Fast forward: What's coming in future versions of Chrome?

Every time Google updates its browser, it publishes release notes aimed at enterprises to highlight upcoming additions, substitutions, enhancements and modifications. Here's some of what's coming.

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July 2020

Chrome continues to kick a** and take names.

Now with more than 70% of the world's browser user share – a measure of browser activity calculated by analytics company Net Applications – Google's Chrome has no equal in popularity. It's run roughshod over rivals like Microsoft's Edge, Mozilla's Firefox and Apple's Safari, which eke out livings as single-digit browsers, dangerously close to mere niche status.

So, it's no surprise that when Chrome speaks, others tremble, if only in virtual boots. With each browser upgrade – something Computerworld tracks in the What's in the latest Chrome update? series – and every time Google talks of future plans, opponents pay attention to hear what they may have to copy to stay competitive.

Every Chrome upgrade is accompanied by enterprise-centric release notes that highlight some of the planned additions, substitutions, enhancements and modifications. We've collected the most important for this edition of Computerworld's latest what's-coming round-up.

But remember, nothing is guaranteed, least of all software's prospective features. As Google says: "They might be changed, delayed, or canceled before launching to the Stable channel."

Chrome 85-86: Legacy Browser Support waves bye

Google will purge the Legacy Browser Support (LBS) add-on from the Chrome Web Store when Chrome 85 ships in late August. "Legacy Browser Support (LBS) is now built into Chrome, and the old extension is no longer needed," Google said succinctly.

LBS, whether in extension or inside-Chrome form, was designed so IT admins could deploy Google's browser but still call up Microsoft's Internet Explorer (IE) when necessary to, say, render intranet sites or older, written-for-IE apps. LBS wasn't an emulator but simply a URL director, sending any links on an admin-made list to IE for that browser to open. The add-on debuted in 2013, when Chrome's share of between 15% and 18% was far below IE's still-dominant 55%-58%.

Google still plans to automatically remove the LBS extension from all copies of Chrome when v. 86 releases on Oct. 6. At that point, only the built-in LBS will remain.

To call on the baked-in LBS, administrators must use the policies listed here under the Legacy Browser Support heading. The old policies written for the add-on will not work once the extension if removed in October.

Chrome 85: Throttle back

Chrome 85 will drastically curtail the amount of power background tabs consume by throttling them to a maximum of only 1% of CPU time. And background tabs will only be allowed to "wake up" – to repaint the page, for instance – once per minute.

Administrators will be able to control this throttling with the IntensiveWakeUpThrottlingEnabled policy. (Note: Computerworld was unable to find Google's description of this new policy, but Microsoft has published its version here for use in Edge 85 and later.)

Chrome 86: More URL messing around

Google plans to press forward with its plan to truncate what shows in the address bar starting with Chrome 86, slated for an early October release. Only some users will see the change at v. 86's debut, Google said, adding that "a full roll-out ((is)) planned for a later release."

Under the scheme, a full URL like https://google-secure.example.com/secure-google-sign-in/ would show only as the registrable domain, example.com in the address bar.

Google argued that the move is "to protect your users from some common phishing strategies," such as when criminals try to trick potential victims of clicking on links, which at first glance look legitimate, that are actually constructed to mislead. "This change is designed to keep your users' credentials safe," Google stated in its enterprise release notes.

This will not be the first time that Google has tried to shorten what shows in the Chrome address bar. At several points in the past – most recently in 2018 with v. 69 and 70 – Google has contended that stripping out parts of a URL, say the www, is a move worth making. Critics blasted the proposed change, saying that it eliminates cues some users relied on to sniff out deceptive sites.

Chrome 86: No more blacklist, whitelist

A baker's dozen of Chrome policies will be renamed to drop the terms "blacklist" and "whitelist" that refer to barred and allowed actions, respectively.

"Chrome will be moving to more inclusive policy names in Chrome 86," Google noted in its enterprise release notes. "The terms 'whitelist' and 'blacklist' will be replaced with 'allowlist' and 'blocklist.'"

Thirteen policies – including URLBlacklist and ExtensionInstallWhitelist – will be introduced in Chrome 86, set to release Oct. 6, in renamed forms, such as URLBlocklist and ExtensionInstallAllowlist.

Discussions of technology terminology – "master" and "slave" regarding device communication is among the examples – have percolated for years. But this year's protests over racism, inequalities and police killings of African Americans prompted calls for other changes from the likes of Apple and Microsoft, as well as Google.

In Apple's style guide for developers, for example, under the blacklist/whitelist, the entry stated: "Don't use. Instead, use an alternative that's appropriate to the context, such as deny list/allow list or unapproved list/approved list."

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