What's in the latest Chrome update?

What's in the latest Chrome update?

Google on Wednesday released Chrome 61 for Windows, macOS and Linux, adding several new behind-the-scenes features -- including one that lets web apps access USB peripherals -- and patching 22 security vulnerabilities.

Chrome updates in the background, so most users need only relaunch the browser to get the latest version. (To manually manage an update, select "About Google Chrome" from the Help menu under the vertical ellipsis at the upper right. The ensuing page either shows the browser has been updated or displays the download-upgrade process before presenting a "Relaunch" button.) New to Chrome? It can be downloaded from this Google site.

The Mountain View, Calif. company updates Chrome every six to seven weeks; the last time it upgraded the browser, to version 60, was July 25, or just over six weeks ago.

Version 61, like many if not most of Chrome's upgrades, deals users few if any changes they'll notice at a glance. Instead, this month's update offers new under-the-hood functionality aimed at site and app developers.

Near the top of that change list is the WebUSB API (application programming interface), which is intended to give web app and site developers access to unusual USB devices.

"Most hardware peripherals such as keyboards, mice, printers, and gamepads are supported by high-level web platform APIs," Pete LePage, a developer advocate at Google, noted in a post about Chrome 61. "But, using specialized educational, scientific, industrial or other USB devices in the browser has been hard, often requiring specialized drivers."

And Chrome 61 added native support for JavaScript modules so developers can properly call up discrete and reusable chunks of script code from within the browser without performing a build step. Chrome's support - like that already baked into Apple's Safari browser - allows for fetching dependent modules in parallel, and guarantees that the script executes in the right order. Mozilla and Microsoft plan to natively support JavaScript modules in their Firefox and Edge browsers down the road.

Additionally, Chrome will now automatically drop out of full-screen mode if a JavaScript dialog box opens; scammers often use such dialogs, and a forced shift to full-screen, to prevent the user from discarding their bogus claims of PC infections.

Also included in Chrome 61 are patches for 22 security vulnerabilities, a quarter of which were rated "High," Google's second-most-serious ranking. The firm also paid out $23,500 in bug bounties - and will pay more once it decides how much to fork over for one of the flaws - to security researchers for reporting the vulnerabilities.

Although it didn't tie it to the release of Chrome 61, Google also recently made it possible for users to install browser previews alongside the stable, production-grade version on a Windows personal computer. The Beta and Dev channel builds can be downloaded from here.

The next edition, Chrome 62, should reach users the week of Oct. 15-21, according to Google's release calendar.

Google Chrome 61 v2 Gregg Keizer/IDG

Chrome updates automatically in the background, then upgrades itself the next time it's launched.

Chrome 60 update (July 25, 2017)

Google on Tuesday released Chrome 60 for Windows, macOS and Linux, adding support for the Touch Bar on the newest MacBook Pro laptops and a new online payment API, and patching 40 security vulnerabilities.

Chrome updates in the background, so most users need only relaunch the browser to get the latest version. (To manually manage an update, select "About Google Chrome" from the Help menu under the vertical ellipsis at the upper right. The ensuing page either shows the browser is already up to date or displays the updating process before presenting a "Relaunch" button.)

The Mountain View, Calif. company updates Chrome every six or seven weeks; the last time it upgraded the browser, to version 59, was June 5, or just over seven weeks ago.

Much of Chrome 60's new features and functional changes are under the hood, aimed exclusively at website and app developers. One exception: Support for the MacBook Pro Touch Bar.

In October 2016, and on the top-end 13- and 15-in. models, Apple replaced the static row of function keys at the top of the MacBook Pro keyboard with an OLED (organic light-emitting diode) display whose contents change depending on the active application. Initially, Touch Bar support came from Apple and its own software, such as Maps. A few third-party programs, including Adobe Photoshop and Microsoft Office, have followed suit.

Apple's own browser, Safari, supported the Touch Bar out of the gate last year.

Now, when Chrome is the active application, the Touch Bar displays Chrome-specific virtual buttons, like those for moving forward and backward through browsing history, refreshing the current web page or bookmarking it. Users can customize the Touch Bar settings for Chrome from within the browser.

Google added a host of developer-only features and APIs (application programming interfaces) to Chrome 60, notably support for the already existing Payment Release API, which is designed to simplify online payments by eliminating the traditional check-out forms many websites use. Currently, Chrome, Microsoft's Edge and Mozilla's Firefox all support the API, although the latter has disabled it in current builds.

Also included in Chrome 60 were patches for 40 security vulnerabilities, nearly a quarter of which were rated "High," the second-most-serious ranking in Google's four-step system. Google paid out $26,000 in bug bounties -- and will pay more than that in the end, as it has yet to decide on three of the vulnerabilities -- to security researchers for reporting the flaws.

People who haven't tried Google's desktop browser can download Chrome 60 for Windows, macOS Linux from Google's website. Current users can let the automatic updater download and install the new version. To manually trigger the pending update, users select "About Google Chrome" from the Help menu under the vertical ellipsis at the upper right.

The next edition, Chrome 61, should reach users the week of Sept. 3-9, according to Google's release calendar.

IDG Insider

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