "search bookmarks, create folders, and drag and drop bookmarks to new locations," Larson added.
Enhanced Privacy Control
Other notable Chrome changes are intended to give users better control of Web privacy. A new privacy section is accessed by opening the wrench menu, clicking on "options" and selecting the "under the hood" tab. "It groups together all of the configuration options for features that might send data to another service," Larson said.
Google also has improved Chrome's pop-up blocker, which had minimized pop-up windows on the lower right corner of the browser window, creating one "constrained" window for each pop-up, Larson said.
"Now Google Chrome displays one small notification in the corner that shows the number of blocked pop-ups," Larson explained. "A menu on the notification lets you open a specific pop-up, if needed."
Additionally, the latest beta release fixes a design flaw that allowed downloaded HTML files to read other files on the user's PC, and even send them to sites on the Internet. "We now prevent local files from connecting to the network and also prompt you to confirm a download if it is an HTML file," Larson said.
This week's beta upgrade is Google's latest step toward preparing Chrome, which currently runs only on Windows, for an official release in early 2009. Last week, Google Vice President Sundar Pichai told The Times newspaper, based in London, that Chrome will be ready to come out of beta testing by January.
Google is also planning to steal a page from Microsoft's original Internet Explorer playbook by working with PC makers to "ship computers with Chrome preinstalled," Pichai said. To widen Chrome's reach, Google also intends to offer Mac and Linux versions in the first half of next year, he said.
However, Chrome will have a lot of ground to make up if it is to successfully challenge Internet Explorer 8, which Microsoft has said it intends to roll out next year. Right now Chrome holds a tiny 0.74 percent share of the browser market, according to Net Applications. By contrast, IE8 commands a market-leading 71.27 percent share.
Microsoft said last week that it intends to release one more public update of IE8 in the first quarter of 2009, and follow that with a final release that incorporates feedback from the technical community.
"We want them to test their sites and services with IE8, make any changes they feel are necessary for the best possible customer experience, and report any critical issues," said Dean Hachamovitch, general manager of Microsoft's Internet Explorer development program.