Google started distributing a new update for the Google Authenticator Android app on Wednesday, with its changelog revealing that the latest version of the service debuts FIDO U2F support for Chrome. The name refers to Universal 2nd Factor, an open authentication standard governed by FIDO Alliance and used for physical security keys which come in the form of specialized USB sticks or NFC-enabled devices. The functionality essentially provides users of Google Authenticator with yet another method for verifying their identities when trying to launch Chrome, provided that they have access to a FIDO U2F-compatible key.
While Google may have also opted to release the feature as part of its popular internet browser, the company presumably opted to launch it through its mobile authenticator service so that it can simultaneously integrate it with the app's key management capabilities. The move itself shouldn't be a significant inconvenience seeing how users who own physical security keys and rely on Chrome for Android likely already have Google Authenticator installed on their devices. Another feature introduced with the new version of the app is the backup and restore option for its preferences which are actually just a single preference - "Time correction for codes." Finally, copying codes in Google Authenticator should be somewhat more intuitive following the update since any code you long-press will now be automatically saved to your clipboard and you won't have to tap Android's "Copy" system prompt. As for the FIDO U2F support in Chrome, the Alphabet-owned company still labeled that feature as "experimental," suggesting it may significantly change it or even scrap it going forward.
Chrome support for a new security key standard was added as part of the 5.0 update to Google Authenticator which should soon be available for download from the Google Play Store in all parts of the world, if it isn't already. The app's basic requirements still haven't changed following the latest software upgrade and it should still be compatible with virtually all smartphones and tablets running Android 2.3.3 Gingerbread and later versions of Google's mobile operating system. If you already use Google's authentication service, chances are your app was updated automatically in the last 24 hours but if you want to make sure that's the case or are seeking to trigger a manual installation, refer to the Google Play Store banner below.