Five hot features coming to Google's Chrome browser

As Mozilla and Microsoft scramble to match its pace, Google adds a raft of new features to its popular contender.

The pace of browser development seems to be reaching breakneck speeds as Mozilla, Google and Microsoft race to keep their contenders ahead in the ongoing battle for supremacy.

After announcing a new, speedier schedule for Firefox, for example, Mozilla on Wednesday launched its "Aurora" channel to enable early testing of upcoming features and innovations in the browser. Microsoft's Internet Explorer 9, meanwhile, is barely out of the starting gates, but that hasn't stopped the company from unveiling a preview of its own next version.

And what of Google Chrome? It, indeed, is a big part of the reason for this new sense of haste, with a six-week refresh schedule that has long made its competitors look like the proverbial tortoise by comparison.

Just in the past week or so, in fact, Google has reportedly made several dozen changes to the inner workings and user interface of its Chrome browser, many of them becoming evident in nightly builds over the past few days. It won't be long before they show up in stable releases of the software, so here's a look at some of the highlights of what's coming down the pike.

1. 'SPDY' for Speed

Though it began to show up in Chrome in mid-January, the SPDY protocol (pronounced "speedy") is now fully implemented, according to a report on ConceivablyTech. SPDY is an alternative to HTTP that's designed for transporting content over the Web with minimal latency, and in Google's lab tests, it's created reductions in page load times of up to 64 per cent. Currently, however, those improvements are visible only when using Chrome to visit Google's own sites. All currently downloadable versions of Google Chrome -- nightly build, canary, developer, beta and stable -- now reportedly support SPDY, which will eventually be released as open source, Google says.

2. Beefed-Up Security

Targeting enterprise users, Google has also made some changes to its content security policy, ConceivablyTech notes. Specifically, systems administrators can now use Chrome to block particular types of content, including plug-ins, images, styles, fonts and inline scripts. This, of course, is in addition to the new warnings Google announced earlier this month that alert users to potentially dangerous downloads.3. Touch Tabs

As of the latest Chromium 12 nightly builds, new "touch tabs" allow users to select multiple homepages with app icons much like on a smartphone app screen. Just in the last few days, Google also reportedly added a "Recently Closed" option that lists such pages in a pop-up window.

4. Tab Scrolling

New scroll buttons have now been added to Chrome's side tabs so as to help users access them all. Judging by user comments, tab scrolling has been a frequently requested feature for some time. In addition, tab labels now reportedly feature a fading font in the Windows version of Chrome as well.

5. WebKit Improvements

With the latest WebKit version comes support for Windows 7 gestures as well as for Chrome's Skia backend, which will enable PDF rendering in print preview mode, according to reports.

In January, Chrome surpassed a 10 per cent share of global browser usage for the first time, according to market researcher Net Applications. By March, it claimed 11.57 per cent of the worldwide browser market.

As the browser wars continue, it's exciting to see the ongoing march of innovation. I'm already looking forward to the next round.

Follow Katherine Noyes on Twitter: @Noyesk .

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Katherine Noyes

PC World (US online)
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