What’s New in Chrome 33

Craig Buckler

The past few Chrome releases barely raised an eyebrow. We received a few good developer tools and minor interface tweaks but the core Blink rendering engine was largely unchanged (in a noticeable way). Fortunately, Chrome 33 provides new HTML5 toys for developers to drool over…

Custom Elements

Custom Elements formalize something developers have been doing for many years: creating their own HTML tags. Admittedly, we shouldn’t have done that but we’ve all tried adding <sarcasm> and <kitten> tags at some point or another. Chrome now supports Custom Elements as part of the new Web Components API.

There’s too much to explain here but, in essence, you can:

  • create new HTML and DOM elements using whatever name you desire
  • extend new elements from others (including existing DOM elements)
  • bundle custom functionality into a single tag

I’m still investigating the possibilities, so look out for an in-depth article on SitePoint soon.

Web Speech API

Are you still using a mouse, keyboard or touchscreen to navigate your web apps and pages? How quaint! Chrome now supports much of the Web Speech API and features both speech recognition and synthesis. In theory, it’s now possible to implement Babelfish-like facilities so you can talk in one language but be heard in another.

The basics:

var hello = new SpeechSynthesisUtterance("Hello world!");

There are far more options so, again, look out for further articles on SitePoint soon. You should also refer to Aurelio’s recent post Introducing the Web Speech API.

Plug-in and Extension Stability

A couple of more controversial updates have been implemented:

  • PDF documents are displayed in the internal viewer by default.
  • The Netscape Plugin API (NPAPI) will be dropped by the end of 2014 and Chrome now actively blocks those plug-ins. Some, such as Silverlight and Java, have been white-listed and Flash uses the newer PPAPI.
  • Extensions not hosted in the Web Store will be automatically disabled.

While this will undoubtedly makes for a more robust browser, Google seems intent on building their own walled garden and is planting Apple-like trees. Plug-in development may be doomed but are we sacrificing freedom for the sake of stability?

Miscellaneous Updates

As well as the usual bug and security fixes, Chrome 33 offers:

  • an unprefixed Page Visibility API
  • better web font downloading (although I still think rendering isn’t as good as IE or Firefox)
  • CSS animations and transitions are now powered by the new Web Animations 1.0 model which will allow developers to create, modify, and control animations via JavaScript
  • the latest Web Notifications API has been implemented
  • Windows password protection has been improved; you’ll need to enter your Windows password to reveal those stored in Chrome
  • extensions loaded in Development mode are highlighted (Windows version only for now)
  • searching within bookmarks also locates folder names
  • the Incognito warning message has been simplified.

Finally, Chrome Frame — the Chrome window plug-in for Internet Explorer — has been officially retired. It’s still available but development ceased some time ago.

Chrome 33 feels more substantial compared to the recent slightly stagnant versions. It remains the browser of choice for almost 44% of web users and that figure looks set to rise further.