Desktop Chrome 71 Rolling Out With Abuse Protections, Bug Fixes

Version 71 of Chrome for Desktop is now rolling out to the Stable Channel for users on Windows, Mac, and Linux, bringing along around 43 bug fixes and several new features including abuse protections. The most noticeable change for the average user will likely be the browser's new policies relating to media that auto-plays when a website is open. Implemented in the Web Audio API, the feature will effectively stop most video and audio from firing up as soon as a website is opened. Users should also see far fewer misleading advertisements or page elements following Google's decision to first warn and then block websites from advertising when those ads frequently contain fake close buttons or other visual queues that lead to redirects. Ads that steal user information, instantiate undesired or unadvertised downloads, or open pop-up windows will be included in the crackdown as well. Web pages that don't follow best practices for clearly informing visitors about impending charges they may incur will be called out too via a popup warning users that the site may be trying to charge them money. That includes pages where the required information is posted but in a font, size, or color that makes the information difficult or impossible for users to read.

Finally, a battery of small under-the-hood changes is arriving with this update that users may not notice but which should help in terms of loading speed and performance. The introduction of the Intl.RelativeTimeFormat API uses JavaScript engine to diminish the resources a page requires to provide visitors with a context-based relevant timestamp. Developers that want to show the time that content was posted in a format such as "2 days ago" or "last month" previously needed to download a number of extensive libraries to make that happen. With JavaScript handling the process, websites can be more effectively slimmed down. Chrome will support more lightweight vector-based COLR/CPAL fonts and changes are being made to credentials mode defaults in JavaScript Modules that should reduce latency further. Last, the introduction of 'async touchpad pinch zoom events' will make mouse gestures smoother and more consistent for users using touchpads instead of traditional mice.

Background: The change to Chrome's auto-play features has actually been in the works and expected since Chrome version 66. The general idea behind the policy is to prevent websites that blast visitors with loud music or unwanted visuals from doing so as soon as a website is opened or before the UI to stop playback has sufficiently loaded. Google has repeatedly put the implementation of the policy on hold in order to give the developers working on websites built around apps, games, or media time to adjust. Beyond resolving annoying site behavior, the change may also help some sites load up more quickly since the assets associated with those experiences won't need to load up first.

Impact: The majority of the changes in this particular update aren't going to be immediately noticeable to those on the user-facing side of Chrome. However, web developers who implement the new features should see improvements to overall loading times and visitors to associated websites will see decreased loading times and better performance in many cases. Over time and across multiple sites or pages, those small changes should amount to a significant improvement in efficiency and make browsing the web less time-consuming. The new policies regarding abusive behaviors should have a similarly compounding effect, making the overall experience less frustrating. Additionally, users should be more well-protected against deliberately abusive practices and sites. The rollout to desktop users will take up to several weeks to complete and both Android and Chrome OS users can expect rollouts to begin on those platforms beginning December 11.

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