True Dark Mode Is Finally Coming To Chrome OS & Everywhere Else

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Chrome OS users have been watching 'dark mode' arrive for Google's browser on other platforms for months with no indication it might ever come to Chromebooks but the wait may soon be over — based on a recently spotted change in the Chromium Gerrit.

The next iteration of the dark mode isn't just expanding on the number of devices with which it is compatible either. It fundamentally changes how dark mode works beyond taking the feature "cross-platform."

What exactly does this change do?

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Googlers have already been hard at work adding dark mode options to effectively every product the search giant has. But this change applies specifically to Chrome and to a lot more of what users see when using the browser.

In effect, after the alteration is completed in the repository and pushed to the stable channels by default, it will enable users to see more than just UI changes for the browser itself. Instead, dark mode will apply to all elements of the browsing experience via one of five methods.

One of those, dubbed "simple HSL-based inversion" works similarly to a method reported earlier, factoring lightness of colors on a page into the conversion from light to dark mode rather than just the colors. That allows colors to effectively be darkened with some contextual awareness.

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The remaining four all center around CIELAB-based inversion, which is more accurate still. The first is a "simple" straightforward darkening following similar parameters to the HSL darkening seen already in iterations of Chrome. The remaining three are "selective" and apply to "everything", "non-image elements", or "image" elements.

Still in testing

The alteration applies to a flag that was previously only available for Android users in Chrome's hidden, experimental settings menu. Now, that's open to all platforms in a very early test. That also means that none of the new methods — tucked behind an "enable-force-dark" flag, for the time being — is presently available, at least on Chrome OS in the Stable Channel.

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There's no way to know for sure exactly what it will look like until Google releases an update with the option to switch readily available to users. Google will most likely enable whichever darkening model looks the best in testing, once widespread testing kicks off.

Other dark mode models may still be available too, but that will almost certainly be limited. Most likely, Google will tuck those away behind experimental flags or other tools so developers can use them to test how their site or web app looks.

A true dark mode for Chrome and Chrome OS won't necessarily arrive any time soon either. The code commits listed for the change are marked with the tags "Work in Progress" and "Merge Conflict."

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That indicates that not only are there still plenty of bugs to work out so that the change plays nice with other established Chrome code. It also indicates that there's still a lot of work that needs to be finished regardless. So a dark mode based on these changes shouldn't be expected to arrive before Chrome 77 and next year may be a more reasonable expectation.