Google’s Chrome 75 may simultaneously be brand new and somewhat drab but based on a recent blog post from the search giant, that’s probably not going to remain the case with the next iteration of the respective browser and operating system. Hinted at with the latest release of Chrome 76 Beta, the company has some big changes on the way not just for installable progressive web apps but also for dark theming and security.
All of the changes are mostly going to be behind-the-scenes but many will drastically impact the end user experience. For starters, Google is ramping up its game when it comes to dark mode with some changes to how Chrome reads pages. Vaguely described with a snippet of code related to CSS as it is usable for developers, the company says that websites will soon be able to individually follow system level dark mode or theme settings.
What that means for end users is that many more sites should begin to appear that automatically shift over to dark mode if their system-level preferences are set that way. It’s similar to how Chrome already turns on dark mode in Windows or Mac but instead of applying to the browser, it will apply to websites themselves. So it won’t just be UI elements of the browser that darken if a dark theme or app mode is chosen.
Other behind the scenes changes
Although many of the changes won’t necessarily be noticeable to users, there are at least a handful of others that likely will. The most prominent of those are centered around progressive web apps, beginning with the company finally pushing forward with its Omnibox install button. The feature will, as that implies, make it possible for dedicated progressive web apps to be easily surfaced and installed from the URL address bar in Chrome.
For end users, that means that when a page loads up that can be installed like a native app, a button will appear at the far-right-hand side of the UI for the URL bar. A click or tap on that button will install the web app but the biggest implication is that users will be able to tell without having to navigate Chrome’s menus when a web app can be installed.
Installation may be more obvious for some sites too since Google is giving developers more control over when and where Android’s pop-up prompt for installing web apps appears. Once installed, web apps will check the manifest for those apps more frequently, so users won’t need to worry about their web apps being out of date for as long as they are now between updates. Those will check for updates on a daily basis following the update.
Smaller changes that will undoubtedly still have a significant impact starting in Chrome 76 beta include the deprecation of the ‘Esc’ key as a ‘user activation’ input. That means that hitting the key to stop a page from loading won’t incidentally be usable as a way to open up further pages or redirect users anymore. Changes to animation playback and a wealth of other API mean that Chrome should run a lot smoother too.
When will the new features arrive?
The feature freeze for Chrome 76, the point at which no further user-specific features are expected for a given “Stable” Channel release, hit way back on May 17 according to the official Chromium release schedule. So there is a chance that the larger user-facing changes won’t land until Chrome 77 in September. That doesn’t automatically mean they won’t land with Chrome 76 either.
The next version of Chrome is scheduled to begin rolling out on July 30.