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 a sneak preview of what's coming.

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April 2020

Chrome lords it over the browser world, Louis XVI to the peasants trying to keep famine from the door.

Now with 68.5% of the world's browser user share - a measure of browser activity calculated by analytics company Net Applications - Google's Chrome has no equal in popularity. Meanwhile, Microsoft's Edge, Mozilla's Firefox and Apple's Safari eke out single digits, while others fight over even smaller scraps.

It's no surprise, then, that when Chrome speaks, everyone listens, whether about each browser upgrade - something Computerworld tracks in the What's in the latest Chrome update? series - or about Google's plans for the future.

Every Chrome upgrade is accompanied by enterprise-aimed release notes that highlight some of the planned additions, substitutions, enhancements and modifications. We've collected the most important for this what's-coming round-up. Just remember, nothing is guaranteed.

As Google call out, "The items listed below are experimental or planned updates. They might be changed, delayed, or canceled before launching to the Stable channel."

Note: Google suspended Chrome releases in mid-March, delaying the expected March 16 launch of Chrome 81 until April 7. The three-week pause, said Google, meant it was skipping version 82 altogether and resuming numbering with Chrome 83 on May 19. Because of the omission of Chrome 82, this look forward picks up with Chrome 83.

Chrome 83: No, this 'DoH' isn't a Simpsonism

Google said it would wrap up the move to default DNS-over-HTTPS (DoH) with Chrome 83. "In Chrome 83, DoH will launch by default for all remaining users," Google said. Previously, it had auto-upgraded only some users to their DNS provider's encrypted connection if one were available.

Earlier, this had been slated to show in Chrome 81. But that version was postponed and the follow-up, Chrome 82, scratched entirely.

DoH has been promoted by browser makers as a security provision, encrypting traffic between browser and DNS server so that it can't be read at, say, a public Wi-Fi hotspot or by criminals who intercept those bits to insert bogus addresses to steer users toward malicious sites.

Chrome running on domain-joined clients are by default set with DoH disabled, as are instances of the browser that have one or more policies in place.

As throughout Google's work on this, Chrome 83 upgrades to DoH only when the user's DNS provider offers an HTTPS connection (not all do). "The default 'same-provider auto-upgrade' behavior guarantees a continuity of the user experience (e.g. family filtering, malware filtering, established relationship with a provider)," Google spelled out in a December email. That means not all Chrome users will be using DoH, even with version 83.

Chrome 83: Third-party cookies blocked in Incognito

As of Chrome 83, all third-party cookies will be blocked by default within Incognito sessions, the name for the browser's privacy mode. Users can re-enable third-party cookies on a site-by-site basis.

Cookies can also be managed by IT using the BlockThirdPartyCookies policy.

Google is behind its rivals in privacy and anti-tracking initiatives such as this; Mozilla, for example, blocked all third-party cookies by default in all instances of Firefox, not just in its Private Window mode, eight months ago.

Chrome 83: Check all passwords!

Within Chrome 83, users will be able to check all saved passwords en masse to see whether any have been leaked in a data breach.

Back in October, Chrome 79 debuted a warning when users logged into a site using credentials that Google said had been exposed by a data breach. Then, users could, after being directed to their Google Account, run an all-inclusive password check.

What Google seemed to say about Chrome 83, however, is that this check will be executable from within the browser, probably in the Password section of Settings (Windows) and Preferences (macOS).

Chrome 83: Tab groups, now with thumbnails

Chrome 81 added tab groups, which lets users shuffle tabs on the tab bar into color-coded groups, making it easier to spot associated tabs and therefore pages.

The next upgrade, said Google, will feature the long-in-the-works Tabstrip UI, which will display thumbnails of each tab in a single, scrollable strip. Tabstrip has been in testing since last fall in the Canary channel - the least polished version Google's engineers produce - and has been usable there after selecting settings on the optional chrome://flags page.

Chrome 83: Chrome apps? Nope

In January, Google spelled out the close-out of the Chrome app concept, putting browser versions - and thus dates - to the final days of the once-lauded, now-defunct notion.

(This has been coming for a while, what with Google originally saying in 2016 that Chrome would reject running apps by early 2018.)

As of Chrome 83 - which originally had a June 9 launch date - Chrome won't support apps on Windows, macOS or Linux. However, it will offer a grace period to managed browsers. "If your organization needs extra time to adjust, a policy will be available to extend support until Chrome 87," Google wrote.

Chrome 87, the last upgrade for the year, is now scheduled for release Nov. 17.

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