Google I/O: Google Reveals Competitive Improvements to Chrome Browser

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Up against ongoing rivalry from Safari, Opera, and a host of other browsers, Google revealed plans at Google/IO to boost the performance of its Chrome for Mobile browser in more ways than one.

Overall use of the Chrome browser has now reached 750 million active users, an increase of some 300 million over last year, Google announced. Not to be confused with the Chrome operating system (OS) that runs on Google’s Chromebooks, the Chrome browser is available in Android, iOS, Windows and Mac flavors.

What Google didn’t say, though is that the mobile versions of its browser are not faring well in comparison with Safari, the default Android browser, and even ultra speedy Opera browsers, according to recent Web traffic statistics from Net Applications. Meanwhile, the Chrome browser competes against well over a dozen other third-party browsers in Google Play alone.

At the Google I/O conference, VP of Engineering Linus Upson told attendees that Google is working on a variety of technologies to deliver greater “speed, simplicity and security” to the Chrome browser.

New Checkout Button for Online Shopping

“One of the hardest things to do on your phone today is to buy something,” Upson noted. When trying to purchase something online, mobile phone users give up before completing the transaction about 97 percent of the time, he said.

In response, Google is building a new checkout button for the browser, aimed at easing online shopping from a tablet or a phone by turning it into a one-click process. Instead of entering information into multiple fields from the keyboard, users will be able to view information offered up by Chrome and then hit “submit.”

When it comes to browser efficiency, Chrome’s JavaScript engine on mobile devices has stepped up 57 percent in processing speed year over year, according to Upson. In a March update to the Android browser, Google added support for the latest version of the V8 JavaScript engine, along with HTML 5 features like CSS Filters, for better display of Web pages with CSS.

WebP, VP9, and a ‘Data Compression Proxy’

Upson also said that Google has been adopting technologies such as the WebP image compression format and VP9 video encoding codec in both its mobile and desktop browsers. However, most Web sites these days don’t support those formats yet, sticking to more common alternatives like JPEG and H.264.

Consequently, Google is also developing a new data compression and format conversion engine to help make Web sites load faster on tablets and phones.

Although not ready for primetime yet, the “data compression proxy” is available for download through Google’s Android beta channel. The software will tell you how much bandwidth you’re saving. It’s supposed to save on battery power, too.

Competition Never Ceases

In March, Opera, a company well known for its strengths on the compression side, announced that it will step to the WebKit rendering engine, the same open source engine that Google uses for Chrome and Apple uses for Safari. This gives Opera the same combination of V8 and WebKit as Chrome.

In April, though, Google then announced that it will transition from WebKit to a forked version of WebKit known as Blink.

Apple’s rules require that other browsers can’t use Apple’s Nitro engine for JavaScript processing, or engines such as V8. Instead, they must use Apple’s UIWebView browsing component, giving Apple’s Safari a big speed advantage for JavaScript processing on iOS devices.

Yet Safari, of course, is unavailable for Android tablets and phones.

Also at Google I/O

Google has made no announcement of either Android 4.3 or a second gen Nexus 7 tablet at Google I/0. On the other hand, Google has launched a new streaming music service, given sneak peeks at an updated maps app, and launched new game services for Android, iOS and the Web.

For more coverage of Google I/O, check out our sister site, Brighthand.






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