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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April 2019

Fact: Chrome rules.

With a massive two-thirds of the world's browser user share - a measurement of browser activity calculated monthly by analytics vendor Net Applications - Google's Chrome has no peer in popularity.

So when Chrome speaks, people listen. That holds true for whatever moves Google makes with each browser upgrade - something Computerworld details in the What's in the latest Chrome update? series - and in what it plans to do in the future.

With each update, Google publishes a set of release notes aimed at enterprises. In those release notes, the company highlights some of the upcoming additions, substitutions, enhancements and modifications planned for its browser._

In an effort to look ahead at the browser's future, we've collected the most important of the latest items in Chrome's "Coming soon" category. But as Google takes pains to point out, "They might be changed, delayed, or canceled before launching to the Stable channel."

You've been warned.

Chrome 75: Chrome address bar searches return results from Google Drive

"Users will see Google Drive results when entering a search in the address bar, including PDFs, Google Sheets, Docs, and Slides," Google wrote.

And that's all it wrote. However, it's possible to flesh out the expected feature.

Google in March kicked off testing of integration between Chrome and Google Drive for the G Suite Business, Enterprise, and Enterprise for Education productivity subscriptions. (That beta testing requires Chrome 69 or later.)

The upcoming address bar-search is somewhat different. Computerworld's testing of Chrome 75 Dev – after enabling the option flag "Omnibox Google Drive Document suggestions" – showed that suggested matches surfaced in the address bar only of recently-accessed PDF and Google Docs/Sheets/Slides. In other words, the Chrome 75 feature seems a subset, although not a perfect one, of what's already in testing for G Suite subscribers, but will be available to all Chrome users who have content in Google Drive.

chrome 75 Google

Chrome 75 will suggest results from Google Drive for documents that have been recently accessed.

Chrome 75: 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 as part of a scheme to isolate malware from the browser as a whole and the 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. As of Chrome 75 - currently scheduled to ship June 4 - that will end. "We've resolved the reported issues and starting with Chrome 75, we will remove the ability to opt out of site isolation on desktop using the SitePerProcess or IsolateOrigins policies," Google said.

Chrome 75: Version roll-back

Google will add a browser roll-back process for enterprises that want to retreat to an older version of Chrome, the company said as it named the target. "Chrome 75 on Windows will include a policy that allows administrators to roll back to a previous version of Chrome," Google said.

The functionality will be available only to customers using Windows' group policies to manage Chrome. "Add a RollbackToTargetVersion app policy to allow enterprise administrators to enable rollback in conjunction with the existing TargetVersionPrefix policy," Google stated.

The most likely reason for wanting to roll back Chrome to an earlier version would be because the latest browser caused problems, perhaps a mission-critical app compatibility or workflow issue.

Google was adamant that a roll-back should be a last-ditch effort by enterprise IT. "This policy is meant as an emergency mechanism and should be used with caution," the company said. "If you roll back to an earlier version, you will expose your users to known security issues. Use this policy at your own risk."

Google also urged that customers turn on the browser sync feature or alternately, Roaming User Profiles, which lets users take bookmarks, passwords, extensions and preferences to multiple PCs. Failing to do that will mean data synced from later versions won't be usable by older editions.

A later version, Google added, will "improve the rollback experience by preserving user states during the rollback process" so that sync and roaming profiles won't be needed.

Chrome 76: Flash to be blocked by default

Nearly two years ago, Adobe announced that it would finally bury Flash Player - an app that in many ways, made the web - at the end of 2020. Browser makers like Google then detailed 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, now slated to ship July 30, Flash will be disabled by default. Individual users will be able to switch back to a default "Ask to use Flash" 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.

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Copyright © 2019 IDG Communications, Inc.

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