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Google Chrome: 10 years of surfing the web
When Google Chrome was released on September 2, 2008, it was just one more browser competing with Internet Explorer and the six-year old Mozilla Firefox.
Fast forward 10 years and Chrome controls a commanding 66% of the desktop browser market, with Firefox–its next closest competitor–only holding 11%.
In honor of the 10th anniversary of Chrome, let’s take a look back at major milestones in the life of Google’s iconic browser.
Google Chrome's beta release
“So why are we launching Google Chrome?” asked Google’s then-VP of product management Sundar Pichai, “Because we believe we can add value for users and, at the same time, help drive innovation on the web.”
That was the word from Google’s Chrome announcement post that came out one day before the release of the public beta version of Chrome on September 2, 2008.
Chrome’s design was new, innovative, and it fixed many problems associated with other web browsers. If you are curious about Google’s vision for Chrome and all of the changes it would bring, read the comic book the company produced to commemorate the event.
Sundar Pichai (pictured) and Linus Upson wrote that the initial beta of Google Chrome ended with the release of version 1.0.154 on December 11, 2008. Between September and December 2008, Google added a spellchecker, notifications for blocked popups, privacy management options, and bookmark import/export capabilities.
2.0: Chrome's first big upgrade
Chrome version 2.0 was released in May 2009 and included a list of new features that would be inconceivable to not have in a web browser in 2018. Included were the addition of mouse wheel support, full-screen mode, full-page zoom, form autofill, and tab docking between browser windows and different sides of the screen.
Chrome comes to Mac OS and Linux
Shortly after the release of Chrome 1.0 Google announced its plans to release Chrome for Mac OS and Linux in the first half of 2009. That didn’t quite work out, and Mac OS and Linux users had to wait until the release of Chrome 5.0 in May 2010 to get a stable version of Google’s browser.
Chrome 5.0 also brought the integration of the Adobe Flash Player, cross-device preferences sync, and expanded HTML5 functionality.
The Chrome Web Store
Version 8.0 of Google Chrome, released in December 2010, brought the launch of the Chrome Web Store, home to apps, extensions, and pretty much all software for Chrome OS.
Cross-device browser tabs
It’s one of those features that’s hard to imagine not having six years later, but it wasn’t until May 2012 that Chrome got support for cross-device browser tab syncing. The feature was added in version 19 of Chrome, and I for one am still thrilled at having it all these years later.
Chrome goes mobile
iOS and Android users were finally able to get their hands on Chrome for their respective mobile devices in June 2012. While the full-fledge version of Chrome still has more features, iOS and Android versions have made choosing Chrome a given for many users since it has continued to get more cross-device features as time as gone on.
Google adds Do Not Track to Chrome
The next major addition to Google Chrome came in version 23, released in November 2012, which added a new privacy option in the form of Do Not Track requests. When the option was enabled, Chrome would request that websites a user visits not track them, but that doesn’t mean the site would have to comply–Do Not Track is a request, not a demand.
If you think newer iterations of Do Not Track are any different, sorry–it’s still just a request that many websites choose to ignore.
Goodbye WebKit, hello Blink
From the earliest days of its beta Chrome had been powered by Apple’s WebKit browser engine. That all changed with the release of Chrome 28 in July 2013, which introduced a new browser engine called Blink.
Blink is a fork of WebKit built by the Chromium Project for use in Chrome and other web browsers, but its introduction doesn’t mean WebKit has been completely abandoned by the Chrome team–Apple still requires it for Chrome on iOS.
The groundwork is laid for Google Titan
FIDO allows any website to use USB or Bluetooth keys as second login factors, greatly increasing user security.
Chrome 45: Netscape's web API, and a bunch of plugins, die
The Netscape Plug-in API (NPAPI) was one of the original web extensions that standardized how different forms of content were delivered. By September 2015, which brought the release of Chrome 45, it was permanently disabled in favor of newer, more secure options.
NPAPI was, and still is, a popular API for browser plugins, and is used by Adobe Flash Player, Microsoft Silverlight, Java Runtime Environment, and others.
HTML5 becomes standard, Flash fades out
Chrome 56, released in January 2017, finally relegated Adobe Flash Player to its list of automatically blocked plugins. In its place, HTML5–far more secure and capable of delivering the same content–was enabled by default and the internet by and large hasn’t looked back.
Chrome loses its head
Chrome 59 introduced a huge new feature for developers: Headlessness. Headless browsers are web browsers without a graphic user interface, which means all that exists is the content of a particular webpage.
As Google engineer Eric Bidelman said, headless browsers have some great applications: “A headless browser is a great tool for automated testing and server environments where you don’t need a visible UI shell. For example, you may want to run some tests against a real web page, create a PDF of it, or just inspect how the browser renders an URL.”
HTTP warnings get obvious
Unsecured HTTP websites have been in the tech industry’s crosshairs for a while, and Google finally made websites that request user data while not using HTTPS stand out in Chrome 62. Starting with the October 2017 release, standard HTTP websites that want personal info began displaying “not secure” in front of their URLs, indicating to visitors that they should be cautious when giving out sensitive information on those sites.
Chrome 68 expanded the HTTP warnings to all sites not using HTTPS–even those not requesting user data. HTTPS has essentially become the de facto standard for web browsing in 2018, and Google’s latest change is just one more nail in the coffin of unsecured HTTP websites.
Chrome 68 also added a feature to stop iFrames from quietly redirecting users to malicious websites; any iFrame that attempts a redirect will have to be given user permission to do so.
Chrome 69 and beyond
Google released Chrome 69 to coincide with the 10th anniversary, and with it comes the biggest visual change Chrome has seen in a long time. A new Google Material Design makes its debut in this latest version, as does a password generation feature that will eliminate the need to create repetitive, and easily guessed, credentials.
Developer and canary testing channels currently contain Chrome 70, which will itself add tons of new features, big and small, for users and developers.
tWith 10 years behind it, and many more yet to come, here’s wishing a happy birthday to Chrome, the most popular browser on the internet.
- Google Chrome 69 has updated Material Design look and will also make it harder to use Flash (Download.com)
- Chrome interface gets a new look 10 years after Google’s browser debut (CNET)
- Why Google Chrome will label thousands of websites as ‘unsafe’ in the next few months (TechRepublic)
- Here’s why Google is killing off inline installation for Chrome extensions (TechRepublic)
- 10 tips to help you get the most out of Google Chrome (TechRepublic)
- Five quick tricks to make Google Chrome faster and better (ZDNet)
- How to turn on dark mode for Gmail (or all of Chrome) (CNET)
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