Fast forward: What's coming in future versions of Chrome?

Every time Google updates its browser, it publishes release notes aimed at enterprises to highlight upcoming additions, substitutions, enhancements and modifications. Here's some of what's coming.

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June 2019

Chrome gets fat while every other browser starves.

Now with more than two-thirds of the world's browser user share - a measure of browser activity calculated monthly by metric vendor Net Applications - Google's Chrome has no peer in popularity. Its rivals are barely worth the name, with Microsoft's Edge so feeble that its maker decided to replace its internals with the same technology that powers Chrome and Mozilla's Firefox trying to hang on to just 10%.

Not surprisingly, when Chrome speaks, everyone listens, whether about each browser upgrade - something Computerworld tracks in the What's in the latest Chrome update? series - and in what it plans to do in the near future.

Every Chrome upgrade is accompanied by release notes aimed at enterprises that highlight some of the upcoming additions, substitutions, enhancements and modifications planned for the browser. We collected the most important for this "Coming soon" round-up. Just remember that nothing is guaranteed; Google points notes: "((These features)) might be changed, delayed, or canceled before launching to the Stable channel."

Chrome 76: An end to opt-out of site isolation

Unveiled in late 2017 within Chrome 63, Site Isolation is a defensive technology that segregates pages from different sites into different processes. Each process runs in a "sandbox" that restricts what the process can do, all part of a scheme to isolate malware from the browser as a whole and a device's over-arching OS.

Site Isolation was enabled in stages until by mid-2018 it was enabled for virtually all Chrome users. At that point, only managed devices were able to opt-out. "((But)) starting with Chrome 76, we will remove the ability to opt out of site isolation on desktop using the SitePerProcess or IsolateOrigins policies," Google said.

The end to opting out was to occur with Chrome 75, but was postponed to version 76, the upgrade scheduled to ship July 30. Google did not offer an explanation for the delay.

Chrome 76: Flash to be blocked by default

Two years ago, Adobe announced that it would finally bury Flash Player - the app that, in many ways, made the web - at the end of 2020. Browser makers like Google then explained how they would end their support for Flash.

While Google has limited Flash for years - in late 2016, it was turned off by default and restricted to a handful of sites, including Amazon, Facebook and YouTube - this summer Chrome will institute a complete Flash blockade. With Chrome 76, Flash will be disabled by default. Individual users will be able to switch back to a default "Ask first" in settings (until Google ends all support by yanking it from the Chromium project in December 2020). And enterprises will be able to continue controlling Flash usage through the DefaultPluginsSetting, PluginsAllowedForUrls and PluginsBlockedForUrls policies.

The toggle back to "Ask first" for Flash - which will let Chrome continue to run the Adobe plug-in but only after asking the user for each encountered Flash-equipped site - is in Settings, under "Privacy and Security," in the "Site Settings" selection. Click on "Flash," then in the next screen, on "Block sites from running Flash" to switch to "Ask first."

chrome blocks flash Google

When Chrome blocks Flash by default, users can switch the setting back to 'Ask first' - what it was prior to Chrome 76 - by clicking the toggle marked in red.

Chrome 76: Lowering (the number of) flags

"Many flags in chrome://flags will be removed in upcoming Chrome versions," Google said without detailing which will get the ax or even a rough number to be cut. "You should not use flags to configure Chrome because they are not supported. Instead, configure Chrome for your enterprise or organization using policies."

The macOS version of Chrome 75 Stable listed 337 available flags and another 16 unsuitable for that operating system.

Chrome ??: Chrome address bar searches return results from Google Drive

"Soon, users will be able to search for Google Drive files that they have access to from the address bar," Google wrote.

And that's all it wrote. However, it's possible to flesh out a bit more.

In March, Google began testing integrations between Chrome and Google Drive for the G Suite Business, Enterprise, and Enterprise for Education productivity subscriptions. (The beta testing required Chrome 69 or later.)

G Suite administrators can apply to join the beta project using the form submitted from this site.

Previously, Google had pegged the debut of address bar searching of Google Drive to Firefox 75 - the version that launched last week - and seemed to imply that the feature would be available to all enterprise users, not just those running G Suite. Computerworld's testing of Chrome 75 Dev showed that enabling the option flag "Omnibox Google Drive Document suggestions" - displayed matches in the address bar of recently-accessed PDF and Google Docs/Sheets/Slides. That setting, which can be accessed from the chrome://flags page, appeared in the Stable version of Chrome 75, hinting that it's about ready for real-world use.

It's unclear whether the in-address-bar searching of Google Drive contents will be available only for G Suite users or for all those who have stored content in Google Drive. Computerworld's take? Because of a line in the beta description - "This goes beyond current functionality, which lets users search for Google Drive files that they have recently accessed" - we think that the tool will be only for G Suite customers.

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