Fast forward: What's coming in future versions of Chrome?

Every time Google updates its browser, it publishes release notes aimed at enterprises to highlight upcoming additions, substitutions, enhancements and modifications. Here's some of what's coming.

Credit: geralt

Fact: Chrome rules.

With a massive two-thirds of the world's browser user share - a measurement of browser activity calculated monthly by analytics vendor Net Applications - Google's Chrome has no peer in popularity.

So when Chrome speaks, people listen. That holds true for whatever moves Google makes with each browser upgrade - something Computerworld details in the What's in the latest Chrome update? series - and in what it plans to do in the future.

With each update, Google publishes a set of release notes aimed at enterprises. In those release notes, the company highlights some of the upcoming additions, substitutions, enhancements and modifications planned for its browser._

In an effort to look ahead at the browser's future, we've collected the most important of the latest items in Chrome's "Coming soon" category. But as Google takes pains to point out, "They might be changed, delayed, or canceled before launching to the Stable channel."

You've been warned.

Chrome 75: Legacy browser support baked in

What Google has called Legacy Browser Support (LBS) has long been part of the search company's arsenal in its battle for enterprise users. Once configured by IT administrators, LBS automatically opens Internet Explorer 11 (IE11) when links clicked within Chrome lead to websites, web services or web apps requiring Microsoft's browser, or more likely, IE's ActiveX controls or Java, neither of which Google's browser supports.

LBS was more important in the days when IE ruled the browser roost and Chrome was scratching for every corporate customer. Today, when Chrome lords it over all browsers - last month it accounted for 67% of all browser user share - LBS has lost its luster. Still, Google plans to bring the capability inside the browser. (It's always before required a Chrome add-on.)

"Legacy browser support functionality is being incorporated into Chrome browser, and the separate extension will no longer be needed," Google said. However, the add-on will remain in the Chrome Web Store after Chrome 75's release so that organizations running older versions of the browser still have access to LBS.

Chrome 75: End to opt-out of site isolation

Unveiled in late 2017 within Chrome 63, Site Isolation is a defensive technology that segregates pages from different sites into different processes. Each process runs in a "sandbox" that restricts what the process can do, all as part of a scheme to isolate malware from the browser as a whole and the device's over-arching OS.

Site Isolation was enabled in stages until by mid-2018 it was enabled for virtually all Chrome users. At that point, only managed devices were able to opt-out. As of Chrome 75 - currently scheduled to ship June 4 - that will end. "We've resolved the reported issues and starting with Chrome 75, we will remove the ability to opt out of site isolation on desktop using the SitePerProcess or IsolateOrigins policies," Google said.

Chrome 76: Flash to be blocked by default

Nearly two years ago, Adobe announced that it would finally bury Flash Player - an app that in many ways, made the web - at the end of 2020. Browser makers like Google then detailed how they would end their support for Flash.

While Google has limited Flash for years - in late 2016, it was turned off by default and restricted to a handful of sites, including Amazon, Facebook and YouTube - this summer Chrome will institute a complete Flash blockade. With Chrome 76, now slated to ship July 30, Flash will be disabled by default. Individual users will be able to switch back to a default "Ask to use Flash" in settings (until Google ends all support by yanking it from the Chromium project in December 2020), and enterprises will be able to continue controlling Flash usage through the DefaultPluginsSetting,PluginsAllowedForUrls and PluginsBlockedForUrls policies.

Chrome ??: Version roll-back

Google will add a browser roll-back process for enterprises that want to retreat to an older version of Chrome, the company said in the latest guidance given to IT administrators.

The functionality will be available only to customers using Windows' group policies to manage Chrome. "The new ((group)) policy will allow administrators to roll back in conjunction with the existing TargetVersionPrefix ADMX policy," Google stated.

Google will name the new group policy RollbackToTargetVersion.

The most likely reason for wanting to roll back Chrome to an earlier version would be because the latest browser caused problems, perhaps a mission-critical app compatibility or workflow issue.

When roll-back is implemented, Google will recommend that customers turn on the browser sync feature or alternately, Roaming User Profiles, which lets users take bookmarks, passwords, extensions and preferences to multiple PCs. Failing to do that will mean that data synced from later versions won't be usable by older editions, including the one rolled back to an earlier iteration.

Not surprisingly, Google warned, "Use this ((roll-back) policy at your own risk."

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