Google is set to release Chrome 79 today on December 10, 2019. Expect lower CPU usage and improved security. The latest version of Chrome can share a clipboard with Android phones, too.
Tab Freezing Saves CPU (and Battery)
Chrome 79 introduces automatic tab freezing. You should never even notice it’s happening, but it will reduce Chrome’s CPU usage—especially when you have lots of tabs open. That lower CPU usage means your laptop’s battery will last longer, too.
With automatic tab freezing, Chrome will automatically “freeze” tabs you’ve had in the background for a while. The web page open in the tab won’t use your CPU to synchronize, load advertisements, or do other work. Chrome just “pauses” the web page’s activity until you return to it.
The goal is that things “just work” without you noticing. You should still be able to play music or other audio in a tab and switch away. But, if you aren’t interacting with a tab and you’ve left it in the background for a while, Chrome will stop it from using too much CPU in the background.
Better Password Protections
Google announced it’s also introducing “better passwords protections” in Chrome 79. These won’t be available immediately, but will “gradually” become available over the next few weeks as Google activates them.
Chrome will now warn you when a password you use has been found in a leaked database, provide real-time protection against phishing sites on the desktop, and warn you when you enter saved passwords into a site suspected of phishing. For more details about how these changes work, visit Google’s Security Blog.
Testing DoH to Improve Security and Privacy
DoH will make the internet more secure and private by encrypting DNS requests sent between your system and your DNS server. Currently, they’re unencrypted. When you connect to a website like example.com, anyone in between you and the DNS server—perhaps your internet service provider or just a public Wi-Fi hotspot you’re using—can see you’re looking up “example.com” or whatever other domain you’re visiting.
With Chrome 79, Google says it will automatically enable DoH support for 1% of Chrome users assuming they’re “using a DoH-compliant DNS provider.” These include Google Public DNS and Cloudflare’s 22.214.171.124.
You can head to
chrome://flags/#dns-over-https to enable (or disable) DoH for your Chrome browser. Remember, it will only work if you have a DoH-enabled DNS server configured on your system.
DNS over HTTPS has already proven controversial for some reason—Comcast has already been lobbying against it—but DoH isn’t just a Google technology. Mozilla already supports it in Firefox, and Microsoft will be building DoH directly into Windows 10 so every Windows application can benefit from it.
Clipboard Sharing Between Computers and Android
If you have Chrome Sync enabled and use the same Google account on an Android phone, Chrome can now synchronize your clipboard between your computer and Android devices.
To use this feature, you’ll need Chrome 79 installed on both a computer and an Android device. If you meet that requirement and are signed in with the same Google account on both, you can right-click a webpage, and you’ll see a “Copy to [Android Device Name]” option in the menu.
If Google disables this feature by default for some reason, visit the flags page to enable it. Type
chrome://flags into Chrome’s Omnibox (address bar) and press Enter. Search for “clipboard” using the search box on the page and switch on the “Enable receiver device to handle shared clipboard feature,” “Enable shared clipboard feature signals to be handled,” and “Sync Clipboard Service” flags.
Getting Rid of Old Security Protocols (TLS 1.0 and 1.1)
TLS 1.0 and TLS 1.1 are older security protocols used for HTTPS. With Chrome 79, they’re now deprecated. When you connect to a website using this older encryption, you’ll see a warning saying the “your connection to this site is not fully secure” because “this site uses an outdated security configuration.” This should give websites still using this outdated encryption a push to upgrade.
Chrome 79 won’t block such sites from loading yet. Instead, Chrome will start blocking these connections in Chrome 81. Enterprise administrators can re-enable support for these protocols for the next year, but they’ll be removed from Chrome entirely in January 2021.
Google isn’t alone here: Mozilla, Microsoft, and Apple are also dropping support for these protocols in Firefox, Edge, and Safari. When you see your browser using HTTPS, you’ll know that it’s using a modern security protocol.
This change won’t happen immediately: It will occur on January 13, 2020, giving website administrators some extra time to upgrade. Until then, Chrome 79 will happily keep loading TLS 1.0 and TLS 1.1 web pages. After that date, the “Not Secure” warning will appear.
Changes to Mixed Content
Chrome already blocks many types of “mixed content” on the web and is slowly blocking more and more. Mixed content occurs when a developer creates a secure website served over encrypted HTTPS and then loads resources like scripts or images over an unencrypted HTTP connection. That’s unsafe: Those assets aren’t secure. Someone could tamper with them in transit, changing the secure web page. That shouldn’t be possible
Chrome 79 changes the way mixed content works. For the most dangerous types of mixed content like scripts, Chrome will silently block the content and say the website is secure. To enable it, you’ll have to click the icon to the left of the page’s address in Chrome’s Omnibox (address bar) and click “Site Settings.” At the bottom of the list of permissions, you’ll have to set “Insecure content” to “Allow” for that website. After you do, Chrome will load that content and say the website is “not secure.”
You shouldn’t activate insecure content unless you have a good reason—maybe you really need to use an ancient line-of-business application at work, for example. Websites need to get rid of mixed content, and Chrome is giving them another push.
Virtual and Augmented Reality on the Web (WebXR)
Chrome 79 enables the WebXR API designed for both virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) experiences. This feature has been available in Chrome since Chrome 67 but was unstable and only available if you turned on a flag.
On desktop systems, WebXR supports Oculus VR, OpenVR (used by SteamVR), and Windows Mixed Reality headsets. On Android, it works with Google Daydream and Cardboard. Developers can now deliver VR and AR experiences via the web.
Other Interesting Features
As always, there are many smaller changes and experimental features Google is playing with in Chrome. Here are a few of the more interesting ones:
- Media Playback Controls, Maybe: Google may soon enable global media playback controls by default. This feature, available behind a flag, gives you a convenient Play/Pause button on Chrome’s browser toolbar. No more hunting down the tab playing audio! This was automatically enabled in the Chrome 79 beta on one of our PCs but not on another PC, suggesting Google is testing it only for some people.
- Close Other Tabs, Already Here: Google removed the “Close Other Tabs” option when it released Chrome 78. This feature is back by popular demand in Chrome 79—but it’s already back in the latest versions of Chrome 78, too. You can right-click a tab and select “Close Other Tabs” to close all other open tabs in the window, even if you haven’t upgraded from Chrome 78 to 79 yet.
- Caching Back and Forward: Chrome 79 includes an experimental feature—disabled by default—called the “back-forward cache.” Google warns you shouldn’t enable this because it’s unstable and could cause problems. However, Chrome’s developers are testing a cache that will make clicking the back (and forward) buttons even faster.
- Web Bluetooth Scanning: Chrome 79 makes the web platform more powerful by adding Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) device scanning to Chrome. If you give it permission, a website can scan for nearby Bluetooth LE devices. This feature is disabled by default and only activated if you turn on the “Experimental Web Platform features” flag.
That’s all for another Chrome release. As usual, most people won’t notice the changes. But, under the hood, Google is making important changes to security, privacy, and performance.
Google releases new stable versions of Chrome every six weeks. Expect Chrome 80 on February 4, 2020.
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