Following yesterday’s release of the new mobile version of the Chrome browser, Google is today launching an improved version of its desktop counterpart. The updated release of Chrome (Stable version) brings several features beta users have had since January, most notably omnibox pre-rendering and increased security protections.
The omnibox, Google’s name for the all-in-one search/address bar in Chrome, will now not only autocomplete URLs of sites you’re likely to visit, it will also work in the background to pre-render the page in question. Then, when you hit “Enter,” the site will appear much quicker – even instantly in some cases. In real world terms, this is the kind of trick that makes it seem like Chrome has been sped up, when really, it’s just that sites are loading up behind the scenes. Mainstream end users won’t know the difference, however, and will just think their browser seems faster today.
The other major update involves improvements to Chrome’s Safe Browsing technology. Previously, Chrome was focused on protecting you from visiting malicious websites, but with the new verssion, it also now scans the files you download for malware. In particular, it’s on the lookout for executables like “.exe” or “.msi” files which many malicious sites push out to victims, often pretending that they’re offering free anti-virus software.
If you try to download a file containing malware using the updated version of Chrome, it will now warn you that the file appears to be malicious and you should discard it. To determine the legitimacy of the file involved, Chrome checks a whitelist of known good files and publishers. If the file isn’t found there, Chrome then checks with Google for additional information, like whether the site is known to host high numbers of malicious downloads, for example. It also uses machine learning analysis to classify the downloads in question, allowing the browser to ID files even after they’ve been “re-packed” in attempts to fool anti-virus programs.
A number of other security issues and bugs have also been addressed in the new release, and these have been detailed further on the Google Chrome Releases blog.
Although not out today, Google promises its browser-based operating system Chrome OS will soon see improvements too, including a new image editor that will allow photo viewing, editing and social sharing and an improved Verizon 3G activation portal.