Thursday, May 23, 2024

Google Wants Chrome 21 to See You

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When Marc Andreeson created the first web browser, it was all about users simply viewing static web pages. A lot has changed over the years in the web browser world, and now with the latest Google Chrome 21 browser there is a host of new two-way interactivity options. The new features in Chrome 21 change the way that users look at browsers and the way that browsers look at us.

One of the key new features in Chrome 21 is the getUserMedia API. That API enables the browser to get access to your webcam and microphone, directly through the browser and not through a third party plugin like Flash. The getUserMedia API is part of a larger effort to enable richer in-browser interactivity, known as WebRTC(Real-Time Communications).

As an example of what the getUserMedia API can potentially enable, Google has set up an experiment in its Chrome Web Lab that shows off the power of the API.

“The Sketchbots experiment uses getUserMedia to let you take a picture of your face, which is then converted to a line drawing and sent to a robot in the Science Museum in London,” Shijing Xian, Software Engineer at Google wrote in a blog post. “The robot then draws out your portrait in a patch of sand, which you can watch live on YouTube and visitors can watch in person at the museum. It’s just about as crazy as it sounds, and twice as cool.”

Chrome 21 also now will extend the utility of the browser as a viable gaming platform by way of a new API for Gamepads.

“The Gamepad Javascript API helps developers access input from any standard gamepad connected to the user’s machine, creating a richer gameplay experience with these controllers,” Tommy Widenflycht, Software Engineer at Google wrote in a blog post.

With Chrome 21, Google is also aiming to improve the way the browser looks on Apple Mac OS X. For the first time, the browser will fully support and render for Apple’s Retina display. The Retina display on the latest MacBook Pro offers a resolution of 2880×1800.

Security Fixes

Security fixes are always part of the shipping list for any Chrome release and Chrome 21 is no exception. Chrome 21 fixes at least 15 different issues, only one of which is rated as being of critical impact.

The critical flaw is identified as CVE-2012-28959 and is a crash in tab handling that was discovered by Jeff Roberts of the Google Security Team.

There are also at least five flaws rated as high impact by Google for Chrome 21. These include:

  • CVE-2012-2852: Use-after-free with bad object linkage in PDF. Credit to Alexey Samsonov of Google.
  • CVE-2012-2855: Use-after-free in PDF viewer. Credit to Mateusz Jurczyk of Google Security Team, with contributions by Gynvael Coldwind of Google Security Team.
  • CVE-2012-2856: Out-of-bounds writes in PDF viewer. Credit to Mateusz Jurczyk of Google Security Team, with contributions by Gynvael Coldwind of Google Security Team.
  • CVE-2012-2857: Use-after-free in CSS DOM. Credit to Arthur Gerkis.
  • CVE-2012-2858: Buffer overflow in WebP decoder. Credit to Jüri Aedla.

Surprisingly, only two of the vulnerabilities in the Chrome 21 update were from third party researchers, who receive a security award from Google. In total Google paid out only $2,000 in security awards for Chrome 21.

Sean Michael Kerner is a senior editor at, the news service of the IT Business Edge Network, the network for technology professionals Follow him on Twitter @TechJournalist.

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