With Chrome 9, Google continues to push the envelope in Web technology, implementing a few new features to provide quicker search and improved graphical experiences within a Web browser.
Default WebGL Support
One of the more interesting new features in Chrome 9 is its support for WebGL. WebGL is part of the parcel of emerging and in-development Web standards that tend to be lumped under the HTML 5 umbrella.
What WebGL enables is rich 3D interfaces, animations, and games within a browser without the need for add-ons such as Flash, and, as such, it could be a key element for bringing games and other immersive applications to browsers (and browser-only operating systems such as the Chrome OS). With this release, Chrome 9 becomes the only stable release browser to include default support for WebGL, with other browsers currently supporting it in their betas or development builds.
In my tests, the implementation of WebGL worked well in Chrome 9. I was able to run a set of WebGL demos both at a provided Google site and at WebGL demo sites around the Web. However, that is the key weakness of this feature right now. WebGL is still under development and most of its current implementations are still in the demo phase; there are very few active implementations of WebGL live on the Web today.
Integrated Instant Search
Another new feature in Chrome 9 is integration of Google's Instant Search within the browser's address bar. This isn't enabled by default, but I could turn it on from the options window in Chrome.
Once enabled, if I started to type a search term in the address bar (called the Omnibox in Chrome) the main browser window switched to a Google search page and instantly displayed the potential results as I typed. At first I was a little annoyed, as I thought that Google search had replaced the page I had been on when I started entering the search. However, if I decided that I was unhappy with the results and deleted the search terms from the address bar, the Web site I was originally viewing was again displayed.
Web Store Apps
Also new in Chrome 9 is integration with Google's Web Store, which provides access to a number of apps to run within the Chrome browser. When browsing the Web Store, if I saw an app I liked, I could click through to its store page and then choose "Install" to add it to Chrome. From then on, it would appear in my list of apps in Chrome's new tab window.
Of course, you're not really "installing" the app. Clicking that button essentially just adds the shortcut button to the Chrome new tab window. And calling these things "apps" is a bit of a stretch. They are essentially just Web sites and Web-based games. In fact, if I went to the main developer site of some of these apps, I could run them equally well in Firefox as in Chrome.
Another external Google service that has been integrated into the Chrome 9 browser is the new beta of Google's Cloud Print, which makes it possible to remotely print to printers connected to a PC when logged into your Google account. In the "Under the Hood" options in Chrome 9, it is now possible to enable Cloud Print and use it to access your home or office printers attached to the system running Chrome 9.
If you already use a previous version of Google Chrome, your browser may have already upgraded to version 9. For others interested in checking out Chrome 9, it can be downloaded at the Chrome Web site.
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