Chrome 71 Beta Brings Speed & Resource Improvements

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Chrome 71 is now officially in beta, bringing mostly under-the-hood changes and one or two user-facing improvements across the board according to the latest entry in the Chromium Blog. The only major changes users are likely to notice immediately, in fact, apply to how sound is played back from the browser. For starters, autoplay for audio and videos is finally going away. That means users won't be bombarded with those as soon as they open a website. Simultaneously, speech synthesis can no longer be activated without user authorization following the update.

Conversely, one of the changes to the user side of Chrome that users might notice in Android is an increase in the number of web apps and sites that go full screen without any on-screen or visible navigation. The addition of more options for developers to control aspects of that will be controllable by developers, with a few exceptions where UI needs to override that, resulting in a much more immersive experience. Meanwhile, an "unprefixed" version of the Fullscreen API has been added which moves the feature away from vendor-specific versions. Beyond that, the only remaining change users are likely to notice right away is a smoother touchpad experience on devices that feature that type of mouse input. Specifically, Async touchpad pinch zoom events will improve functionality by effectively creating more separation between how Chrome handles pinch to zoom events and control wheel events. The latter of those are associated with page scrolling, among other things.

Background: The remaining changes follow Google's long history of trying to make Chrome faster, more responsive, or more secure by introducing or removing features that get in the way or cause issues. Among those is the final step of the company's three-part push to completely remove inline installations. Inline installations allowed developers to let users install Chrome Extensions directly from their own website instead of redirecting them to the Chrome Web Store. The feature had already been removed for new Chrome Extension developers back in June while installation UI redirected to the Chrome Web Store rather than installing a given extension in September. Now, that option has been removed entirely and all installations will need to be handled by the Web Store itself. The change has been expected and is intended to bolster security, so it shouldn't create too much controversy.


Several behind-the-scenes changes are being made in Chrome 71 as well. Those are predominantly centered around improving the overall speed of the browser and page loads. To begin with, the biggest change is the introduction of am International Relative Time Format API. That hands the handling of relative time presentation to end users to the JavaScript engine. For clarity, those are instances in which a website might show that a given news piece or video was uploaded or posted '2 days ago' or '5 minutes ago' instead of on a set date or at a specific time. In effect, it gives the end user a relative time that's more colloquial presentation of times and dates. Ordinarily, showing dates and times in that way requires the loading of more libraries and other code that ultimately slows down a website. Moving past that, Chrome will support more lightweight vector-based COLR/CPAL fonts and changes are being made to credentials mode defaults in JavaScript Modules that should reduce latency further.

Impact: The majority of changes with Chrome 71 aren't going to be hugely impactful to most users but should collectively make the entire experience of browsing the web a better experience. They should also reduce Chrome's effect on RAM and storage significantly, depending on how many websites a user visits and how quickly web developers implement changes. The stable version is currently expected to launch for all platforms except Chrome OS on December 4. Chromebook users and others on the latter platform can currently expect to see it start rolling out on December 11, according to Chromium Projects Development Calendar and Release schedule.