Google recently released a new version of our Google Chrome browser with Adobe Flash Player built in, automatically bringing you the latest and greatest updates. To celebrate, we teamed up with a few creative folks to make Chrome FastBall, a Flash-based game built for YouTube. Want to race?
Complete various games to get the shiny chrome ball to the finish line in the shortest possible time. (So far, the fastest time on the Chrome team is 1 minute, 20 seconds.)
Try your luck with Chrome FastBall, and if you haven’t taken Chrome for a test drive yet, download the newest stable release of the browser at google.com/chrome.
Update7:20PM: All technical issues have been resolved now, so you can enjoy the game. Thanks for your patience! Update 9:22AM: Due to the overwhelming response to the game, some things aren’t quite working as we hoped due to server-side overloading. Please forgive the maintenance work as we get the game back up again. Thanks!
Google started to test an unified menu in the latest Chromium and Google Chrome dev builds. The new menu includes most of the options that were available in the page and tools menus.
If you use a recent Chromium build or Google Chrome dev channel, you can enable this feature by adding a command-line flag to the desktop shortcut: –new-wrench-menu.
To make the menu more compact, Google uses a single menu item for cut, copy, paste and another menu item that combines zoom options with full-screen.
Opera already uses an unified menu that replaces the menu bar, while Firefox 4 will include a single menu button. The unified menu takes up less space, it’s less complex and it reduces clutter.
“The general purpose of the menubar is to contain all of the things that you want your program to do but you can’t cram into the main UI. So the menubar generally ends up with a lot of stuff that isn’t used very often, if at all, and yet is reproduced on every window and takes up a significant amount of real estate. It also has the tendency to become a dumping ground for new or hardly used features. Starting with Vista, and continuing with Windows 7, the menubar has been systematically removed from Windows applications built by Microsoft and other vendors. It has been replaced with alternatives like the Windows Explorer contextual strip or the Ribbon found in Office 2007,” explains Mozilla’s wiki.
Google Chrome is the only popular browser that doesn’t have native support for feeds: it doesn’t detect or preview feeds and it doesn’t let you subscribe to feeds using your favorite feed reader. Most of these features are available in Firefox, Opera, Safari, Internet Explorer, but they’re implemented in Chrome using an extension.
Chrome’s RSS subscription extension was supposed to be bundled with the browser, but it was no longer included because not many people subscribe to feeds and the orange icon would’ve been distracting. A Google Chrome engineer offered a more detailed explanation:
“We originally intended to include RSS support by default as a native feature of Google Chrome (and we still might in the future) but we decided instead to implement this as an extension. This decision was made based on our philosophy of trying to limit ourselves to adding only the UI features that a vast majority of users need and allow each user to customize the browsers to fit their needs with Extensions. Given that most people are not familiar with and don’t consume RSS feeds, we thought that RSS support would be a better fit as an extension, at least to begin with.”
Here’s what you see when you click on a link to the Slashdot feed:
… and here’s the same feed if you use the RSS subscription extension:
Maybe not all users know the definition of a feed, but not many people know what a browser is and that doesn’t stop them from using a browser. Orange icons for feeds are everywhere and many sites display them prominently.
It’s strange to see that Google Chrome doesn’t have native support for feeds, while Google Reader is the most popular online feed reader, Google’s FeedBurner is the most popular service for managing feeds, most Google search services have feeds for search results and even Chrome’s blog links to an Atom feed.
What’s even more surprising is that Chrome doesn’t parse XML feeds to show a human-readable preview. Google Chrome doesn’t even recommend users to install the RSS subscription extension.
If you’d like to see native support for feeds in Google Chrome, star this issue.
After adding support for synchronizing bookmarks, preferences and themes, Google Chrome tests a new option that synchronizes extensions and their settings. The feature is available in the most recent Dev Channel build, but you need to add two flags that enable this feature:
For example, in Windows you need to edit a Chrome shortcut: right-click on the shortcut, click on “Properties” and append a space followed by the flags above to the target field.
I tried this feature using the latest Dev Channel build for Windows and a recent Chromium build. Most changes are synchronized almost instantly, but not everything is synchronized: Greasemonkey scripts are ignored and uninstalling extensions doesn’t propagate to other clients.
It’s important to keep in mind that this is an initial implementation of the feature and that Chrome Dev Channel releases are buggier and less reliable than the stable releases.
Chrome Dev Channel and Chromium, using the same extensions
Chromium’s blog announced that the latest Google Chrome dev build for Windows and Mac includes a plug-in for viewing PDF files. The plug-in can be enabled by going to chrome://plugins/ and clicking on “Enable” for the “Chrome PDF Viewer” plug-in.
When you click on a link to a PDF file, Chrome no longer opens the file using the Adobe Reader plug-in. Instead, Google Chrome uses a basic PDF viewer that lacks many useful features like pagination and bookmarks.
“PDF files will render as seamlessly as HTML web pages, and basic interactions will be no different than the same interactions with web pages (for example, zooming and searching will work as users expect). PDF rendering quality is still a work in progress, and we will improve it substantially before releasing it to the beta and stable channels. To further protect users, PDF functionality will be contained within the security sandbox Chrome uses for web page rendering. Users will automatically receive the latest version of Chrome’s PDF support; they won’t have to worry about manually updating any plug-ins or programs,” explains Google.
This is especially useful for Chrome OS users, who won’t be able to install PDF viewers like Adobe Reader or Evince. Instead of relying on Google Docs Viewer, Chrome will be able to display PDF files faster, especially if they’re saved locally.
When Google released Chrome almost two years ago, many people complained that Google’s browser lacked basic features that were available in all the other browsers, it didn’t support extensions and could only be installed in Windows. Since then, Google Chrome has added many missing features (bookmark manager, form autofill, options for disabling cookies, images and scripts, full-page zoom, themes, extensions), the browser has been ported to Mac and Linux and it continues to be fast and to evolve rapidly.
While Google Chrome focuses on implementing useful features for improving the transition to web apps (HTML5 features, cloud printing, desktop notifications, extensions for web apps, Native Client, WebGL), many basic features are still missing. Google Chrome still can’t print selected text and lacks print preview (both features should be available in Google Chrome 6), you still can’t drag text from a tab to another tab, there’s no way to find the size of an image or to automatically clear the cache when closing the browser.
What other basic features would you like to see in Google Chrome? Please keep in mind that Google Chrome is a minimalist browser and it shouldn’t include features that would be used by a small number of people or features that could be implemented as extensions.
Google showed an interesting chart yesterday at the first Google I/O keynote. The number of Google Chrome users more than doubled in less than a year from 30 million users in July 2009 to 70 million users today. It’s worth pointing out that this is the number of active users, not the number of Google Chrome downloads.
Asa Dotzler has a similar graph for Firefox, which shows that Firefox grew from 265 million users to 365 million users in the same period. To put things in perspective, Firefox has 5 times more users than Google Chrome.
It’s a great achievement for Google and Chrome’s market share will increase as the stable versions for Linux and Mac are released and Chrome OS becomes available. Even if you won’t use Google Chrome, your browsers will be better because more people care about browser speed, process isolation and simple user interfaces.
Google TV is a new platform that aims to bring the Web to TVs. Google developed a custom Android version that runs Google Chrome and improves the TV viewing experience by allowing you to find TV programs, showing recommendations and integrating content from the Web.
“With Google Chrome built in, you can access all of your favorite websites and easily move between television and the web. This opens up your TV from a few hundred channels to millions of channels of entertainment across TV and the web. Your television is also no longer confined to showing just video. With the entire Internet in your living room, your TV becomes more than a TV — it can be a photo slideshow viewer, a gaming console, a music player and much more,” explains Google.
Google’s demo from the Google I/O conference wasn’t very convincing. Google acknowledged that many other companies tried to create similar products without too much success. The explanation is probably that they were ahead of their time, but Google says that they were unsuccessful because they dumbed down the Web experience, they were closed and users had to choose between watching TV and browsing the Web.
“The project started 2½ years ago, with a vision of a walled garden of TV-optimized web services. But the landscape keeps shifting, particularly in the capabilities of mobile devices. The only solution big enough for the problem is to bring the whole web to your TV,” says Vincent Dureau, who is in charge of Google TV.
Google partnered with Sony, Intel and Logitech to add Google TV to “televisions, Blu-ray players and companion boxes”. The first Internet-enabled TV that runs Google’s software will be launched this fall by Sony and it promises to provide “richer internet access so you can browse the web just like you would from a computer.”
But why not connect your TV to a computer? Android is a great operating system for a mobile phone, but it doesn’t look very well on a big HDTV. Not all the Android applications are useful on a TV and those that are useful won’t take advantage on the huge screen estate of the TV. Google promises to introduce a Google TV SDK and some APIs for web applications, but that will happen next year.
Google TV has a lot of potential and I’m sure it could eventually become a great product. The software could make TV programs more interactive by detecting phone numbers, addresses or URLs, it could allow you to chat with a friend while watching the same TV show, it could create chat rooms for everyone who watches the same show, it could use visual search to show information about an object from the screen or it could translate a foreign-language movie.
If you already have an Android phone, you can use it as a remote control. Since the TV and the phone can run the same applications, you’ll be able to sign in using the same Google Account and synchronize your data. Favorite an YouTube video on a phone, watch it later on your TV and use it to generate a list of recommended TV shows.
Google found an interesting solution for printing documents in Chrome OS. Instead of preloading the drivers for the most popular printers, Chrome OS will use an online service for printing: Google Cloud Print.
In Google Chrome OS, all applications are web apps. Therefore, in designing the printing experience for Google Chrome OS, we want to make sure printing from web apps is as natural as printing from traditional native apps is today. Additionally, with the proliferation of web-connected mobile devices such as those running Google Chrome OS and other mobile operating systems, we don’t believe it is feasible to build and maintain complex print subsystems and print drivers for each platform. In fact, even the print subsystems and drivers on existing PC operating systems leave a lot of room for improvement.
Our goal is to build a printing experience that enables any app (web, desktop, or mobile) on any device to print to any printer anywhere in the world. This goal is accomplished through the use of a cloud print service. Apps no longer rely on the local operating system (and drivers) to print. Instead, apps (whether they be a native desktop/mobile app or a web app) use Google Cloud Print to submit and manage print jobs. Google Cloud Print is then responsible for sending the print job to the appropriate printer, with the particular options the user selected, and providing job status to the app.
The only problem is that no printer supports Google Cloud Print and that’s why Google revealed some details about the service’s interfaces, hoping that printer manufacturers will update their software and support it. If a printer doesn’t support Google’s service, you’ll need a proxy software for the computer where the printer is installed. Google says that the proxy software will be bundled with Google Chrome.
Google wants to associate your printers with a Google account and manage them the same way as you manage Google Docs documents, so you can share them with other people. Web applications can use APIs to customize the printing options and change the user interface displayed when you start printing a document.
“We believe cloud printing has tremendous benefits for end users and for the industry and is essential, given the rapid shift toward cloud-based applications and data storage. We also believe that the only way that the benefits of cloud printing can be realized is if the protocols are open, freely implementable, and, when possible, based on existing industry standards. We expect there to be multiple cloud print services, and users should have a choice in which services they use and which printers they can connect to a service. Stay tuned for more details. We are confident that cloud-aware printers will soon be a reality,” suggests Google.
It may seem that Google’s solution is complicated and difficult to implement: we need an open standard for cloud printing, cloud-aware printers and users need to associate printers with an online service. Instead of sending the printing job directly to the printer, you’ll send it to the online service, which forwards it to the printer. Despite all these hurdles, Google Cloud Print allows you to print documents from a mobile phone, tablet, notebook or any other mobile device. You’ll be able to print files from an Android phone or tablet, from a Chrome OS computer, from any computer that runs Google Chrome and from other devices that will support Google Cloud Print.
Adobe Flash Player is the most widely used web browser plug-in. It enables a wide range of applications and content on the Internet, from games, to video, to enterprise apps.
The traditional browser plug-in model has enabled tremendous innovation on the web, but it also presents challenges for both plug-ins and browsers. The browser plug-in interface is loosely specified, limited in capability and varies across browsers and operating systems. This can lead to incompatibilities, reduction in performance and some security headaches.
That’s why we are working with Adobe, Mozilla and the broader community to help define the next generation browser plug-in API. This new API aims to address the shortcomings of the current browser plug-in model. There is much to do and we’re eager to get started.
As a first step, we’ve begun collaborating with Adobe to improve the Flash Player experience in Google Chrome. Today, we’re making available an initial integration of Flash Player with Chrome in the developer channel. We plan to bring this functionality to all Chrome users as quickly as we can.
We believe this initiative will help our users in the following ways:
When users download Chrome, they will also receive the latest version of Adobe Flash Player. There will be no need to install Flash Player separately.
Users will automatically receive updates related to Flash Player using Google Chrome’s auto-update mechanism. This eliminates the need to manually download separate updates and reduces the security risk of using outdated versions.
With Adobe’s help, we plan to further protect users by extending Chrome’s “sandbox” to web pages with Flash content.
These improvements will encourage innovation in both the HTML and plug-in landscapes, improving the web experience for users and developers alike. To read more about this effort, you can read this post on the Flash Player blog.
Developers can download the Chrome developer channel version with Flash built in here. To enable the built-in version of Flash, run Chrome with the –enable-internal-flash command line flag.