For the last few years, Google Chrome has been able to (at least attempt to) predict your next movement on the web and pre-load the page you’re most likely to go to. However, this prediction service is also able to chow through data and is thus always disabled when Chrome detects that it’s on a mobile network. With the advent of 5G, and the incredible speeds associated with it, just around the corner, Google is looking at loosening this restriction.
Chrome’s prediction services have existed in some form since at least 2014. The services are capable of predicting your next move, downloading the page Chrome thinks you’ll visit (or prefetch), and even fully rendering that page in the background (or prerender) to show you immediately (if the prediction was correct).
While this can be a helpful feature on WiFi, where you can usually afford to load a page that you may not use, things get tricky with mobile data where both speed and data limits (or additional charges) may apply.
Chrome’s prediction services setting has three possible choices, internally: Always, Never, and WiFi-only. As it stands, Always and WiFi-only do the same thing, with Chrome verifying that you’re not using mobile data. Because of this, only an On/Off switch is shown in Chrome settings.
In a new commit, discovered in Chrome’s Gerrit source code management, Google is experimenting with allowing page prediction on mobile networks. Unlike some upcoming Chrome features that can be enabled with a flag, this one is hinged upon a server-side experiment, meaning it’s up to Google to decide who can and cannot use it.
Interestingly, the new experiment does not yet separate Always from WiFi-only. This will likely change, along with the UI options in Chrome settings, before the option reaches end users.
Update: Added notes about the settings for prediction services, and clarified the currently available settings option.