Chrome 75 was just released earlier this month, and right on schedule, Chrome 76 has entered the Beta Channel. This version is fairly massive, with plenty of changes that have been in the works for months. Without further ado, let’s jump in!
Lazy loading frames and images
As web pages become larger and more complex, the time it takes to load a site has steadily increased — especially for people on slow networks. One solution to this is “lazy loading,” where some page elements aren’t downloaded until you scroll down to them. For example, an image gallery could choose not to load images until they actually came into view.
There have been various ways for sites to lazily load resources over the years, like the old “lazyload” attribute in Internet Explorer, but Google announced last year that it would build the feature directly into Chrome. In version 76, the feature is finally enabled.
The new functionality allows sites to avoid loading images, advertisements, and other types of embedded content until the element comes into view with just one line of code. Here’s a more detailed technical explanation from Google:
Chrome uses heuristics to recognize and avoid deferring hidden iframes likely used for analytics or communication, as well as hidden images like tracking pixels, since deferring those could break their functionality.
If the viewport is scrolled within a distance threshold of deferred content, it will start loading in. The distance depends on factors like the current network speed, such that it can be tuned so that deferred content is almost always finished loading by the time it becomes visible.
You can try out a demo here. I hope sites start to add support for this soon.
Dark theme for sites
Some web browsers that support dark mode, like Samsung Browser, invert the colors of web pages to make them fit the theme — but sometimes this causes sites to look broken or distorted. Apple introduced the ‘prefers-color-scheme’ browser feature last year for allowing sites to detect dark mode, and now Google has brought it to Chrome.
Starting in Chrome 76, if a site has its own dark mode, Chrome will automatically activate it when your device is set to dark mode. Android Police doesn’t have a dark theme yet, but you can try it out on my personal site.
Now that Chrome, Safari, and Firefox all support this feature, perhaps we’ll finally see it widely adopted.
I’m sure I’ll get plenty of hate for this in the comment section, but Tron: Legacy is one of my favorite films of all time (the original Tron isn’t half-bad, either). With that being said, you can imagine my surprise when the Chrome team snuck a Tron reference into v76.
Chrome 76 includes a new flag, called #identity-disc, that adds your Google profile picture to the top-right corner of the New Tab Page. Tapping the picture opens a ‘Sync and Google Services’ page, with options to enable or disable usage analytics, Chrome Sync, and other settings.
If you’re not caught up on your Tron lore, the ‘Identity Disc’ is the frisbee-shaped object that all programs on The Grid are given, and it contains all the program’s memories. “If you lose your disc or fail to follow commands, you will be subject to immediate de-resolution.”
Text URL Fragments
You probably already know that you can link to specific parts of webpages, if the page uses headers or another similar structure. For example, I can link to the “Development” section of the Android article on Wikipedia with this:
But what if you want to link to a certain sentence or phrase? Chrome 76 has a new feature hidden behind a flag, called “Text URL Fragments,” that allows just that.
To try it out, go to chrome://flags#enable-text-fragement-anchor (copy and paste that into Chrome, clicking doesn’t work), set the flag to Enabled, and restart the browser. While there doesn’t seem to be an easy way to create these new URLs from within the browser, opening them does work. For example, if you go to this URL:
Then Chrome will load the page, then scroll to the section with the phrase “Amazon doesn’t appear to be giving up.” Pretty cool, right?
Hopefully, by the time this feature is enabled by default, there will be an easy way for regular people to create these types of links. The days of sending screenshots with text highlighted could soon be over.
The previous release of Chrome included the “Web Share API Level 2,” which allows sites to share files and images using Android’s built-in share dialog. For example, a photo editor web app could share photos to the native Google Photos app. Chrome 76 now includes the “Web Share Target API Level 2,” which allows the opposite functionality — web apps can receive files and images from native apps.
If you’re using the Twitter PWA on Android, you can now “Share…” stories to a tweet in the web app with the new Chrome 71 update!
This uses the brand new Share Target API, which is text only right now. Coming later next year, support for photos! pic.twitter.com/T33KWgEZ9d
— Charlie Croom (@CharlieCroom) December 21, 2018
This functionality is only enabled if you install a web app to your home screen, so you don’t have to worry about lots of items filling up your share menu. This opens up the doors for even more powerful web apps; for example, you could share photos to the Twitter PWA straight from your Camera app, without having the native Twitter app installed. There’s a lot of potential, and I’m excited to see what developers do with this.
As always, Chrome 76 includes changes for both users and developers. Here are some smaller features bundled with this update:
- Web apps can now copy and paste images to/from the system clipboard, if they have the required permissions.
- Chrome now prevents a single page from opening multiple fullscreen windows.
- Cookies are now site-specific by default, but sites can manually override the change.
- Pressing the Escape key on a keyboard no longer counts as an activation method, to prevent malicious pages from being difficult to exit.
- The old method of lazy loading images and frames (“lazyload” attribute on elements) no longer works in Chrome.
- When using the Payment Request API, pages can now detect when the payment method is changed.
- The DeviceMotionEvent and DeviceOrientationEvent methods can now only be used on HTTPS pages.
- The new WebXR Device API is available, and is designed to replace the older WebVR API.
- Web apps can now hide the ‘Add to Home screen’ popup.
- The Install button for Progressive Web Apps is now visible in the desktop browser. See this post for more details.
- It’s now impossible for sites to detect when Incognito Mode is activated.
The APK is signed by Google and upgrades your existing app. The cryptographic signature guarantees that the file is safe to install and was not tampered with in any way. Rather than wait for Google to push this download to your devices, which can take days, download and install it just like any other APK.
Note: Most versions of the Chrome APK use app bundles, which APKMirror doesn’t support yet. As a result, only a few variants are available for download.