Google has released Chrome 18 on its stable channel, for Linux, OS X, Windows, and Chrome Frame, the company's browser plug-in for running Chrome inside Internet Explorer.
Chrome 18 incorporates a number of security fixes, implemented shortly after hackers breached Chrome's defenses during the company's Pwnium security challenge last month. In its release notes, Google says that the bug fixes it has implemented "represent the start of hardening measures based on study of the exploits submitted to the Pwnium competition."
The browser update also introduces technology to render 2D graphics more efficiently. "We've enabled GPU-accelerated Canvas2D on capable Windows and Mac computers, which should make Web applications like games perform even better than a pure software implementation," said Google engineers John Bauman and Brian Salomon in a blog post.
Hardware-accelerated graphics support for Canvas2D has been available in the beta and developer versions of Chrome for a while now. Releasing the technology to the Chrome stable channel may help make Web-based games more viable for the masses.
Google has also enabled software-based 3D graphics acceleration, using SwiftShader, a technology licensed from TransGaming. While a software-based WebGL implementation won't perform as well as hardware that supports WebGL, it will help users with older systems--if you're still running Windows XP, that's you--view 3D graphics using a browser.
Although Google and Mozilla have been aggressively promoting the benefits of Web-based apps and games, many developers remain skeptical and are likely to continue to be cautious in their commitment to Web games until development tools, middleware, and sales mechanisms match what's available on native mobile and desktop platforms.