Barely out of Beta, Google advances its browser with new rendering, security and HTTP capabilities.
Some technologies move fast, while others blaze at lightning speed such as Google's latest Chrome browser, now at version 184.108.40.206.
The latest release includes a major new version of the WebKit rendering engine, new customization options, security and speed enhancements as well as a new HTTP (define) engine that could herald the introduction of Chrome for Linux and Mac.
Google has not yet provided a specific date for a Mac and Linux release of Chrome, Google spokesperson Eitan Bencuya told InternetNews.com.
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"Since Chrome is open source, all development is done in the open, and you can track the progress of the Mac version at http://sites.google.com/a/chromium.org/dev/developers/how-tos/mac-detailed-status, Bencuya noted.
To date, Google has only offered Chrome on Windows in two versions, the Stable-channel and the Dev-Channel. With the latest dev-channel release, Google is adding a third development milestone release with a Beta-channel as well.
Why a new milestone release channel? Apparently, it doesn't think the current dev-channel release is stable.
"It's less polished than what Dev channel users have been getting during Google Chrome's Beta, so we've moved all of our existing Dev channel users to the Beta channel," wrote Mark Larson, Google Chrome program manager, in a blog post.
Breaking down the Chrome channels
All Google Chrome users start with the stable channel when they first download Chrome. Users then choose which version of Chrome they want to use by selecting an update channel using the Google Chrome Channel Changer application, which is available at http://chromium.googlecode.com/files/chromechannel-2.0.exe.
The stable channel is by definition the most stable version of Chrome and it includes fixes and features that have previously been tested by Beta and Dev-channel users. The new Beta channel will be updated approximately every month and is intended to be more stable than the Dev-Channel.
The Dev-Channel will now be the bleeding edge of public Chrome release milestones with releases that aren't as stable as either the Beta or Stable versions.
Among the bleeding edge items included in the 220.127.116.11 release is a new version of WebKit (define) - specifically WebKit version 528.8 (revision 39410). WebKit is the core HTML rendering engine used by Chrome, it is also used by Apple for its Safari web browser.
The new version of WebKit has support for full page zoom, which will allow users to zoom in or out of all content on any Web page. Autoscroll viewing in the new WebKit enables users to click the mousewheel and then scroll a page in any direction.
In terms of layout capabilities, the new WebKit provides support for CSS (define) gradients, CSS canvas as well as initial support for CSS reflections and CSS masks. The new CSS capabilities expand the abilities of web developers to more accurately get the visual effect they want directly through browser rendering.
Browser profiles are supported in Chrome 18.104.22.168 such that users can create multiple usage profiles that include differenent bookmarks and cookies. Customization with Chrome 22.214.171.124 goes a step further with support for user scripts that will enable Chrome users to execute scripts inside the browser against web pages. The functionality is similar to what Mozilla Firefox users currently can achieve by way of the GreaseMonkey add-on.
Google is also pushing security with the Chrome 126.96.36.199 release by way of a HTTPS-only browsing mode. HTTPS is a secure browsing session over SSL (define) and provide an encryption layer for browsers such that password and other information cannot easily be intercepted. The new HTTPS-only browsing mode will restrict users to forcing a site to load only if it has HTTPS enabled and only if it has a valid SSL certificate. Without HTTPS-only browsing mode a Chrome users could manually specify and HTTPS site address but could potentially bypass the warning screen for an invalid SSL certificate.
At the heart of Chrome 188.8.131.52 is Google's own version of HTTP (define). HTTP is the core transport mechanism over which browsing sessions occur. With previous versions of Chrome Google was using the WinHTTP library which only runs on Windows. The new Google HTTP stack is not limited to Window and according to Google's release notes will eventually be able to work on Chrome versions for Mac and Linux as well. No official word yet however on when a Google Chrome for Mac or Linux is actually coming. A Google spokesperson was not immediately available for comment.
Google first released Chrome in September of 2008 and has issued 18 releases spanning both its dev and stable channels.
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