All posts in “Chrome”

Google Chrome will warn you before you fall for a phone subscription scam

About to fall into a mobile subscription scam? Google Chrome will give you a heads up.
About to fall into a mobile subscription scam? Google Chrome will give you a heads up.

Image: Getty Images/Cultura RF

Found yourself subscribed to a shady ringtone service? Even though it’s 2018? Google Chrome will soon stop you from falling into that trap.

In an upcoming version of Chrome, the browser will throw up a warning page when it suspects users could be unwittingly subscribed to a direct billing scam, leaving them with unexpected charges on their next bill.

Chrome will detect if the subscription information on a webpage is insufficient, and like its other warnings, give the user the opportunity to go back, or proceed if they like.

The warning page.

The warning page.

Image: google

Google has unveiled a series of best practices for mobile billing on Chrome, which includes telling the user how much they’ll be charged, what they’ll be charged for, how long for, and ensuring those details are clear and visible.

“We want to make sure Chrome users understand when they are going through a billing flow and trust that they’ll be able to make informed decisions while browsing the web,” reads a blog post by Google.

An example of a mobile subscription scam.

An example of a mobile subscription scam.

Image: google

The warning page will launch in Chrome 71, which is set to release in December. 

It also has a feature which blocks all ads from a website if they’re deemed to be abusive, in that they trick users to open new tabs or download files.

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Chrome 70 will let you opt-out of Google’s controversial automatic sign-in feature

Google Chrome 70 will let you opt-out of its controversial automatic sign-in feature.
Google Chrome 70 will let you opt-out of its controversial automatic sign-in feature.

Image: Jaap Arriens / NurPhoto via Getty Images

We can all breathe easy now. Google says it will let users of its Chrome web browser opt-out of the controversial automatic login feature that debuted earlier this month.

Chrome had historically let users decide whether they wanted to log into the browser while using it across devices, saving them precious seconds while jumping between various Google services. But in the  Chrome 69 update that rolled out earlier this month, the browser automatically signed in people who used sites like Gmail, YouTube, and Google Search.

Now, Google promises to do the right thing and give people a chance to opt-out of the automatic sign-in feature. The company says the feature was originally introduced to prevent data from leaking between accounts on shared computers (i.e. Google doesn’t want to mix up the cookies on a shared machine used by multiple accounts.)

“We want to be clear that this change to sign-in does not mean Chrome sync gets turned on,” Google Chrome product manager Zach Koch assured Chrome users in an announcement post. “Users who want data like their browsing history, passwords, and bookmarks available on other devices must take additional action, such as turning on sync.”

However, not everyone was convinced. Cryptographer and professor at Johns Hopkins University, Matthew Green, was a vocal critic of the change. He argued in a scathing blog post that there was no justifiable reason for the change — at least from a security perspective.

“Google’s reputation is hard-earned, and it can be easily lost,” wrote Green. “Changes like this burn a lot of trust with users. If the change is solving an absolutely critical problem for users, then maybe a loss of trust is worth it. I wish Google could convince me that was the case.”

Luckily for Green (and thousands of other concerned users), Google will make it easy to opt-out of the automatic login feature upon the next stable release of the Chrome browser. Until then, if you’re truly worried about being tracked, maybe try going back to Firefox

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Google Chrome turns 10 with a fresh look, better omnibox, and more

Google Chrome just turned 10, wrapping up a decade where the browser captured the world by rapidly becoming the browser of choice for people who “knew better.” For the anniversary, Google is rolling out a revamped design and a slew of new features, including a more powerful omnibox.

Back in 2008, web browsers were broken. While they served their utilitarian function of enabling us to browse the cornucopia of web content, features like plug-ins, custom software, and enterprise tools were starting to creep past the point of usefulness, often slowing things down and generally getting in the way. Our window to the internet, once clear and full of potential, had become sullied with frustration. Even Firefox, at the time the browser of choice for power users, had become a toolbar-laden mess.

Then, on Sept. 2, 2008, Google launched Chrome. The name was consciously ironic: Chrome did away with the toolbars, menus, text fields, and other “chrome” that was taking up more and more room in your browser window. All of that fell to the background, and you were left with just a single “omnibox” for you to type in and, well, the web.

In other words it was a triumph of design.

By discarding much of the junk, Chrome was an inherently faster browser, and much of the early discussion around Google’s web browser was about speed. But in the years since Chrome has consistently led the way on features that improve the browsing experience — some of which, like preventing videos from autoplaying, might be surprising coming from the company behind the largest ad network in the world.

That’s probably why Chrome’s market share has continued to dominate on desktops even though Apple’s Safari and Microsoft Edge offer comparable browsing experiences and tend to have faster performance on their native platforms. (Chrome doesn’t dominate mobile since iOS makes it difficult for browsers other than Safari to gain a foothold on the iPhone.)

One of the people behind much of Chrome’s design over the past decade is Alex Ainslie, Google’s head of design for Chrome. Ainslie spoke to Mashable about Chrome’s 10th anniversary makeover and the things to come for the browser.

“We have the four S’s,” Ainslie says. “Chrome values of speed, simplicity, security, and stability. I think there could be a misperception that the design team is responsible only for simplicity. But actually, more and more design effort is related to those other pillars.”

The new stuff

The first thing people will notice is the new look. Starting today (with Chrome version 69 and teased to users of Canary, the experimental version of Chrome), you’ll start to see more rounded corners and a new color palette. The shape of the tabs makes site favicons easier to see so you can navigate them better. And on iOS, where Chrome has been sorely neglected for a long while, the toolbar finally goes to the right place — the bottom of the screen, closer to where your thumbs are.

There are new customization features, too. For the “new tab” screen, you can easily change the background image as well as the site suggestions.

Image: Google

Eagle-eyed users will notice the new Chrome handles URLs differently. This will be the first version of Chrome to discard the “http://” from how the URL is displayed, which, from a design perspective, is a relic of the early days of the web when navigating in any detail could often be an exercise in coding.

“If you step back and consider like your first day with a computing device, which is a phone, probably an Android phone you’ve just purchased,” explains Ainslie. “And then you encounter a URL in Chrome’s omnibox that is filled with acronyms: HTTPS, colon, slash, slash, www dot Google dot com slash, dub, dub, dub — all these things. It’s incomprehensible. So we’re pushing to make the resting state of our omnibox more human readable.”

Of course, the change also means users won’t be able to see “https” either, an indicator that a site has a basic level of security. Ainslie isn’t worried, since the browser will still show the lock icon.

“The effort to move the web towards https is something the Chrome team has been working on for many years,” he says. “It was not just a technical challenge — it really was a design problem. We did a bunch of research about iconography in the omnibox for connection security, to try to make sure we were communicating better about whether [the user] was safe or not.”

Chrome is smarter now, too. If you hate browser autofill like I do, you may want to give the new way Chrome does it a chance. Ainslie says Google has studied the pain points in autofill, and has improved the feature in key ways.

“There’s been a lot of investment on the engineering side to make it more robust, so better at identifying fields and filling in the right stuff in the right place.”

Autocomplete gets a overdue upgrade: You’ll see favicons of sites in the drop-down, and Chrome will now show answers to some queries right in the autocomplete list, even before you hit Return. Safari already has a similar feature, offering links to things Wikipedia and recent news articles about some subjects. However, the suggestions often default to selling you something from an Apple service — for example, if you type the name of a movie, it’ll point you to iTunes.

Image: Google

The autocomplete is also a not-so-subtle reminder that Google is watching everything you’re doing in Chrome to some extent, even the things you haven’t finished typing. In fairness, you can turn the feature off, and Google says doing so will also block any record-keeping of what you typed.

There’s a nice autocomplete bonus for power users like myself: If you type in a website that you already have open in another tab, autocomplete will tell you and give the option to jump to that tab, even if it’s three browser windows removed. A later upgrade will even let you search files from Google Drive right from the omnibox.

Chrome will also handle passwords better. It’ll suggest passwords automatically when you log into a site for the first time and remember them when you come back.

Image: Google

Chrome’s legacy

The changes to Chrome are mostly subtle, which may disappoint some users. While Chrome is dominant on desktops, it’s also arguably been complacent the last few years, and often Google’s geek pedigree shows in some features, like extensions.

But all that versatility has its downsides. Extensions and apps can easily get out of control, and all that interactivity has encouraged the bane of web browsing in 2018: near-constant requests for sites to send desktop notifications. While Ainslie admits they can be an issue, they’re also an outgrowth of the communication Chrome was built to enable, so it’s a delicate balance.

“We have a bunch of moments where we try to broker commincation between a site and an end user. Permission prompts are a really good one. I think we have a challenge in that space of permissions. One change we made on Android recently is that the prompt, instead of being ignorable, we made them modal to force a choice between block or allow.”

In today’s announcement, Google suggests it will enhance Chrome’s augmented-reality features in the near future, so you’ll be able to, say, select a product and see how it looks in real life using your phone’s camera. It’s also working on improved Google Translate features and better defenses against phishing attacks.

That all sounds good, but it’s not like other browsers are standing still. Safari is now insanely fast on most Macs, and Microsoft Edge has completed its evolution into a full-featured competitor to Chrome, and Microsoft has no shame in pushing its native browser to users as hard as possible, even through ads in the OS itself.

But Chrome, despite a few years where it was sitting on its laurels, is still king. That’s partly because it’s cross-platform: There is no Safari for Android or Windows, and Edge is still too new to have earned enough trust among users — especially since so many were burned by Microsoft’s Internet Explorer, which became synonymous with a poor browsing experience.

But the main reason Chrome is still the browser for people who know better in 2018 is because of how much Google services have become intertwined with our digital lives. Whether it’s Search or Maps or Drive or Photos, chances are you depend on at least one Google service, and using it with Chrome is simply a better experience.

That goes double for anyone whose uses G Suite: Chrome will let you switch user profiles easily without switching the user account on a PC or Mac — both Safari and Edge force you to log out completely to do so (although private browsing works in a pinch).

In short, Google appears to really mean it when it says it prioritizes the user experience above all else. Back in 2008, that novel idea helped clean up browsers for a whole generation of people raised on the web. By keeping its eye on the design ball, Chrome’s reign could last another decade.

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Workona helps web workers finally close all those tabs

A new startup, Workona, this week launched software designed for those who primarily do their work in a browser. The company’s goal is to become the OS for web work – and to also save web workers from the hell that is a million open tabs. To accomplish this, Workona offers smart browser windows you set up as workspaces, allowing you a place to save your open tabs, as well as collaborate with team members, search across your tabs, and even sync your workspace to different devices.

The Palo Alto-based company was founded in fall 2017 by Quinn Morgan (CEO), previously the founding product manager at Lucidpress, and Alma Madsen (CTO), previously the first employee and Director of Engineering at Lucid Software, the makers of Lucidpress.

“Last year, Alma and I decided we wanted to build something together again, and initially began working on a different startup idea,” explains Morgan, as to how Workona began. “As a remote team at the time, we were using cloud apps like Google Docs, Asana, Slack, and Zoom to stay connected. Both of us were wearing multiple hats and juggling ten different projects at once.”

“One late night, with ten windows open for each project, the idea just struck us: ‘Why doesn’t the browser – the tool that we actually do most of our work in – not have a good way to manage all of our projects, meetings, and workflows?’”

Of course, there are already browser add-ons that can help with taming the tab chaos, like OneTab, toby, Session Buddy, The Great Suspender, TooManyTabs and others.

But the co-founders didn’t want just another tab manager; they wanted a smart browser window that would save the work you do, automatically. That way, you wouldn’t have to keep all the tabs open all the time, which can make you stressed and less focused. And you wouldn’t have to remember to press a button to save your tabs, either.

With Workona, the software guides users to create workspaces for each of the projects, meetings, and workflows they’re currently working on. (Working on…Workona…get it?).

You can also take a browser window that represents one project and save it as a workspace.

These workspaces function like a folder, but instead of holding a set of files, they can save anything on the web – cloud documents, task lists, open websites, CRM records, Slack sessions, calendars, Trello boards, and more. In each workspace, you can save a set of tabs that should reappear when that workspace is re-opened, as well as set of “saved tabs” you may need to use later.

After creating a workspace, you can use Workona to re-open it at any time. What that means is you can close the browser window, and later easily pick up where you left off without losing data.

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A list of workspaces will also appear in the left-side navigation in the Workona browser tab. Within this tab, you can click to open a workspace, switch between workspaces in the same browser window, search for tabs or workspaces from the included search bar, or open workspaces from their URL.

In a shared workspace, you can also collaborate with others on things the team is working on – like everything needed for a project or meeting.

“Our vision is to build the missing OS for work on the web and workspaces are just the start,” says Morgan.

The company is currently working on making the workspaces and its search features more powerful, he adds.

Workona will be sold as a freemium product, with a free tier always available for moderate use. Pro accounts will be introduced in the future, removing the limit of 10 workspaces found in the free version.

The company has been beta testing with users from tech companies like Twitter, Salesforce and Amazon, as well as NASA.

The company is still pre-seed stage, with funding from K9 Ventures.

Traditional OS’s spent a lot of time and effort in designing the ‘desktop experience’ and switching between applications. But in a browser, all we have is tabs,” said K9 Ventures’ Manu Kumar, as to why he invested. “There are tab managers but none of them really solved my problem well enough, and none of them allowed me to maintain a shared context with other people that I’m collaborating with,” he added.

Workona is available for Chrome as a plugin you download from its website.

Facebook is now a major mobile browser in U.S., with 10%+ market share in many states

Most of the data around web browser market share puts Google Chrome or Safari at the top – with their percentage of the market varying by platform and region. But new research from analytics provider Mixpanel finds that many sources are overlooking a major contributor of mobile web browser events here in the U.S.: Facebook.

According the firm’s new study involving millions of users and billions of events across its platform, Facebook has grown to become a significant browser on U.S. mobile devices. In some states, it’s even accounting for a sizable number of mobile browser events – like Washington (13.74%), Rhode Island (13.14%), and Montana (12.64%), for example.

While Facebook’s use as a mobile browser was still far outweighed by Safari in most cases, due to the dominance of Apple’s iOS in the U.S., the social networking app has achieved mobile browser market share of around 10 percent in many states, Mixpanel found.

This includes: Texas (10.12%), Hawaii (10.94%), New Hampshire (10.52%), Indiana (11.93%), Missouri (11.49%), Pennsylvania (10.92%), South Carolina (10.16%), North Carolina (11.8%), Oregon (9.73%), North Dakota (9.9%), West Virginia (9.95%), Minnesota (11.81%), and Delaware (9.94%), in addition to Washington, Rhode Island, and Montana, as noted above.

This is notable because it means many people in those states are using Facebook as their main point of consuming online content – whether it’s news or entertainment, or anything else.

It’s also indicative of the threat that Google has been facing for some time as users shift their web searches to mobile devices. With more people using Facebook as their portal to the web, Google has had to rely more heavily on partnership deals – like its integration in Apple’s Safari browser where it pays to be the default search engine, creating much heftier traffic acquisition costs.

Facebook’s growth as a mobile browser is also of concern because it means it has an outsized influence on shaping the flow of news and information, without having a news media background or experience – or even, any longer, an editorial staff who curates the way news reaches Facebook users.

Instead, it has for years over-relied on its algorithms to customize the News Feed, which allowed fake news, hoaxes, and clickbait to spread. This is something the company has only recently come to terms with, and is trying to correct through punitive measures like downranking fake news, as well as by implementing fact-checking programs.

Those course corrections are long overdue, and are increasingly critical to get right, as this new data shows.

Thankfully, Facebook’s portion of the mobile browser market share is still small compared with Safari, which has the majority market share in almost all the U.S. states, where it claims anywhere from the mid-50’s to mid-60’s in terms of mobile browser market share percentages.

On average across all U.S. states, Safari claims 58.06 percent of mobile browser market share, Chrome has 32.48 percent, and Facebook has 8.82 percent. All other browsers account for the remaining 0.64 percent, Mixpanel reports.

Related to Safari’s dominance, the study also found iOS topped Android usage in the U.S. with 65.5 percent of American using iOS versus 34.46 percent on Android.

In some states, iOS’ usage was very high – around three-quarters or more of the population are using Apple’s OS – including: Alaska (77.88% iOS vs 22.12% Android), Connecticut (76.94% vs 23.06%), and Rhode Island (75.50% vs 24.5%). New York (72.57% vs 27.43%) and California (66.72% vs 33.28%) were high as well, on that front.

And every single state had over 50 percent of their users on iOS.

The highest penetration by Android was in Nevada (58.33% iOS vs 40.44% Android), West Virginia (56.95% iOS vs 43.05% Android) and Wyoming (55.5% iOS vs 44.5% Android). But only in one case did this also equated to higher Chrome usage: in Wyoming, 65.94% of the mobile browser market share was Chrome, versus 30.07% Safari.