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Google I/O 2019: What’s new with Chrome and the Web

May 8th, 2019

The web celebrated its 30th anniversary this year, and what an amazing three decades they have been. We’ve seen the platform go from powering simple hypertext documents, to one that enables rich, immersive, and dynamic experiences that are at the forefront of design.

Looking forward, the world’s needs continue to evolve, and that motivates us to continue our participation with the global web community to adapt and improve the platform to meet the needs of the future. Our efforts are focused on making the web faster and more powerful, while keeping our users’ trust and safety front and center.

Vision for an Instant Web

Speed matters on the web. We’ve found that users are highly sensitive to loading speed and this can have a direct impact on the business.

So we’ve been working hard to make the browser faster and lighter so developers can do more with their experience. By focusing on startup bottlenecks, we were able to improve the loading speed on Chrome’s startup by 50% on low-end devices; and 10% across devices. We also improved scrolling performance by 18% and through V8, JavaScript memory usage reduced by up to 20% for real-world apps.

Apart from making the browser more efficient, we’ve also been adding more features to the platform to take the burden away from developers. And we’d like to share a few of these here:

  • To deliver a great image loading experience without needing developers to build their own JavaScript solutions, we’re bringing lazy loading for images and iframes directly into the browser. All developers have to do is add a simple HTML attribute and Chrome will take care of the rest.
  • For fast sites, Chrome’s eager clearing of the page, when a user wants to navigate to another page, can be detrimental to the experience. To avoid this flash of a white “loading page”, we’re rolling out a new experiment called Paint Holding to improve navigation on the web. You can see it in action for the Awwwards website here: 

Speaking of navigations, Portals, is a new technology that we believe will fundamentally change the way users traverse the web. Portals are similar to iframes and allow content to be embedded directly in a page, but unlike standard iframes, they can be ‘activated’ to become the top-level page, enabling instant transitions across the web. Advanced experiences can even hold pieces of the original page’s UI privately and securely so that you can provide seamless overlays that still hold our ideals of the origin model.

At I/O, we shared our vision of how developers would be able to use Portals and associated APIs to support pre-fetching, enhanced transitions and the exchange of contextual information between sites. And now that Portals API is available behind a flag in Chrome Canary, we’re excited to see what developers will build with this new primitive.

Another technology that we’re particularly excited about is Web Packaging, a bold new contract between web developers and web servers. With Web Packaging, the model for loading pages changes from the browser requesting the page from the origin’s server to it being able to load from anywhere — even potentially other peer devices.

Google I/O 2019: What's new with Chrome and the Web

This gives the browser the flexibility to preload content and load pages instantly while doing so in a privacy preserving way. Signed Exchanges, the first phase of this vision is now available in Chrome for developers to use.

These are some of the things that we’re doing to make the web more instant, but its success is predicated on developers making their experiences fast and maintaining that performance. So we’ve added a bunch of tools to help.

In 2017, we launched the Chrome UX report to give developers a better sense of how their users truly experience their webpages by providing them real world metrics. The report is now includes a data set of nearly 6 million origins and is powering more of our tools, including the latest Speed Report in the Google Search Console. The report is currently in beta and you can register here to join the program and share your feedback.

To give developers an even wider array of real world metrics, the Firebase team have broadened their Performance Monitoring tool to also cover web apps.

And to stay on the rails for performance, we’ve seen many top sites implement ‘performance budgets’ within their build environments, and that is why we’ve built performance budgets directly into Lighthouse, so that you can get alerted to performance regressions before they hit your production site.

Creating a more powerful web

Our vision is to allow you to do absolutely anything that you want your users to do, on the web. So we’ve been working hard over the last year to close the capability gap by focusing on the features that get your experiences closer to your users.

Working closely with the community to address the most pressing and critical needs, we’re bringing many of these features to fruition at a great pace. Some of the capabilities that we’re most excited about include File system access, Unlimited Quota and the SMS based authentication feature that is particularly important for developers working in markets where “one-time passwords” are an important part of the authentication process.

And while we continue our momentum here, we’ve already launched the Web Share Target API allowing your apps to be integrated into the native system sharing, and opened up Shape Detection APIs that enable experiences like the Web Perception toolkit that we launched at I/O today. The toolkit allows developers to integrate with the mobile camera and enable people to use their website more effectively.

With mobile gaining many such strong capabilities, we also wanted to enable developers who build quality web experiences to get more reach. So we’ve launched Trusted Web Activities, that allow developers to integrate their web content into Android apps. And businesses like OYO Rooms, India’s biggest affordable hotels network, are already using Trusted Web Activities to power a lite version of their experience, a common pattern that we’re seeing amongst partners in some markets.

But the thing that we’re most excited about is the progress that we’ve made on desktop capabilities, with technologies like Web Assembly and individual media and productivity APIs unlocking many new use cases. Hulu and Google’s Duo are great examples of what’s possible on the web today. And we’re excited to have our friends at Slack join in and fully committed to roll out an offline-enabled web-powered version of their desktop app later this year.

PWAs on desktop came to ChromeOS last year, to enable web apps that need full window support and common desktop app capabilities. And now we’re excited to have extended support to Windows, Mac, and Linux.

We’re excited to see the momentum for PWAs on desktop and we wanted to ensure that we do our part to ensure that users can identify high quality PWAs and install them easily, so we’ve improved discoverability by bringing a new “Install” button directly into Chrome’s UI, within the Omnibox. This is one step to support developers building amazing experiences to get more engagement with their loyal users and we hope to continue doing more here.

In this landscape of massive device fragmentation, we wanted to see if it is possible for us to build an experience that could work across all devices, from the lowest-end feature phones to the large screen desktops. So we built a fun game – Proxx, that uses preact for UI, Comlink to be able to use workers and do more off the main thread. And yes, it works across all devices and performs well even on the most constrained ones. And because it’s on the web, you can play it right here; but maybe after you’re done reading. 🙂

Over the next year we will continue to open up even more of the capabilities that enable the next generation of games, productivity, media and social apps to come to the web, all whilst ensuring that the core principles of user safety and trust are preserved.

Bringing transparency, choice and control

User experience is extremely important to us and their safety and privacy remains at the heart of it. At I/O, we shared important upcoming changes to how Chrome will handle cookies in order to enable choice over tracking, and that enhance web security and privacy generally. And later this year, we will preview new features in Chrome that give users transparency and control over how they are tracked on the web.

We believe these changes will help improve user privacy and security on the web — but we know that it will take time. So we’re committed to working with the web ecosystem to understand how Chrome can continue to support these positive use cases and to build a better web.

Improving your developer experience

As the scope of the web platform increases and the demand from users to have ever faster, safer and more capable experiences at their fingertips it should be easier, not harder to build high-quality sites.

We built web.dev to bring our measurement tools, aka, Lighthouse and guidance all in one place. We’ve improved the site that now provides over 200 easy to follow guides for performance, safety, accessibility, resilience, and more. And at I/O, we announced our intent to build guidance for the tools that you use, starting with React.

Google I/O 2019: What's new with Chrome and the Web

And we’re adding the same level of personalization to Lighthouse, to give developers reports and improvement tips for the framework that they use. We’ve built in guidance for WordPress and will be adding more over the rest of 2019 and beyond.

The web has come a long way over the last 30 years and we’re excited to be working with the developer community and other browsers with a shared mission to bring universal access to information and services to more people than ever.

Posted by Ben Galbraith and Dion Almaer