One of the key items that Google’s Chrome browser had lacked since its first
release in September 2008 was an extensions system for add-ons. It’s an
omission that has now been corrected with the release of Chrome 4 today for
Linux and Macintosh versions of Chrome 4 stable are not yet available.
4 has been in development at Google since August 2009 and includes a
number of new features and improvements over the previous Chrome 3 stable
release — though some of the features have already been showcased in other,
more bleeding-edge Chrome releases, since Google has three main release
branches for Chrome: dev, beta and stable.
The new Chrome stable release comes amid heated times for the browser
market, less than a week after Mozilla
updated its users to Firefox 3.6, and as Chrome is racing past Apple Safari in browser popularity.
Leading the new features in Chrome is the inclusion of Chrome Extensions.
According to Google, there are over 1,500 features that Chrome users can now
take advantage of with the new enhancement. Users can browse through a
complete list of Chrome Extensions at the Extension Gallery. Among
the most popular Chrome Extensions is one called IE Tab, which enables
Chrome users to view pages in an Internet Explorer tab inside of Chrome.
(Ironically, Google provides a similar kind of feature to IE users with its
Chrome Frame technology.)
Several new enhancements to Chrome also replicate functionality available
only via plug-ins in other browsers. For instance, Mozilla Firefox users
rely on multiple add-ons, including Mozilla Weave, to synchronize their
browsing activities across installations. With Chrome 4, Google is baking
that same type of capability directly into the browser.
“In addition to Extensions, another feature that’s moving from our beta
to the stable channel on the Windows version of Google Chrome is bookmark
sync,” Nick Baum, Google product manager, said in a blog post. “For those of
you who use several computers — for example, a laptop at work and a desktop
at home — you can now keep your Google Chrome bookmarks synchronized and
up-to-date across computers, without needing to manually recreate your
bookmarks every time you switch computers.”
Google is also improving the performance of Chrome with the new release.
According to Baum, Chrome 4 is 42 percent faster than Chrome 3 and 400
percent faster than Chrome 1. A key part of the performance improvements
Also under the hood of Chrome 4 are several new HTML 5 features.
“We now support the Web SQL Database API, which allows you to store data
in a structured manner on the user’s computer,” Ian Fette, Google product
manager, said in a blog post. “If you’re looking for a simpler client-side
storage mechanism for relatively small amounts of data, check out the
localStorage portion of the Web Storage API.”
Support for the new Notification API is also part of Chrome 4. With the
Notification API, status updates and notification can be provided to users
on the status bar panel of the browser.
“This panel allows you to provide more styling than window.alert(),”
Fette said. “It should also be much less irritating to your users — with
this API, notifications are still visible but do not get a user’s attention
by stealing cursor, tab or window focus.”
Sean Michael Kerner is a senior editor at InternetNews.com, the news service of
the internet.com network.