Turn down that damn music! Chrome 32 debuts noxious, noisy tabs signals

Also shoves stricter malware blocker into browser beta

Google yesterday released a beta of Chrome 32 that includes an aggressive malware blocking filter it touted two weeks ago and a "noisy tabs" feature.

The expanded malware blocking debuted in "Canary," the label for very-early versions of the browser, on Oct. 31. At the time, Google did not specify a timeline when the feature would reach Chrome's beta and stable build "channels," but it's rare that an addition or improvement moves from Canary to Chrome's beta within just a few weeks.

The new anti-malware tool is more aggressive than earlier iterations. It's both more assertive in its alerts and it detects more malware forms, including threats that change browser settings behind users' backs. And unlike in the past, when Chrome users could bypass a malware alert and continue downloading the file, in Chrome 32 there is no easy way to sidestep the ban.

Google's malware blocking is part of its Safe Browsing API (application programming interface) and service, which Chrome, Apple's Safari and Mozilla's Firefox all access to warn customers of potentially dangerous websites before they reach them. In Chrome's case, however, Google added a reputation-based technology -- generically dubbed "Content Agnostic Malware Protection," or CAMP -- to the browser's defenses, starting in June 2011.

The functionality was extended in February 2012 with Chrome 17.

Google also trumpeted new tab indicators that show which pages are blasting sound, accessing the computer's camera or being played on a nearby television using the company's Chromecast dongle.

Customers have long pleaded for a "noisy tabs" feature, not a surprising request. When there are scores of open tabs, it becomes a click-fest crapshoot trying to find the previously-loaded page that's playing audio at volume 11.

Google does not hew to a strict every-six-week release schedule as does Mozilla for Firefox, but based on past practice, Chrome 32 should reach the stable channel -- the most polished of Google's trio -- around the end of 2013 or in the first weeks of 2014.

Today, in fact, Google upgraded the stable channel to Chrome 31. The new edition seems to be primarily a security update: Google did not call out any major interface or feature changes.

Chrome 31 patched 25 vulnerabilities, including eight from outside researchers who raked in bounties totaling $13,000. Google has paid just over $300,000 in bug bounties and hacking contest prizes this year.

The stable version of Chrome 31 for Windows, OS X and Linux can be downloaded from Google's website. Current users can simply let the automatic updater retrieve the new version.

To switch to the beta channel -- and test Chrome 32 -- users can steer to this page for their platform's download links.

Chrome noisy tabs
Chrome 32 displays indicators in tabs that are playing audio, using the webcam or Chromecasting content to a nearby TV. (Image: Google.)

Gregg Keizer covers Microsoft, security issues, Apple, Web browsers and general technology breaking news for Computerworld. Follow Gregg on Twitter at  @gkeizer, on Google+ or subscribe to Gregg's RSS feed . His email address is gkeizer@computerworld.com.

See more by Gregg Keizer on Computerworld.com.

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