Following version 75’s release on Android, Mac, Windows, and Linux last week, the next beta release of Google’s browser is rolling out. Chrome 76 features a number of user-facing changes including blocking Flash by default, and making it harder for sites to detect when you’re using Incognito Mode to get around paywalls.

For the past decade, Google has been a big proponent of HTML5, and encouraged sites to switch away from Flash for a faster, safer, and more battery-efficient browsing experience. In late 2016 and early 2017, Chrome blocked background Flash elements and defaulted to HTML5, with users having to manually enable the Adobe plug-in on a site-by-site basis.

In July of that year, Adobe announced that it would stop supporting Flash, and Google followed by announcing that it would remove the plug-in from its browser by late 2020.

The Chrome 76 beta by default blocks Flash in the browser. However, users still have the option [chrome://settings/content/flash] to switch back to the current “Ask first” option — where explicit permission is required for each site after every browser restart — for several more releases.

Chrome 76 Flash

Many publications today rely on subscriptions and will prevent you from viewing articles in Private/Incognito Mode as a means to get around free article limits. According to a Googler, Chrome 76 addresses one way that websites are able to detect if you’re using Incognito to get around a paywall. The release fixes how Chrome implements the FileSystem API so that “detect private mode” scripts can no longer take advantage of that indicator.

 

The Chrome 76 beta adds a new system-level “Install” shortcut for Progressive Web Apps right in the Omnibox. When you navigate to a supported site on desktop, a ‘plus’ icon will appear next to the ‘star’ for bookmarking. On initial load, there is a small “Install” animation to draw your attention, with a click opening the “Install app?” panel. PWA details and icons are listed with a blue button to confirm.

On mobile, developers can now replace Chrome’s Add to Home Screen mini-infobar with their own prompt. Google considers its default solution to be a “temporary measure” and is working on a new UI that makes it easier to install PWAs.

Meanwhile, PWAs will check for updates more frequently starting with Chrome 76. Saved WebAPKs allow applications to appear in the launcher and Android system settings, with the browser now looking for manifest updates daily, instead of every three days in previous versions.

Chrome for Mac and Windows already feature a darker look that turn the address bar, tabs, and other UI elements gray when the OS-level dark theme is enabled. Version 76 will let websites automatically enable dark modes and respect user preference with the prefers-color-scheme media query. This is similar to Chrome 74’s support for reducing motion, with developers required to create themed versions of their content first.

“Frosted glass” is a popular look for apps — especially on iOS — that makes UI elements partially translucent. This results in a slightly blurred, but still visible background. Behind-the-scenes, this is also possible on the web with the CSS backdrop-filter property that Chrome 76 now supports.

The backdrop-filter CSS property applies one or more filters to the “backdrop” of an element. The “backdrop” basically means all of the painted content that lies behind the element. This allows designers to construct “frosted glass” dialog boxes, video overlays, translucent navigation headers, and more.

 

One way to combat popups and other web abuse is by making sure that users are actually interacting with the page before letting those elements appear. Google no longer considers the Escape key a user activation/interaction with websites.

For example, clicking on a link or typing in a textbox does, but swiping fingers on a screen or hovering with the mouse cursor does not.

When browsing to a new webpage, Chrome will flash the screen white to provide a “reassurance that the page is loading.” However, this can be distracting and does not make sense when sites load quickly. The Chrome 76 beta is testing a new Paint Holding behavior where the “browser waits briefly before starting to paint, especially if the page is fast enough.”

Our goal with this work was for navigations in Chrome between two pages that are of the same origin to be seamless and thus deliver a fast default navigation experience with no flashes of white/solid-color background between old and new content.


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