What's in the latest Chrome update?

Version 66 of the popular browser quashes 62 bugs and keeps auto-play content from playing unless the volume has been muted.

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Google on Wednesday released Chrome 61 for Windows, macOS and Linux, adding several new behind-the-scenes features -- including one that lets web apps access USB peripherals -- and patching 22 security vulnerabilities.

Chrome updates in the background, so most users need only relaunch the browser to get the latest version. (To manually manage an update, select "About Google Chrome" from the Help menu under the vertical ellipsis at the upper right. The ensuing page either shows the browser has been updated or displays the download-upgrade process before presenting a "Relaunch" button.) New to Chrome? It can be downloaded from this Google site.

The Mountain View, Calif. company updates Chrome every six to seven weeks; the last time it upgraded the browser, to version 60, was July 25, or just over six weeks ago.

Version 61, like many if not most of Chrome's upgrades, deals users few if any changes they'll notice at a glance. Instead, this month's update offers new under-the-hood functionality aimed at site and app developers.

Near the top of that change list is the WebUSB API (application programming interface), which is intended to give web app and site developers access to unusual USB devices.

"Most hardware peripherals such as keyboards, mice, printers, and gamepads are supported by high-level web platform APIs," Pete LePage, a developer advocate at Google, noted in a post about Chrome 61. "But, using specialized educational, scientific, industrial or other USB devices in the browser has been hard, often requiring specialized drivers."

And Chrome 61 added native support for JavaScript modules so developers can properly call up discrete and reusable chunks of script code from within the browser without performing a build step. Chrome's support - like that already baked into Apple's Safari browser - allows for fetching dependent modules in parallel, and guarantees that the script executes in the right order. Mozilla and Microsoft plan to natively support JavaScript modules in their Firefox and Edge browsers down the road.

Additionally, Chrome will now automatically drop out of full-screen mode if a JavaScript dialog box opens; scammers often use such dialogs, and a forced shift to full-screen, to prevent the user from discarding their bogus claims of PC infections.

Also included in Chrome 61 are patches for 22 security vulnerabilities, a quarter of which were rated "High," Google's second-most-serious ranking. The firm also paid out $23,500 in bug bounties - and will pay more once it decides how much to fork over for one of the flaws - to security researchers for reporting the vulnerabilities.

Although it didn't tie it to the release of Chrome 61, Google also recently made it possible for users to install browser previews alongside the stable, production-grade version on a Windows personal computer. The Beta and Dev channel builds can be downloaded from here.

The next edition, Chrome 62, should reach users the week of Oct. 15-21, according to Google's release calendar.

Google Chrome 61 v2 Gregg Keizer/IDG

Chrome updates automatically in the background, then upgrades itself the next time it's launched.

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