Chrome Beta to experiment with a more powerful New Tab page, web highlights, and search changes

Google is launching a new version of its Chrome Beta browser today that’s introducing some fairly notable changes to its user interface and design. The browser will introduce an updated New Tab page, which will now include cards directing you back to past web search activities, instead of only a list of shortcuts to favorite websites. Other changes aim to make it easier to navigate search results and to highlight and share quotes from the web.

The New Tab page’s update will be one of the first changes Chrome beta users may notice.

The idea behind this design change is about getting you back quickly to past web activities without a need dive into your browsing history to remember which sites you had been using for things like recipes or shopping. It can also help you to return quickly to your recent documents list in Google Drive, in a handy bit of cross-promotion for Google services.

Image Credits: Google

The page will now feature what Google is calling “cards,” not just links, which could direct you to things like a recently-visited recipe site where you had been browsing for ideas, a Google doc you need to finish editing, or a retailer’s website where you had left your shopping cart filled with things you may like to purchase at a later date. The latter ties into Google’s larger investment in online shopping, which has already seen the search giant trying to grab more marketshare in the space by making product listings free and partnering with e-commerce platforms like Shopify.

Google is rightly concerned about Amazon’s surging advertising business, which is a large part of the retailer’s “Other” category that grew 87% year-over-year to generate $7.9 billion in the second quarter. Now, it’s capitalizing on Chrome’s New Tab real estate to elevate shopping activity in the hopes of pushing users to complete their transactions.

Another change aims to make it easier to do web research. Google says that often, users searching for something on its platform will navigate to multiple web pages to find their answer. The new version of Chrome will experiment with a different way of connecting users to their search results by adding a row beneath the address bar on Chrome for Android that will show the rest of the results so you can navigate to other web pages without needing to hit the back button.

Image Credits: Google

A new “quote cards” experiment, also coming to Chrome Beta on Android, will allow users to create a stylized image for social sharing that features text found on websites. Taking a screengrab of a website’s text is something that’s already a common activity, and particularly for people who want to share a key point from a news article they’re reading with followers on platforms like Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram. With this new feature, you’ll be able to long press text to highlight it, then tap Share and select a template by tapping on the “Create Card” option from the menu.

All features are a part of the Chrome Beta browser. To enable experiments, you can type chrome://flags into the browser’s address bar or click on the Experiments beaker icon, and then enable the flags. The associated flags for these experiments are #ntp-modules flag (New Tab page), #continuous-search (search results changes), and #webnotes-stylize flag (quote cards).

Experiments don’t necessarily become Chrome features that roll out more broadly. Instead, they offer Google a way to capture large-scale user feedback about its new design ideas, so the features can be tweaked and fine-tuned before a public release.

#android, #android-apps, #apps, #chrome, #chrome-beta, #chrome-on-android, #computing, #freeware, #google-apps, #google-search, #google-chrome, #google-docs, #google-drive, #online-shopping, #operating-systems, #recipes, #search, #search-results, #software, #web-search

Microsoft’s Edge browser can now start up faster and put your tabs to sleep

At its annual Build conference today, Microsoft announced a couple of new features for version 91 of its Edge browser that, like so much at Build this year, aren’t earth-shattering (developer velocity!) but nice quality-of-life upgrades for its users. Since Microsoft develops Edge in the open, these may also feel familiar to those who keep a close eye on the Edge roadmap – indeed, I think I’ve seen most of these in Edge 90 already…

One new feature is Startup Boost, which allows Edge to start up almost instantly. The way Microsoft does this is pretty straightforward. It simply loads some of the core Edge processes whenever you boot up your Windows machine, so when you task Edge with starting up, there isn’t all that much work left to do. This shouldn’t have too much of an effect on your Windows 10 bootup time, so it’s probably a trade-off worth making, but I also can’t recall anybody complaining about browser startup times in the last couple of years either.

The other new feature is ‘sleeping tabs,’ which does pretty much what you expect it to do. It puts your tabs to sleep so they don’t use up unnecessary memory and CPU cycles.

Microsoft first announced that it was testing this feature back in December and at the time, the Edge team said that it reduces memory usage by 32% and helps improve battery life as well, given that sleeping tabs use 37% less CPU on average compared to non-sleeping tabs.

It’s worth noting that Google’s Chrome browser, which shares many of its underlying technology with Edge, also features tools to limit resource usage, including what Google calls ‘tab freezing,’ as does virtually every other major browser today.

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#edge, #freeware, #google, #google-chrome, #major, #microsoft, #microsoft-build-2021, #microsoft-edge, #microsoft-windows, #operating-systems, #software, #tab, #tc, #web-browsers, #windows-10

So long, Internet Explorer, and your decades of security bugs

Image Credits: Louis Douvis / Getty Images

Pour one out for Internet Explorer, the long-enduring internet browser that’s been the butt of countless jokes about its speed, reliability, and probably most notable of all, security, which will retire next year after more than 25 years of service.

Microsoft said it will pull the plug on the browser’s life support in June 2022, giving its last remaining half a dozen or so users a solid year to transition to Chrome or Firefox — let’s be honest here — though other respectable browsers are available. There will be some exceptions to the end-of-life plan, such as industrial machines that need the browser to operate.

For years, Microsoft has nudged Internet Explorer users towards its newer Edge browser as a more reliable and secure alternative to the ailing Internet Explorer, often in the most obnoxious ways possible by splashing on-screen ads the second you flirt with using a rival browser. As the wider web’s support for Internet Explorer dwindled, enterprises have also begun phasing out support for the browser.

But in ending support for Internet Explorer, Microsoft is parting ways with one of the most problematic security headaches in its history.

Virtually no other software has been subject to more security bugs than Internet Explorer, in large part due to its longevity. Microsoft has patched Internet Explorer almost every month for the past two decades, trying to stay one step ahead of the hackers who find and exploit vulnerabilities in the browser to drop malware on their victims’ computers. Internet Explorer was hardened over the years, but it lagged behind its competitors, which sped ahead with frequent, almost invisible security updates and tougher sandboxing to prevent malware from running on the user’s computer.

As much as it’s easy to hate on Internet Explorer, it’s been with us for almost three decades since it debuted in Windows 95, and it’s served us well. For many of us who grew up on the internet in our teens and twenties, Internet Explorer was the first — and really the only — browser we used. Most of us signed up for our first Hotmail email address with Internet Explorer. We learned how to code our MySpace page using that browser, and we downloaded a lot — and I mean a lot — of suspicious-looking, malware-packed “games” that slowed the computer down to a crawl but thought nothing of it.

I remember, as a 10-(ish)-year-old child, seeing for the first time the pixelated Internet Explorer icon on that bright, teal wallpapered cathode-ray monitor in a cold attic room in our family home, because, not really knowing what the internet was, I complained to my father: “I don’t want to just explore the internet. I want to see the whole thing.”

Thanks to Internet Explorer, I got to see a large part of it.

#browser-security, #freeware, #google-chrome, #internet-explorer, #microsoft, #microsoft-edge, #microsoft-windows, #security, #software, #web-browsers, #windows-95

Google unpauses privacy-focused changes to Chrome UA strings

Google is resuming work on reducing the granularity of information presented in user-agent strings on its Chrome browser, it said today — picking up an effort it put on pause last year, during the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, when it said it wanted to avoid piling extra migration burden on the web ecosystem in the middle of a public health emergency.

The resumption of the move has implications for web developers as the changes to user-agent strings could break some existing infrastructure without updates to code. Although Google has laid out a pretty generous-looking timeline of origin tests — and its blog post emphasizes that “no User-Agent string changes will be coming to the stable channel of Chrome in 2021“. So the changes certainly won’t ship before 2022.

The move, via development of its Chromium engine, to pare back user-agent strings to reduce their ability to be used to track users is related to Google’s overarching Privacy Sandbox plan — aka the stack of proposals it announced in 2019 — when it said it wanted to evolve web architecture by developing a set of open standards to “fundamentally enhance” web privacy.

Part of this move toward a more private default for Chromium is depreciating support for third party tracking cookies. Another part is Google’s proposed technological alternative for on-device ad-targeting of cohorts of users (aka FLoCs).

Cleaning up exploitable surface areas like fingerprintable user-agent strings is another component — and should be understood as part of the wider ‘hygiene’ drive required to deliver on the goals of Privacy Sandbox.

The latter remains a massive, tanker-turning effort, though.

And while there has been some suggestions Google could be ready to ship Privacy Sandbox in early 2022, given the timelines it’s allowing for origin tests of the changes to user-agent strings — a seven phase rollout, with two origin trials lasting at least six months apiece — that looks unlikely. (At least not for all the constituent parts of the Sandbox to ship.)

Indeed, back in 2019 Google was upfront that the changes it had in mind would not come overnight, saying then: “It’s going to be a multi-year journey”. Albeit in January 2020 it seemed to dial up at least part of the timeline, saying it wanted to phase out support for third party cookies within two years.

Still, Google can’t realistically depreciate tracking cookies without also shipping changes in browser standards that are needed to provide publishers and advertisers with alternative means to do ad targeting, measurement and fraud prevention. So any delay to elements of the Privacy Sandbox could have a knock-on impact on its ‘two-year’ timeline to end support for third party cookies. (And 2022 may well be the very earliest the shift could happen.)

There’s push and pull going on here, as Google’s effort to retool web infrastructure — and, more specifically, to change how web users and activity can and can’t be tracked — has massive implications for many other web users; most notably the adtech players and publishers whose businesses are deeply embedded in this tracking web.

Unsurprisingly, it has faced a lot of pushback from those sectors.

Its plan to end support for third party tracking cookies is also under regulatory scrutiny in Europe — where advertisers complained it’s an anti-competitive power move to block third parties’ access to user data while continuing to help itself to masses of first party user data (given its dominance of key Internet services). So depending on how regulators respond to ecosystem concerns Google may not be able to keep full control of the timeline, either.

Nonetheless, from a privacy perspective, Chrome paring back user-agent strings is a welcome — if overdue — move.

Indeed Google’s blog post notes that it’s the laggard vs similar efforts already undertaken by the web engines underlying Apple’s Safari browser and Mozilla’s Firefox.

“As noted in the User Agent Client Hints explainer, the User Agent string presents challenges for two reasons. Firstly, it passively exposes quite a lot of information about the browser for every HTTP request that may be used for fingerprinting,” Google writes, fleshing out its rational for the change. “Secondly, it has grown in length and complexity over the years and encourages error-prone string parsing. We believe the User Agent Client Hints API solves both of these problems in a more developer- and user-friendly manner.”

Commenting on the development, Dr Lukasz Olejnik, an independent consultant and security and privacy researcher who has advised the W3C on technical architecture and standards, describes the incoming change as “a great privacy improvement”.

“The user-agent change will reduce entropy and so reduce identifiability,” he told TechCrunch. “I view it as a great privacy improvement because considering IP address and the UA string at the same time is highly identifying. UAs are not exactly simplified in Firefox/Safari in the way Chrome suggests doing them.”

Google’s blog post notes that its UA plan was “designed with backwards compatibility in mind”, and seeks to reassure developers — adding that: “While any changes to the User Agent string need to be managed carefully, we expect minimal friction for developers as we roll this out (i.e., existing parsers should continue to operate as expected).

“If your site, service, library or application relies on certain bits of information being present in the User Agent string such as Chrome minor versionOS version number, or Android device model, you will need to begin the migration to use the User Agent Client Hints API instead,” it goes on. “If you don’t require any of these, then no changes are required and things should continue to operate as they have to date.”

Despite Google’s reassurances, Olejnik suggested some web developers could still be caught on the hop — if they fail to take note of the development and don’t made necessary updates to their code in time.

“Web developers may be concerned as certain libraries or backend systems depend on the strict UA string existing as today,” he noted, adding: “Things may stop working as intended. This might be a sudden and surprising breakage. But the actual impact at a scale is unpredictable.”

#chromium, #flocs, #google, #google-chrome, #privacy-sandbox, #safari, #tc, #third-party-cookies, #web-browsers, #web-developers, #web-infrastructure

Google revives RSS

Chrome, at least in its experimental Canary version on Android (and only for users in the U.S.), is getting an interesting update in the coming weeks that brings back RSS, the once-popular format for getting updates from all the sites you love in Google Reader and similar services.

In Chrome, users will soon see a ‘Follow’ feature for sites that support RSS and the browser’s New Tab page will get what is essentially a (very) basic RSS reader — I guess you could almost call it a “Google Reader.”

Now we’re not talking about a full-blown RSS reader here. The New Tab page will show you updates from the sites you follow in chronological order, but it doesn’t look like you can easily switch between feeds, for example. It’s a start, though.

Image Credits: Google

“Today, people have many ways to keep up with their favorite websites, including subscribing to mailing lists, notifications and RSS. It’s a lot for any one person to manage, so we’re exploring how to simplify the experience of getting the latest and greatest from your favorite sites directly in Chrome, building on the open RSS web standard,” Janice Wong, Product Manager, Google Chrome, writes in today’s update. “Our vision is to help people build a direct connection with their favorite publishers and creators on the web.”

A Google spokesperson told me that the way the company has implemented this is to have Google crawl RSS feeds “more frequently to ensure Chrome will be able to deliver the latest and greatest content to users in the Following section on the New Tab page.”

RSS was one of the fundamental technologies of the Web 2.0 era. Even today, it’s still the easiest way to get timely updates from your favorite sites (though some may not offer feeds anymore) without any recommendation algorithms getting in your way. Yet while RSS was always extremely useful, the user experience wasn’t always ideal, though services like Google Reader (RIP) and Feedly did a lot to make it simple enough to subscribe to feeds and get updates. But when Google offered Google Reader at the altar of Google+ back in 2013, that era came to an end, even as diehard news junkies kept holding on to their Feedly accounts and old copies of NetNewsWire.

I think a lot of people will be glad to see that Google is bringing it back as a core feature of its browser. If you prefer an open web, RSS, for all its occasional clumsiness, is the way to go.

For now, though, this is only an experiment. Google says it wants to gather feedback from ” publishers, bloggers, creators, and citizens of the open web” as it aims to build “deeper engagement between users and web publishers in Chrome.” Hopefully, it won’t stay this way.

#android, #feedly, #google-chrome, #google-reader, #mobile, #news-aggregators, #open-web, #rss, #technology, #web-2-0

Chrome now uses Duplex to fix your stolen passwords

Google announced a new feature for its Chrome browser today that alerts you when one of your passwords has been compromised and then helps you automatically change your password with the help of… wait for it… Google’s Duplex technology.

This new feature will start to roll out slowly to Chrome users on Android in the U.S. soon (with other countries following later), assuming they use Chrome’s password-syncing feature.

It’s worth noting that this won’t work for every site just yet. As a Google spokesperson told us, “the feature will initially work on a small number of apps and websites, including Twitter, but will expand to additional sites in the future.”

Now you may remember Duplex as the somewhat controversial service that can call businesses for you to make hairdresser appointments or check opening times. Google introduced Duplex at its 2018 I/O developer conference and launched it to a wider audience in 2019. Since then, the team has chipped away at bringing Duplex to more tasks and brought it the web, too. Now it’s coming to Chrome to change your compromised passwords for you.

Image Credits: Google

“Powered by Duplex on the Web, Assistant takes over the tedious parts of web browsing: scrolling, clicking and filling forms, and allows you to focus on what’s important to you. And now we’re expanding these capabilities even further by letting you quickly create a strong password for certain sites and apps when Chrome determines your credentials have been leaked online,” Patrick Nepper, senior product manager for Chrome, explains in today’s announcement.

In practice, once Chrome detects a compromised password, all you have to do is tap the “change password” button and Duplex will walk through the process of changing your password for you. Google says this won’t work for every site just yet, but “even if a site isn’t supported yet, Chrome’s password manager can always help you create strong and unique passwords for your various accounts.”

It’ll be interesting to see how well this works in the real world. Every site manages passwords a little bit differently, so it would be hard to write a set of basic rules that the browser could use to go through this process. And that’s likely why Google is using Duplex here. Since every site is a little bit different, it takes a system that can understand a bit more about the context of a password change page to successfully navigate it.

In addition to adding this feature, Google is also updating its password manager with a new tool for important passwords from third-party password managers, deeper integration between Chrome and Android and automatic password alerts when a password is compromised in a breach.

#android, #assistant, #chrome, #chrome-os, #freeware, #google, #google-i-o-2021, #google-chrome, #operating-systems, #password, #password-manager, #product-manager, #security, #software, #united-states, #web-browsers, #web-browsing

Chrome 89 increases desktop memory efficiency with PartitionAlloc

This week's new Chrome build doesn't look any different, but it introduces plenty of under-the-hood performance and efficiency improvements.

Enlarge / This week’s new Chrome build doesn’t look any different, but it introduces plenty of under-the-hood performance and efficiency improvements. (credit: Jim Salter / Pixabay)

Google Chrome version 89 began rolling out to users in the stable channel on March 2 and should be on most people’s machines by now. The new build offers significant memory savings on 64-bit Windows platforms thanks to increased use of Google’s PartitionAlloc memory allocator. On macOS, Chrome 89 plays catch-up and gets closer to the performance of the flagship Windows builds.

Chrome on Windows

Google says use of RAM in 64-bit Windows is down up to 22 percent in the browser process, 8 percent in the renderer, and 3 percent in the GPU. The company also claims a 9 percent decrease in latency, meaning a more responsive browser. The improvements are largely due to intercepting malloc() calls with PartitionAlloc.

Chrome 89 has also gotten significantly more aggressive about discarding unused RAM. When you scroll resources such as large images off-screen in the foreground tab, Chrome discards the memory those resources used. The change impacts background tabs as well, resulting in a savings of as much as 100MiB per tab.

Read 7 remaining paragraphs | Comments

#android, #android-browser, #apk, #browser, #chrome, #chrome-browser, #google-chrome, #play-store, #tech

Google speeds up its release cycle for Chrome

Google today announced that its Chrome browser is moving to a faster release cycle by shipping a new milestone every four weeks instead of the current six-week cycle (with a bi-weekly security patch). That’s one way to hasten the singularity, I guess, but it’s worth noting that Mozilla also moved to a four-week cycle for Firefox last year.

“As we have improved our testing and release processes for Chrome, and deployed bi-weekly security updates to improve our patch gap, it became clear that we could shorten our release cycle and deliver new features more quickly,” the Chrome team explains in today’s announcement.

Google, however, also acknowledges that not everybody wants to move this quickly — especially in the enterprise. For those users, Google is adding a new Extended Stable option with updates that come every eight weeks. This feature will be available to enterprise admins and Chromium embedders. They will still get security updates on a bi-weekly schedule, but Google notes that “those updates won’t contain new features or all security fixes that the 4 week option will receive.”

The new four-week cycle will start with Chrome 94 in Q3 2021, and at this faster rate, we’ll see Chrome 100 launch into the stable channel by March 29, 2022. I expect there will be cake.

#chrome, #chrome-os, #chromium, #enterprise, #firefox, #freeware, #google, #google-chrome, #microsoft-edge, #operating-systems, #software, #web-browsers

Google’s BeyondCorp Enterprise security platform is now generally available

Google today announced that BeyondCorp Enterprise, the zero trust security platform modeled after how Google itself keeps its network safe without relying on a VPN, is now generally available. BeyondCorp Enterprise builds out Google’s existing BeyondCorp Remote Access offering with additional enterprise features. Google describes it as “a zero trust solution that enables secure access with integrated threat and data protection”.

Over the course of the last few years, Google — and especially its Cloud unit — has evangelized the Zero Trust model and built a large partner network around this idea. Those partners include the likes of Check Point, Citrix, CrowdStrike, Symantec and VMWare.

As part of BeyondCorp Enterprise, businesses get an end-to-end zero trust solution that includes everything from DDoS protection and phishing-resistant authentication, to the new security features in the Chrome browser and the core continuous authorization features that protect every interaction between users and resources protected by BeyondCorp.

“The rapid move to the cloud and remote work are creating dynamic work environments that promise to drive new levels of productivity and innovation. But they have also opened the door to a host of new security concerns and sparked a significant increase in cyberattacks,” said Fermin Serna, Chief Information Security Office at Citrix. “To defend against them, enterprises must take an intelligent approach to workspace security that protects employees without getting in the way of their experience following the zero trust model.”

#beyondcorp, #chrome-os, #citrix, #citrix-systems, #computing, #crowdstrike, #enterprise, #google, #google-chrome, #security, #software, #symantec, #technology, #vmware, #vpn, #zero-trust

YouTube and WhatsApp inch closer to half a billion users in India

WhatsApp has enjoyed unrivaled reach in India for years. By mid-2019, the Facebook-owned app had amassed over 400 million users in the country. Its closest app rival at the time was YouTube, which, according to the company’s own statement and data from mobile insight firm App Annie, had about 260 million users in India then.

Things have changed dramatically since.

In the month of December, YouTube had 425 million monthly active users on Android phones and tablets in India, according to App Annie, the data of which an industry executive shared with TechCrunch. In comparison, WhatsApp had 422 million monthly active users on Android in India last month.

Factoring in the traction both these apps have garnered on iOS devices, WhatsApp still assumes a lead in India with 459 million active users1, but YouTube is not too far behind with 452 million users.

With China keeping its doors closed to U.S. tech giants, India emerged as the top market for Silicon Valley and Chinese companies looking to continue their growth in the last decade. India had about 50 million internet users in 2010, but it ended the decade with more than 600 million. Google and Facebook played their part to make this happen.

In the last four years, both Google and Facebook have invested in ways to bring the internet to people who are offline in India, a country of nearly 1.4 billion people. Google kickstarted a project to bring Wi-Fi to 400 railway stations in the country and planned to extend this program to other public places. Facebook launched Free Basics in India, and then — after the program was banned in the country — it launched Express Wi-Fi.

Both Google and Facebook, which identify India as their biggest market by users, have scaled down on their connectivity efforts in recent years after India’s richest man, Mukesh Ambani, took it upon himself to bring the country online. After he succeeded, both the companies bought multibillion-dollar stakes in his firm, Jio Platforms, which has amassed over 400 million subscribers.

Jio Platforms’ cut-rate mobile data tariff has allowed hundreds of millions of people in India, where much of the online user base was previously too conscious about how much data they spent on the internet, to consume, worry-free, hours of content on YouTube and other video platforms in recent years. This growth might explain why Google is doubling down on short-video apps.

The new figures shared with TechCrunch illustrate a number of other findings about the Indian market. Even as WhatsApp’s growth has slowed2 in India, it continues to enjoy an unprecedented loyalty among its users.

More than 95% of WhatsApp’s monthly active users in India use the app each day, and nearly its entire user base checks the app at least once a week. In comparison, three-fourths of YouTube’s monthly active users in India are also its daily active users.

The data also showed that Google’s eponymous app as well as Chrome — both of which, like YouTube, ship pre-installed3 on most Android smartphones — has also surpassed over 400 million monthly active users in India in recent months. Facebook’s app, in comparison, had about 325 million monthly active users in India last month.

When asked for comment, a Google spokesperson pointed TechCrunch to a report from Comscore last year, which estimated that YouTube had about 325 million monthly unique users in India in May 2020.

A separate report by research firm Media Partners Asia on Monday estimated that YouTube commanded 43% of the revenue generated in the online video market in India last year (about $1.4 billion). Disney+ Hotstar assumed 16% of the market, while Netflix had 14%.


1 For simplicity, I have not factored in the traction WhatsApp Business and YouTube Kids apps have received in India. WhatsApp and YouTube also maintain apps on KaiOS, which powers JioPhone feature handsets in India. At last count — which was a long time ago — more than 40 million JioPhone handsets had shipped in India. TechCrunch could not determine the inroads any app has made on this platform. Additionally, the figures of YouTube on Android (phones and tablets) and iOS (iPhone and iPad) will likely have an overlap. The same is not true of WhatsApp, which restricts one phone number to one account. So if I have WhatsApp installed on an iPhone with my primary phone number, I can’t use WhatsApp with the same number on an Android phone — at least not concurrently.
2 WhatsApp Business appears to be growing fine, having amassed over 50 million users in India. And some caveats from No. 1 also apply here.
3 Users still have to engage with the app for App Annie and other mobile insight firms to count them as active. So while pre-installing the app provides Google an unprecedented distribution, their apps still have to win over users.

#apps, #asia, #facebook, #google-chrome, #india, #media, #mobile, #whatsapp, #youtube

These 6 browser extensions will protect your privacy online

The internet is not a private place. Ads try to learn as much about you to sell your information to the highest bidder. Emails know when you open them and which links you click. And some of the biggest internet snoops, like Facebook and Amazon, follow you from site to site as you browse the web.

But it doesn’t have to be like that. We’ve tried and tested six browser extensions that will immediately improve your privacy online by blocking most of the invisible ads and trackers.

These extensions won’t block every kind of snooping, but they will vastly reduce your exposure to most of the efforts to track your internet activity. You might not care that advertisers collect your data to learn your tastes and interests to serve you targeted ads. But you might care that these ad giants can see which medical conditions you’re looking up and what private purchases you’re making.

By blocking these hidden trackers from loading, websites can’t collect as much information about you. Plus by dropping the unnecessary bulk, some websites will load faster. The tradeoff is that some websites might not load properly or refuse to let you in if you don’t let them track you. You can toggle the extensions on and off as needed, or you could ask yourself if the website was that good to begin with and could you not just find what you were looking for somewhere else?

HTTPS Everywhere

We’re pretty much hardwired to look for that little green lock in our browser to tell us a website was loaded over an HTTPS-encrypted connection. That means the websites you open haven’t been hijacked or modified by an attacker before it loaded and that anything you submit to that website can’t be seen by anyone other than the website. HTTPS Everywhere is a browser extension made by the non-profit internet group the Electronic Frontier Foundation that automatically loads websites over HTTPS where it’s offered, and allows you to block the minority of websites that don’t support HTTPS. The extension is supported by most browsers, including Chrome, Firefox, Edge, and Opera.

Privacy Badger

Another extension developed by the EFF, Privacy Badger is one of the best all-in-one extensions for blocking invisible third-party trackers on websites. This extension looks at all the components of a web page and learns which ones track you from website to website, and then blocks them from loading in the browser. Privacy Badger also learns as you travel the web, so it gets better over time. And it requires no effort or configuration to work, just install it and leave it to it. The extension is available on most major browsers.

uBlock Origin

Ads are what keeps the internet free, but often at the expense of your personal information. Ads try to learn as much about you — usually by watching your browsing activity and following you across the web — so that they can target you with ads you’re more likely to click on. Ad blockers stop them in their tracks by blocking ads from loading, but also the tracking code that comes with it.

uBlock Origin is a lightweight, simple but effective, and widely trusted ad blocker used by millions of people, but it also has a ton of granularity and customizability for the more advanced user. (Be careful with impersonators: there are plenty of ad blockers that aren’t as trusted that use a similar name.) And if you feel bad about the sites that rely on ads for revenue (including us!), consider a subscription to the site instead. After all, a free web that relies on ad tracking to make money is what got us into this privacy nightmare to begin with.

uBlock Origin works in Chrome, Firefox, and Edge and the extension is open source so anyone can look at how it works.

PixelBlock & ClearURLs

If you thought hidden trackers in websites were bad, wait until you learn about what’s lurking in your emails. Most emails from brand names come with tiny, often invisible pixels that alerts the sender when you’ve opened them. PixelBlock is a simple extension for Chrome browsers that simply blocks these hidden email open trackers from loading and working. Every time it detects a tracker, it displays a small red eye in your inbox so you know.

Most of these same emails also come with tracking links that alerts the sender which links you click. ClearURLs, available for Chrome, Firefox and Edge, sits in your browser and silently removes the tracking junk from every link in your browser and your inbox. That means ClearURLs needs more access to your browser’s data than most of these extensions, but its makers explain why in the documentation.

Firefox Multi-Account Containers

And an honorary mention for Firefox users, who can take advantage of Multi-Account Containers, built by the browser maker itself to help you isolate your browsing activity. That means you can have one container full of your work tabs in your browser, and another container with all of your personal tabs, saving you from having to use multiple browsers. Containers also keep your private personal browsing separate from your work browsing activity. It also means you can put sites like Facebook or Google in a container, making it far more difficult for them to see which websites you visit and understand your tastes and interests. Containers are easy to use and customizable.

#ad-blocking, #apps, #browser-extension, #electronic-frontier-foundation, #facebook, #firefox, #google, #google-chrome, #online-advertising, #privacy, #software, #web-browsers

Google, Intel, Zoom and others launch a new alliance to get enterprises to use more Chrome

A group of industry heavyweights, including Google, Box, Citrix, Dell, Imprivata, Intel, Okta, RingCentral, Slack, VMware and Zoom, today announced the launch of the moderncomputing.com.

The mission for this new alliance is to “drive ‘silicon-to-cloud’ innovation for the benefit of enterprise customers — fueling a differentiated modern computing platform and providing additional choice for integrated business solutions.”

Whoever wrote this mission statement was clearly trying to see how many words they could use without actually saying something.

Here is what the alliance is really about: even though the word Chrome never appears on its homepage and Google’s partners never quite get to mentioning it either, it’s all about helping enterprises adopt Chrome and Chrome OS. “The focus of the alliance is to drive innovation and interoperability in the Google Chrome ecosystem, increasing options for enterprise customers and helping to address some of the biggest tech challenges facing companies today,” a Google spokesperson told me.

I’m not sure why it’s not called the Chrome Enterprise Alliance, but Modern Computing Alliance may just have more of a ring to it. This also explains why Microsoft isn’t part of it, though this is only the initial slate of members and others may follow at some point in the future.

Led by Google, the alliance’s focus is on bringing modern web apps to the enterprise, with a focus on performance, security, identity management and productivity. And all of that, of course, is meant to run well on Chrome and Chrome OS and be interoperable.

“The technology industry is moving towards an open, heterogeneous ecosystem that allows freedom of choice while integrating across the stack. This reality presents both a challenge and an opportunity,” Google’s Chrome OS VP John Solomon writes today.

As enterprises move to the cloud, building better web applications and maybe even Progressive Web Applications that work just as well as native solutions is obviously a noble goal and it’s nice to see these companies work together. Given the pandemic, all of this has taken on a new urgency now, too. The plan is for the alliance to release products — though it’s unclear what form these will take — in the first half of 2021. Hopefully, these will play nicely with any browser. A lot of these ‘alliances’ fizzle out quite quickly, so we’ll keep an eye on what happens here.

Bonus: the industry has a long history of alliance like these. Here’s a fun 1991 story about a CPU alliance between Intel, IBM, MIPS and others.

#chrome, #chrome-os, #citrix, #citrix-systems, #cloud-computing, #computing, #dell, #google, #google-chrome, #ibm, #identity-management, #intel, #microsoft, #mips, #okta, #operating-systems, #os, #ringcentral, #software, #spokesperson, #tc, #vmware, #web-applications, #web-apps, #web-browsers, #zoom

Chrome adds new capabilities for developers, introduces new privacy rules for extension developers

At the Chrome Dev Summit, Google’s Chrome team today announced a number of new capabilities for developers, updated rules for extension developers, as well as new steps to improve the overall performance of the browser.

In addition, the Chrome team also announced a major change for extension developers: sometime in 2021, users will get more granular control over which sites an extension can access and starting in January, every extension will feature a ‘privacy practices’ section on the Chrome Web Store that details what kind of data the extension collects.

Image Credits: Google

The Chrome team also today announced that it will launch Manifest V3 in mid-January, when Chrome 88 hits the stable channel. That’s something a lot of extension developers — especially those working on ad blockers — have been dreading. Manifest V3 introduces new limits for extension developers that are meant to prevent them from accessing too much data from their users, but it also puts relatively severe limits on how extensions can interact with a web page. Google now says it has made some changes to V3 based on the feedback it has received, but this is probably not the last we’ve heard of this.

Overall, however, if you’re a user, the most welcome news from today’s event may be that, after working to reduce the overall memory footprint of the browser with a couple of updates earlier this year, the team is now tackling the V8 JavaScript engine and reducing its memory footprint as well. In addition, the team found some new ways to speed up V8 and eliminate any parsing pauses by loading a site’s JavaScript files in parallel to make sure they can be used the moment a page wants to execute them.

The team also continues to work on new ways to speed up the browsing experience, too. The team is doing this by actually changing the way it compiles Chrome, something it first talked about this summer, when these changes arrived in the Chrome beta channel.

“Based on looking at the usage patterns of Chrome, we asked ourselves — with insights of how users are actually using Chrome — are there things we could do in how we compile chrome itself that would make it more efficient? And we found that the answer is yes,” Google’s Ben Galbraith told me. “[…] We call it profile-guided optimization and in [certain] scenarios, we found up to 10 percent faster page loads due to these task-specific compiler optimizations.” Most of the scenarios are in the 2 to 5 percent range, but given how mature most browser engines are now, even that’s a significant difference.

The team is also recently worked on improving tab throttling and how it allocates resources to foreground and background tasks. Galbraith noted that the plan is to do more work along these lines moving forward.

Developers, too, will get some new tools to improve the performance of their web apps as part of Google’s Web Vital initiative, which aims to provide developers with the right performance metrics to help them understand how users experience their web apps. Google Search will use some of these core metrics in its rankings, starting May 2021. Google already highlights this data in the Chrome Experience Report, in its Search Console and elsewhere, but today it is also launching an open-source Web Vitals Report tool to help developers create custom visualization based on the Web Vitals data they’ve sent to Google Analytics. Google Analytics doesn’t currently surface this data in the context of Web Vitals, so developers can now run these reports using Google’s own hosted tool or fork the code and run them on their own infrastructure.

Image Credits: Google

“When you look at the different metrics, we’re focused on the things that we understand the most: loading metrics, visual stability and the like, and interaction — so when you click on something, something actually happens. The mission for these metrics is to be able to really understand the quality of the experience that you’ve got.,” Google’s Dion Almaer explained.

And there is more. On the privacy front, Google continues to iterate on its Privacy Sandbox model. It’s adding two new experiments here with the Click Conversion Measurement API to measures ad conversions without using cross-site identifiers and the new Trust Token APIs that allow a site to issue a cryptographic token to a user it trusts. The idea behind this token is that the browser can then use this token in another context as well to evaluate that a user is who they say they are — and not a bot or an impostor with malicious intent.

In addition, there are also new features for developers who want to write PWAs, updates to how developers can accept payments in Chrome and more.

Image Credits: Google

#api, #ben-galbraith, #chrome-os, #chrome-web-store, #dion-almaer, #forward, #google-chrome, #javascript, #operating-systems, #software, #tc, #v8, #web-apps, #web-browsers

Thank you, Chrome team

Since Chrome came out back in 2008, it’s been a constant companion in my life. In fact, Chrome’s launch is how I helped get the startup I worked for at the time onto TechCrunch for the first time.

We did shots to celebrate. Chrome rocked, and we were Day One Fans.

But over time what was once a romance began to sour, as Chrome got a bit slower, a bit heavier and a bit worse over the years.

The devolution felt a bit like what was happening to Google search, in which a very good idea was slowly turned into something that made more money at the cost of functionality, speed, and user happiness (more on that natural terminus of that progression here).

And because I am a petulant child, I have been very annoyed by what has happened to Chrome, software that I have never paid a single dollar to use. To make this point, I went out to round up a tweet or two from myself complaining about Chrome over the years, but after finding at least nine examples since May I started to feel bad (one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine). So let’s move on.

What went wrong with Chrome? I don’t know. Over time its taste for RAM, lag, and being generally annoying grew. But as I was living in a G Suite world, sticking to Chrome made sense — so I endured.

And now, I may not have to any longer. This week Google detailed an impending set of Chrome updates that are amazing to read through and imagine the real-world impact of. Big Goog appears to have gone deep into its browser’s code, finding ways to make it faster, lighter on memory usage, and smarter.

I am so very excited.

What’s coming? Pulling from Google’s Chromium blog instead of its more consumer-friendly post (a big thanks to The Verge for bringing this set of updates to my attention), here are the highlights as far as I am concerned (Bolding: TechCrunch in each block quote):

Even if you have a lot of tabs open, you likely only focus on a small set of them to get a task done. Starting in this release, Chrome is actively managing your computer’s resources to make the tabs you care about fastwhile allowing you to keep hundreds of tabs open—so you can pick up where you left off.

In this release, we’re improving how Chrome understands and manages resources with Tab throttling, occlusion tracking and back/forward caching, so you can quickly get to what you need when you need it.

Google this is literally me. I feel incredibly seen. Thank you.

We investigated how background tabs use system resources and found that JavaScript Timers represent >40% of the work in background tabs. Reducing their impact on CPU and power is important to make the browser more efficient. Beginning in M87, we’re throttling JavaScript timer wake-ups in background tabs to once per minute. This reduces CPU usage by up to 5x, and extends battery life up to 1.25 hours in our internal testing.

When the world works again, I want to buy lunch for everyone who took part in this effort.

Next, we’re bringing Occlusion Tracking–which was previously added to Chrome OS and Mac–to Windows, which allows Chrome to know which windows and tabs are actually visible to you. With this information, Chrome can optimize resources for the tabs you are using, not the ones you’ve minimized, making Chrome up to 25% faster to start up and 7% faster to load pages, all while using less memory.

Hell yes.

How many times have you visited a website and clicked a link to go to another page, only to realize it’s not what you wanted and click the back button? […] In Chrome 87, our back/forward cache will make 20% of those back/forward navigations instant, with plans to increase this to 50% through further improvements and developer outreach in the near future.

I didn’t even know I needed this, but I do. And I can’t wait to have it.

All in all, as I write this short post to you inside of Chrome, I cannot help but be freaking excited about New And Improved Chrome. More later after I get some testing in, but, honestly, yay!

 

#apps, #google, #google-chrome, #reviews

Google Chrome is available as an Apple M1 native app today

Chrome isn't available in the App Store—you'll need to download it using Safari. When you do, Google will ask you which version you'd like to download.

Enlarge / Chrome isn’t available in the App Store—you’ll need to download it using Safari. When you do, Google will ask you which version you’d like to download. (credit: Jim Salter)

The Google Chrome browser is now available as an Apple M1 native application, for those of you lucky enough to have M1 Mac Mini, Macbook Air, or Macbook Pro systems. (If you’ve been living under a rock for the last few weeks, the M1 is Apple’s newest in-house-designed ARM silicon, which the company began selling in traditional form-factor laptops and Mac Minis for the first time this week.)

Google presents Chrome for download as either an x86_64 package or an M1 native option—which comes across as a little odd, since the M1 native version is actually a universal binary, which works on either M1 or traditional Intel Macs. Presumably, Google is pushing separate downloads due to the much smaller file size necessary for the x86_64-only package—the universal binary contains both x86_64 and ARM applications, and weighs in at 165MiB to the Intel-only package’s 96MiB.

Performance

In our earlier testing, we declared that the previous version of Google Chrome—which was available only as an x86_64 binary, and needed to be run using Rosetta 2—was perfectly fine. That was and is a true statement; we find it difficult to believe anyone using the non-native binary for Chrome under an M1 machine would find it “slow.” That said, Google’s newer, ARM-native .dmg is available today, and—as expected—it’s significantly faster, if you’re doing something complicated enough in your browser to notice.

Read 3 remaining paragraphs | Comments

#apple, #apple-m1, #arm, #google, #google-chrome, #m1, #m1-native, #tech, #universal-binary

Google reveals a new Windows zero-day bug it says is under active attack

Google has dropped details of a previously undisclosed vulnerability in Windows, which it says hackers are actively exploiting. As a result, Google gave Microsoft just a week to fix the vulnerability. That deadline came and went, and Google published details of the vulnerability this afternoon.

The vulnerability has no name but is labeled CVE-2020-17087, and affects at least Windows 7 and Windows 10.

Google’s Project Zero, the elite group of security bug hunters which made the discovery, said the bug allows an attacker to escalate their level of user access in Windows. Attackers are using the Windows vulnerability in conjunction with a separate bug in Chrome, which Google disclosed and fixed last week. This new bug allows an attacker to escape Chrome’s sandbox, normally isolated from other apps, and run malware on the operating system.

Microsoft did not immediately comment when contacted by TechCrunch, but Project Zero’s technical lead Ben Hawkes said in a tweet that Microsoft plans to issue a patch on November 10.

But it’s unclear who the attackers are or their motives. Google’s director of threat intelligence Shane Huntley said that the attacks were “targeted” and not related to the U.S. election.

It’s the latest in a list of major flaws affecting Windows this year. Microsoft said in January that the National Security Agency helped find a cryptographic bug in Windows 10, though there was no evidence of exploitation. But in June and September, Homeland Security issued alerts over two “critical” Windows bugs — one which had the ability to spread across the internet, and the other could have gained complete access to an entire Windows network.

#chrome-os, #computer-security, #elite, #google, #google-chrome, #malware, #microsoft, #microsoft-windows, #operating-system, #operating-systems, #security, #software, #vulnerability, #windows-7, #windows-xp

Google announces slew of Chrome OS features to help extend enterprise usage

As companies have moved to work from home this year, working on the internet has become the norm, and it turns out that Chrome OS was an operating system built for cloud-based applications. But most enterprise use cases are a bit more complex, and Google introduced some new features today to make it easier for IT to distribute machines running Chrome OS.

While the shift to the cloud has been ongoing over the last few years, the pandemic has definitely pushed companies to move faster, says John Maletis, project manager for engineering and UX for Chrome OS. “With COVID-19, the need for that productive, distributed workforce with some employees in office, but mostly [working from home] is really in the sights of businesses everywhere, and it is rapidly accelerating that move,” Maletis told TechCrunch.

To that end, Cyrus Mistry, group product manager at Google says that they want to make it easier for IT to implement Chrome OS and they’ve added a bunch of features to help. For starters, they have created a free readiness tool that lets IT get the lay of the land of which applications are ready to run on Chrome OS, and which aren’t. The tools issues a report with three colors: green is good to go, yellow is probable and red is definitely not ready.

To help with the latter categories, the company also announced the availability of Parallels for Chrome OS, which will enable companies with Windows applications that can’t run on Chrome OS to run them natively in Windows in a virtual machine. Mistry acknowledges that companies running Windows this way will need to issue higher end Chromebooks with the resources to handle this approach, but for companies with critical Windows applications, this is a good way to extend the usage of Chromebooks to a broader population of users.

To make it easier to issue machines ready to use of the box, Google is also introducing zero touch distribution, which allows manufacturers to set up machines for a domain ready to use out of the box. All the user has to do is turn it on and it’s ready to use.

“We can do what’s called zero touch, which is the devices can be already enrolled by the manufacturers, which means they will know the domain and they can now drop ship directly,” Mistry explained. That means these machines are equipped with the right settings, policies, applications, certificates and so forth, as though IT had set up the machine for the user.

In another nod to making life easier for IT, Google  is offering a new set of certified applications like Salesforce, Zoom and Palo Alto Networks which have been certified to work well on Chrome OS. Finally, the company announced that it will be enabling multiple virtual work areas with the ability to drag and drop between them, along with the ability to group tabs and search for tabs in the Chrome browser, which should be ready in the next couple of months.

As Maletis pointed out, the company may have been ahead of the market when it released Chrome OS almost a decade ago, but this year has shown that companies need the cloud to stay in operation and Chrome OS is an operating system built from the ground up for the cloud.

#chrome-os, #cloud, #covid-19, #enterprise, #google, #google-chrome, #operating-systems

Google calls DOJ’s antitrust lawsuit “deeply flawed” in GIF-laden blog response

Google was clearly anticipating today’s U.S. Department of Justice antitrust complaint filing – the company posted an extensive rebuttal of the lawsuit to its Keyword company blog. The post, penned by SVP of Global Affairs and Google Chief Legal Officer Kent Walker, suggests that the DOJ’s case is “deeply flawed” and “would do nothing to help consumers,” before going into a platform-by-platform description of why it thinks its position in the market isn’t representative of unfair market dominance that would amount to antitrust.

Google’s blog post is even sprinkled with GIFs – something that’s pretty common for the search giant when it comes to its consumer product launches. These GIFs include step-by-step screen recordings of setting search engines other than Google as your default in Chrome on both mobile and desktop. These processes are both described as “trivially easy” by Walker in the post, but they do look like a bit of an own-goal when you notice just how many steps it takes to get the job done on desktop in particular, including what looks like a momentary hesitation in where to click to drill down further for the “Make Default” command.

Image Credits: Google

Google also reportedly makes reference to companies choosing their search engine as default because of the quality of their service, including both Apple and Mozilla (with a link drop for our own Frederic Lardinois). Ultimately, Google is making the argument that its search engine isn’t dominant because of a lack of viable options fostered by anti-competitive practices, but that instead it’s a result of building a quality product that consumers then opt in to using from among a field of choices.

The DOJ’s full suit dropped this morning, and an initial analysis suggests that this scrutiny is perhaps inopportunely timed in terms of its proximity to the election to actually have any significant teeth. There is some indication that a more broad, bipartisan investigation with support from state level attorney generals on both sides of the aisle could follow later, however, so it’s not necessarily all just going to go away regardless of election outcome.

#apple, #chrome-os, #doj, #freeware, #gif, #google, #google-search, #google-chrome, #kent-walker, #mozilla, #operating-systems, #search-engine, #search-engines, #software, #tc, #web-browsers

Adobe Lightroom gets a new color grading tool, auto versions, graphical watermarking and more

At its MAX conference, Adobe today announced the launch of the latest version of Lightroom, its popular photo management and editing tool. The highlights of today’s release are the introduction of a new color grading tool that’s more akin to what you’d find in a video editor like Adobe Premiere or DaVinci Resolve, auto versioning that’s saved in the cloud (and hence not available in Lightroom Classic) and graphical watermarks, in addition to a number of other small feature updates across the application.

Adobe had already teased the launch of the new color grading feature last month, which was probably a good idea given how much of a change this is for photographers who have used Lightroom before. Adjusting color is, after all, one of the main features of Lightroom and this is a major change.

Image Credits: Adobe

At its core, the new color wheels replace the existing ‘split toning’ controls in Lightroom.

“Color Grading is an extension of Split Toning — it can do everything Split Toning did, plus much more,” Adobe’s Max Wendt explains in today’s announcement. “Your existing images with Split Toning settings will look exactly the same as they did before, your old Split Toning presets will also still look the same when you apply them, and you can still get the same results if you had a familiar starting point when doing Split Toning manually.”

My guess is that it’ll take a while for many Lightroom users to get a hang of these new color wheels. Overall, though, I think this new system is more intuitive than the current split toning feature that a lot of users regularly ignored.

The new color grading feature will be available across platforms and in Lightroom Classic, as well as Camera Raw.

The other new feature Adobe is highlighting with this release is graphical watermarks (available on Windows, Mac, iOS, iPadOS, Android and Chrome OS), that augments the existing text-based watermarking in Lightroom. This does exactly what the name implies and the watermarks are automatically applied when you share or export and image.

Image Credits: Adobe

The most important overall quality of life feature the team is adding is auto versions (also available on Windows, Mac, iOS, iPadOS, Android and Chrome OS). This makes it far easier to save different versions of an image — and these versions are synced across platforms. That way, you can easily go back and forth between different edits and revert those as necessary, too.

Image Credits: Adobe

With its new ‘best photos’ feature, Adobe is now also using its Ai smarts to find the best photos you’ve taken, but only on iOS, iPadOS, and Android, Chrome OS and the web. It’ll look at the technical aspects of your photo, as well as whether your subjects have their eyes open and face forward, for example, and the overall framing of the image. Users can decide how many of their images make the cut by toggling a threshold slider.

Another nifty new feature for Canon shooters who use Lightroom Classic is the addition of a tethered live view for Canon – with support for other cameras coming soon. With this, you get a real-time feed from your camera, making it easier to collaborate with others in real time.

 

#adobe, #adobe-lightroom, #android, #apps, #artificial-intelligence, #canon, #chrome-os, #google-chrome, #ipad, #lightroom, #microsoft-windows, #operating-systems, #photo-management, #software, #video-editor

Microsoft is building a price comparison engine into its Edge browser

With its Edge browser now stable, Microsoft’s current focus for its Chromium-based browser is to build features that differentiate it from the competition.

With the holiday season coming up fast (though who knows what that will actually look like this year), it’s maybe no surprise that one of the first new features the company is announcing is a price comparison tool as part of its ‘Collections’ bookmarking service. That was always an obvious next step, but it’s nice to see Microsoft add some more functionality here.

Also coming to Edge is the general availability of its integration between Collections and Pinterest, as well as a new screenshot tool for capturing web content, improved PDF support and an update to its Teleparty extension for streaming TV shows in sync with your friends and chat about it in your browser’s sidebar.

In addition, you can now also start free video meetings with your friends and family (or co-workers), right from the browsers through an integration with Microsoft’s Meet Now service. You can have up to 50 people in these video chats, share screens and record these sessions. While this is rolling out in Edge first, it’s also coming to Outlook on the web and the Windows 10 taskbar in the next few weeks.

Image Credits: Microsoft

You can’t say Microsoft held back on new features with this release, but the highlight is surely the new price comparison engine, though.

“We’ve been talking about how collections is a great feature for anyone who wants to do research — whether that’s research in education or work, but a lot of people do research for shopping,” said Divya Kumar, Microsoft’s Director of Product Management for its browser and search tools. “We’ve really started to talk about this rhythm of, ‘okay, if use drop things into Collections, we should be really smart enough to give you the data that you’re looking for.’ This felt like a really natural next step for us to do.”

As long as Edge — through its connection with Microsoft Bing‘s existing price comparison engine — recognizes that you’re saving a product site, maybe from Amazon or Best Buy, it’ll show you the option to compare prices right in the browser tools bar. The next logical step now is for the team to add alerts when prices change and Kumar tells me that this is on the roadmap, together with several other features the team wasn’t ready to discuss yet.

Microsoft says it does not get affiliate fees when you buy through one of the links in Collections.

Talking about shopping, the team is also launching its Bing Rebates cashback program out of beta now (after shutting down a somewhat similar program a while back). The company signed up the likes for Walmart, Expedia, Walgreens and Nvidia for this program (though Nvidia only gives you a whopping 0.5% cashback). Still, it may just get some people to use Bing, though you have to sign up as a Microsoft Rewards member to participate.

“Rebates is a great part of the shopping story that we’re trying to land in terms of enabling smarter shopping experiences in the browser,” said Kumar.

In addition, through its Give with Bing program, you can now use your Microsoft Rewards points to donate to charitable organizations and until the end of the year, Microsoft will match your gift. This is live in the including: U.S., UK, Canada, Australia, France, Italy, Germany and Spain.

As somebody who works on the web and takes screenshots all day, the updated screenshotting tool is also worth a look. Edge could already help you take screenshots, but until now, all you could do was copy what was on your screen. Now, you can also grab content from further down the page and then save it or share it directly from Edge.

Image Credits: Microsoft

If you’re an iOS user and have switched to Edge there — or thought about it — the news here is that you can now select Edge as your default browser there, a feature Apple finally enabled with the launch of iOS 14.

#artificial-intelligence, #bookmark, #chrome-os, #chromium, #computing, #freeware, #google-chrome, #microsoft, #microsoft-edge, #microsoft-kin, #pdf, #pinterest, #software, #tc, #web-browsers

Microsoft’s Edge browser is coming to Linux in October

Microsoft’s Edge browser is coming to Linux, starting with the Dev channel. The first of these previews will go live in October.

When Microsoft announced that it would switch its Edge browser to the Chromium engine, it vowed to bring it to every popular platform. At the time, Linux wasn’t part of that list, but by late last year, it became clear that Microsoft was indeed working on a Linux version. Later, at this year’s Build, a Microsoft presenter even used it during a presentation.

Image Credits: Microsoft

Starting in October, Linux users will be able to either download the browser from the Edge Insider website or through their native package managers. Linux users will get the same Edge experience as users on Windows and macOS, as well as access to its built-in privacy and security features. For the most part, I would expect the Linux experience to be on par with that on the other platforms.

Microsoft also today announced that its developers have made over 3,700 commits to the Chromium project so far. Some of this work has been on support for touchscreens, but the team also contributed to areas like accessibility features and developer tools, on top of core browser fundamentals.

Currently, Microsoft Edge is available on Windows 7, 8 and 10, as well as
macOS, iOS and Android.

#chromium, #computing, #edge, #freeware, #google-chrome, #linux, #microsoft, #microsoft-edge, #microsoft-ignite-2020, #software, #tc, #web-browsers

Investors are browsing for Chromium startups

A few months ago, we declared that “browsers are interesting again,” thanks to increased competition among the major players. Now, as more startups are getting onboard, things are getting downright exciting.

A small but growing number of projects are building web browsers with a more specific type of user in mind. Whether that perceived user is prioritizing improved speed, organization or toolsets aligned with their workflow, entrepreneurs are building these projects with the assumption that Google’s one-size-fits-all approach with Chrome leaves plenty of users with a suboptimal experience.

Building a modern web browser from scratch isn’t the most feasible challenge for a small startup. Luckily open-source projects have enabled developers to build their evolved web browsers on the bones of the apps they aim to compete with. For browsers that are not Safari, Firefox, Chrome or a handful of others, Google’s Chromium open-source project has proven to be an invaluable asset.

Since Google first released Chrome in late 2008, the company has also been updating Chromium. The source code powers the Microsoft Edge and Opera web browsers, but also allows smaller developer teams to harness the power of Chrome when building their own apps.

These upstart browsers have generally sought to compete with the dominant powers on the privacy front, but as Chrome and Safari have begun shipping more features to help users manage how they are tracked online, entrepreneurs are widening their product ambitions to tackle usability upgrades.

Aiding these heightened ambitions is increased attention on custom browsers from investors. Mozilla co-founder Brendan Eich’s Brave has continued to scale, announcing last month they had 5 million daily active users of their privacy-centric browser.

Today, Thrive Capital’s Josh Miller spoke with TechCrunch about his project The Browser Company which has raised $5 million from some notable Silicon Valley operators. Other hot upstart efforts include Mighty, a subscription-based, remote-streamed Chrome startup from Mixpanel founder Suhail Doshi, and Blue Link Labs, a recent entrant that’s building a decentralized peer-to-peer browser called Beaker browser.

Mighty

As front-end developers have gotten more ambitious and web applications have gotten more complex, Chrome has earned the reputation of being quite the RAM hog.

#brave, #browsers, #chromium, #ev-williams, #founders-fund, #freeware, #github, #google, #google-chrome, #mighty, #mixpanel, #mozilla, #opera, #slack-fund, #tc, #thrive-capital, #web-browsers, #y-combinator

Chrome competitor, The Browser Company, quietly raises $5M

A handful of Silicon Valley’s notable figures are backing a software startup looking to challenge Google Chrome’s dominance.

The startup, called The Browser Company, is led by Joshua Miller, who previously served as the Obama White House’s Director of Product and is currently an investor at Thrive Capital, an investment firm founded by Josh Kushner.

The New York startup has raised just north of $5 million in funding, a source familiar tells TechCrunch. The company’s backers include LinkedIn’s Jeff Weiner, Medium’s Ev Williams, Figma’s Dylan Field, Notion’s Akshay Kothari and GitHub’s Jason Warner.

The startup has been pretty vague in public about what exactly they’re working on. They’re building a new browser that seems to reject bare bones simplicity and embrace some of the more flexible interfaces of modern web apps. The browser’s backend is built, in part, on the bones of Chrome, utilizing open source Chromium which allows the upstart product to boast seamless support with broader web standards at launch.

“We love the internet, but it can be overwhelming,” the startup’s site reads. “What if a browser could help us make sense of it all?”

In a phone call, Miller wasn’t much more illuminating on what exactly the eventual release might look like.

“I’m going to be a little cagey just because we do have competitors that have more engineers and more money than we do,” Miller said in response to a question regarding product capabilities.

The Browser Company’s team of six isn’t the only young startup aiming to challenge Chrome’s one-size-fits-all approach to the browser market. For Extra Crunch, I dug into a number of the young browser startups that investors are backing. (Subscription required.)

Google’s Chrome flat-out dominates the browser market. In 2016, Google detailed that they had about 2 billion active installs of the application. Since then, as users of competitors like Firefox and Internet Explorer have dropped off significantly, the product has only cemented its lead.

Google’s efforts to build a version of Chrome suited for billions of people across the globe has led to a safe product that Miller says isn’t very “opinionated” about how people should use it. The Browser Company isn’t aiming to replace Chrome, he says, but is looking to find a subset of Chrome users whose needs it can better meet.

“I think one of the reasons that web browsers have remained somewhat stagnant in terms of their functionality is that the business model is built on top of is one of search ad revenue,” Miller says. “I think of Chrome and Safari as Toyotas or Hondas. They’re reliable, they’re affordable, they’re accessible and they’re simple. We’re trying to build the Tesla of web browsers.”

Miller says The Browser Company is hoping to start bringing on users to beta test the software later this year.

#browsers, #chrome, #google, #google-chrome, #tc

Apple will let users pick their own default email and browser apps

Apple quietly made a major announcement that will change life for users of mobile Chrome, Gmail or Outlook. The company is shifting its view on app defaults and will be allowing users to set different app defaults for their mail and browser apps.

The company specifically denoted that this feature is coming to iPadOS and iOS 14. This likely means users can designate which browser they’re directed to when they tap a link somewhere. We’ll see whether Apple reserves any functionality for its own services. Rather than highlighting this new feature in the keynote, they snuck it into roundup screens that hovered onscreen for a few seconds. It’s hidden in the bottom center of the screen.

This is a big change for Apple but it’s no surprise they wouldn’t opt to specifically highlight this onstage. Apple has been reluctant to give users the option to use third-party apps as defaults. The big exception to date has been allowing users early on to set Google Maps as the default over Apple Maps.

Email and browsing are huge mobile use cases and it’s surprising that users haven’t had this capability to shift defaults to apps like Chrome or Gmail until this upcoming update. As Apple finds itself at the center of more anti-trust conversations, app defaults has been one area that’s always popped up as a method by which Apple promotes its own services over those from other companies.

Details are scant in terms of what this feature will look like exactly and what services will boast support, but I imagine we’ll hear more as the betas begin rolling out.

#apple-inc, #freeware, #gmail, #google, #google-chrome, #ios, #ipad, #operating-systems, #software, #tc, #web-browsers, #webmail, #wwdc-2020

You can now surf in Microsoft’s Edge browser

Browser developers love to add small Easter Eggs to their apps to help you while away the hours when your Interent is down, for example. Chrome has long had the Dino game, that you can start from the ‘No internet’ error screen, for example. With its surf game, Microsoft’s Edge team built something similar into its pre-release channels earlier this year and as the company announced today, it’s now also available in the stable channel, too.

Just type in ‘edge://surf’ into your URL bar and you’re off to the races. The surf game is an endless scroller where you try to avoid obstacles, other surfers and the occasional attention-starved kraken. It’s more fun than the Dino game and also a bit more fully-featured. There are different game modes (endless, time trial, zig zag) and you can play with keyboard, mouse, touch or gamepad. If you like your games even more casual, there is a reduced speed mode and there is a high visibility mode for those with visual impairments.

After almost a year in public preview, the Edge team launched its first stable version earlier this year and only last week, Microsoft announced a slew of new features at its virtual Build developer conference. Even during its preview period, Edge was already a capable browser, though it lacked any killer features — unless being a very good Chromium-based browser made by Microsoft was really what you were always looking for. That’s slowly changing now, as the team is now building out the Edge feature set. The surf game isn’t exactly a killer feature, but it does help set the overall vibe for the browser and shows that Microsoft is looking to go beyond the basics now.

#chromium, #google-chrome, #microsoft, #microsoft-edge, #offline, #surfing, #tc, #web-browsers

Google Chrome will finally help you organize your tabs

Google Chrome is rolling out a new feature to help you better manage all your open tabs. The company announced today the launch of “tab groups” for the beta version of its web browser, which will allow you to organize, label, and even color-code your tabs for easy access. The feature will make its way to the stable release of Chrome starting next week.

To use the new feature, you can right-click on a tab and choose “Add tab to group.” You can then select an existing group to move the tab to or create a new one, which you’ll also name and label.

The company had been testing this solution for several months before today’s public release, as some had already spotted. Based on this early research, Google says it found that many people tended to organize their tabs by topic — like a project they’re working on or a set of shopping and review sites, for example.

Others, however, would organize tabs by urgency — labeling them things like “ASAP,” “this week,” or “later.” Google also suggests tab groups can be used to help keep you focused on task progress, by grouping them into areas like “in progress,” “need to follow up,” and “completed.”

And if you prefer a more minimalist look, tab groups also support the use of emoji in their labels,

 

The problem of having too many tabs open is one that’s common to anyone who spends time on the internet, whether for work, school, research, online shopping, or even just browsing for fun. Tabs start to stack up with all those things you need to come back to at some other time — unless, of course, they’re part of your permanent collection of pinned tabs that never get closed.

Despite the prevalence of the “too-many-tabs” problem, Google had yet to introduce a solution for Chrome users. That led to the creation of a cottage industry of tab management tools like OneTab, Workona, Toby, and many others.

Meanwhile, other browser makers tapped into consumer demand for better tab management solutions to make that a selling point for their own Chrome alternatives. For instance, Vivaldi offers automatic tab stacking to keep tab clutter down. And Opera earlier this year introduced a new version of its web browser that lets you organize tabs into various workspaces.

Google isn’t likely too worried about losing its majority market share to its rivals, given its near-complete dominance on the desktop. But Chrome has fallen from a 71.15% share of the desktop browser market in August 2019 to 67.15% as of April 2019, as other browsers made inroads. That could have been just enough of a push to get Google to focus on new features that will keep consumers in its ecosystem.

Tab Groups are available in Google Chrome Beta for preview as of today. The feature will also be available for Chrome on the desktop across Chrome OS, Windows, Mac and Linux when the updated version begins rolling out next week.

However, Google cautions tab groups will be slowly rolled out to ensure Chrome’s stability and performance aren’t impacted. So if you’re itching to use the new tab groups feature sooner, you may want to switch to the beta for the time being.

 

#browser, #chrome, #google, #google-chrome, #tc

Google Meet launches improved Zoom-like tiled layout, low-light mode and more

Google Meet, like all video chat products, is seeing rapid growth in user numbers right now, so it’s no surprise that Google is trying to capitalize on this and is quickly iterating on its product. Today, it is officially launching a set of new features that include a more Zoom-like tiled layout, a low-light mode for when you have to make calls at night and the ability to present a single Chrome tab instead of a specific window or your entire screen. Soon, Meet will also get built-in noise cancellation so nobody will hear your dog bark in the background.

If all of this sounds a bit familiar, it’s probably because G Suite exec Javier Soltero already talked to Reuters about these features last week. Google PR is usually pretty straightforward, but in this case, it moved in mysterious ways. Today, though, these features are actually starting to roll out to users, a Google spokesperson told me, and today’s announcement does actually provide more details about each of these features.

For the most part, what’s being announced here is obvious. The tiled layout allows web users to see up to 16 participants at once. Previously, that number was limited to four and Google promises it will offer additional layouts for larger meetings and better presentation layouts, as well as support for more devices in the future.

For the most part, having this many people stare at me from my screen doesn’t seem necessary (and more likely to induce stress than anything else), but the ability to present a single Chrome tab is surely a welcome new feature for many. But what’s probably just as important is that this means you can share higher-quality video content from these tabs than before.

If you often take meetings in the dark, low-light mode uses AI to brighten up your video. Unlike some of the other features, this one is coming to mobile first and will come to web users in the future.

Personally, I’m most excited about the new noise cancellation feature. Typically, noise cancellation works best for noises that repeat and are predictable. Think about the constant drone of an airplane or your neighbor’s old lawnmower. But Google says Meet can now go beyond this and also cancel out barking dogs and your noisy keystrokes. That has increasingly become table stakes, with even Discord offering similar capabilities and Nvidia RTX Voice now making this available in a slew of applications for users of its high-end graphics cards, but it’s nice to see this as a built-in feature for Meet now.

This feature will only roll out in the coming weeks and will initially be available to G Suite Enterprise and G Suite Enterprise for Education users on the web, with mobile support coming later.

#artificial-intelligence, #chrome-os, #enterprise, #g-suite, #google, #google-hangouts, #google-slides, #google-chrome, #javier-soltero, #operating-systems, #software, #tc, #web-browsers

Vivaldi browser gets built-in tracking blocker, goes GA on Android

Vivaldi, the browser launched by former Opera CEO Jon von Tetzchner, has long positioned itself as a highly customizable alternative to Chrome and Firefox for power users. Today, the team is launching version 3.0 of its desktop browser, with built-in tracker and ad blockers, and it’s bringing its Android browser out of beta.

I’ve long been a fan of Vivaldi, but the company was relatively late to the tracking protection game. Now, it’s doubling down on this, by integrating a blocklist powered by DuckDuckGo’s Tracker Radar.

Like competing browsers, Vivaldi offers three blocking levels that users can easily toggle on and off for individual websites. Those blocking levels are relatively blunt, though, with the options to either block trackers, block trackers and ads or disable blocking. Competitors like Edge offer slightly more nuanced options for blocking trackers, though I would expect Vivaldi to adopt a similar scheme over time.

For the most part, the Vivaldi team always said that it would delegate ad blocking to extensions, though it added the option to block highly intrusive ads in the middle of last year. And while the company still notes that blocking trackers provides enough privacy protection, with today’s update, it now also gives users the option to block virtually all ads without the need to download any extensions (as a Chromium-based browser, Vivaldi supports all Chrome extensions).

Also new in the desktop version is a clock. Yes. A clock. That may sound like a weird feature, given that your desktop of choice surely features a clock, but like all things Vivaldi, you can a) remove it and b) there is actually some usefulness here as you can, for example, set up timers if you’re into Pomodoro or similar productivity techniques. And because it is Vivaldi, you can set all kinds of custom alarms and countdown timers, too.

As for the mobile version, which is now generally available for Android 5 and higher, the most important fact is probably that it exists, given how most users expect to be able to easily sync their bookmarks, passwords and browsing history between mobile and desktop. As with other browsers, you can choose what you want to sync.

Like the desktop version, Vivaldi for Android now also features a tracking and ad blocker. There’s also a built-in screenshot tool and support for Vivaldi notes, which also sync between devices.

The mobile browser isn’t quite as flexible as the desktop version, with its plethora of options, but that’s probably not what you’re looking for in a mobile browser anyway. But having a stable mobile browser that can accompany the desktop version is a big deal for Vivaldi and may give users who were on the sidelines a reason to take another look at it.

Out of the box, there’s no other browser that will give you the kind of flexibility Vivaldi does.

#ad-blocking, #android, #duckduckgo, #firefox, #freeware, #google-chrome, #jon-von-tetzchner, #online-advertising, #software, #tc, #vivaldi, #web-browsers

Tech for good during COVID-19: Children’s book, phone booths, and aperitifs

Helena Price Hambrecht and Woody Hambrecht always had plans for Haus, their direct-to-consumer low-alcoholic drink, to land white-label partnerships with local restaurants. But when coronavirus spread across the country and hurt thousands of local restaurants, the Haus founders saw an opportunity to fast forward on that product plan and at the same time give back.

Haus recently announced its plans to work with restaurants across the country and co-create local digs-inspired apéritifs. For Mister Jiu’s, an upscale Chinese restaurant in San Francisco, the beverage will mix “warm black cardamom, smoky lapsang tea, spicy ginger, and floral osmanthus.” For JuneBaby, a southern fare restaurant in Seattle, the drink will have hints of elderflower and oranges. The entire profit will go to the restaurants themselves, Helena tells me. And Haus has already begun cutting five-figure checks to restaurants just from pre-orders of these Haus-powered beverages alone.

On this refreshing note, let’s get into other ways venture-backed startups are using their presence to help others struggling during this time.

1. A phone booth for COVID-19 tests. Room, which manufactures privacy-focused office phone booths, hasn’t had much of a customer base lately as COVID-19 limits people from going into the office. The company has pivoted its resources to deploy a new product: coronavirus test booths for use in hospitals. The booths allow healthcare professionals to conduct tests with a protective barrier. It has already donated the first group of test booths to hospitals around the world, and it has made the design files for the booths available for free download to encourage others to manufacture locally.

2.Mission critical deliveries for free. Onfleet is offering its delivery software free of charge for companies and organizations that have mobilized to do community building deliveries. The startup is notably focused on critical deliveries and institutions that have had to change to delivery operations overnight. It’s working with partners like SF-Marin Foodbank, The NYC Dept for the Aging, various farmers markets around the country and other PPE delivery organizations that have recently organized.

3. Code from home. Fullstack Academy, an online coding and career development bootcamp, is offering a bootcamp prep course for free for two upcoming cohorts. The course, which will be run remotely, will cover specific coding and JavaScript concepts.

4. A daily assessment as a civic duty. A small team at Stanford Medicine created a National Daily Health Survey to help identify the prevalence of symptoms associated with COVID-19 in different ZIP codes across the United States. This survey is aimed at individuals who want to do a small part every day to help predict surges and inform response efforts. The survey takes 2-3 minutes to complete the first day, and 1 minute to complete in the days after that. It is currently being translated into five languages for broader usage. The team says that it’s looking for people who will make a long-term commitment for the survey.

5. World Without COVID. Clara Health, along with tech folks like Raj Kapoor of Lyft and Vijay Chattha of VSC, are launching a free website to track the public health status of the sick and healthy alike. The site wants to draw COVID-19 treatment data for public health professionals, as well as connect people to clinical trials. The team says that it will also track immunity status to help surface individuals that can volunteer in healthcare efforts in the future.

6. Twilio -powered hotline. WhileAtHome.org is a website spun up by volunteers to provide resources on education, healthcare tips and concerts. Recently, the team launched a Twilio-powered hotline so people can be connected to local state hotlines. If you dial 478-29COVID, Twilio will automatically route you to the hotline that is in your state.

Hiring efforts for laid-off make-up artists. Il Makiage is hiring makeup artists who were recently laid off due to COVID-19 related reasons for virtual one-on-one makeup tutorials. The direct-to-consumer beauty brand is paying make-up artists $25 an hour.

7. A charitable Chrome extension. 4thwall wants to take all the TV binge-watching and put it toward a social good. First, users can sign up for a 4th wall Chrome extension. Then, once they activate the extension, they can stream Netflix or Hulu. After 250 minutes of streaming, a relief cause is unlocked and users can pick which COVID-19 specific charity they want to support. 4thwall will make a donation at no cost to the user. Per the website, the cost-free donations are possible because the company will send the viewer demographic metrics, anonymized, to other companies to see viewing trends and create content accordingly.  One of the creators, Andrew Schneider, says that the community has already raised $1,500 in the first two weeks, and the goal is to raise $40K in the next 10 weeks.

8. Bridal brand gives back. Online bridal brand Anomalie is delivering CDC-certified face masks to hospitals to help front-line healthcare workers. The company is using its supply chain and manufacturing relationships in China to make masks, instead of wedding dresses. The first two shipments of over 10,000 masks have been delivered and received.

9. Bedtime storytelling just got a glow up. Yumi, a science-based childhood meal delivery startup, has created a free children’s book to explain COVID-19 to your little ones. It is available for download, and Snoop Dogg tweeted about it.

#china, #coronavirus, #fullstack-academy, #google-chrome, #javascript, #lyft, #netflix, #raj-kapoor, #san-francisco, #seattle, #snoop-dogg, #software, #supply-chain, #tc, #twilio, #united-states, #web-browsers, #yumi

Google rolls back SameSite cookie changes to keep essential online services from breaking

Google today announced that it will temporarily roll back the changes it recently made to how its Chrome browser handles cookies in order to ensure that sites that perform essential services like banking, online grocery, government services and healthcare won’t become inaccessible to Chrome users during the current COVID-19 pandemic.

The new SameSite rules, which the company started rolling out to a growing number of Chrome users in recent months, are meant to make it harder for sites to access cookies from third-party sites and hence track a user’s online activity. These new rules are also meant to prevent cross-site request forgery attacks.

Under Google’s new guidance, developers must explicitly allow their cookies to be read by third-party sites, otherwise, the browser will prevent these third-party sites from accessing them.

Because this is a pretty major change, Google gave developers quite a bit of time to adapt their applications to it. Still, not every site is ready yet, so the Chrome team decided to halt the gradual rollout and stop enforcing these new rules for the time being.

“While most of the web ecosystem was prepared for this change, we want to ensure stability for websites providing essential services including banking, online groceries, government services and healthcare that facilitate our daily life during this time,” writes Google Chrome engineering director Justin Schuh. “As we roll back enforcement, organizations, users and sites should see no disruption.”

A Google spokesperson also told us that the team saw some breakage in sites “that would not normally be considered essential, but with COVID-19 having become more important, we made this decision in an effort to ensure stability during this time.”

The company says it plans to resume its SameSite enforcement over the summer, though the exact timing isn’t yet clear.

#browsers, #chrome, #cookies, #coronavirus, #covid-19, #google, #google-chrome, #privacy, #tc, #web-browsers, #world-wide-web