As per schedule, the stable release of Google Chrome 17 is here. The biggest new feature is omnibox pre-rendering. Google already tries to autocomplete URLs for you as you begin typing in the omnibox, which is Google’s fancy way of referring to Chrome’s addressbar. However, in the latest version, Google will also begin to load the suggested URL in the background, if it believes that you are very likely to visit that website. This creates an illusion of speed by loading the website in advance. The technique itself is not new. In fact, Google’s infamous Web Accelerator heavily relied on pre-fetching to speed up web browsing, and Chrome already pre-fetches some of the search results on Google.com.
While pre-fetching of content is a great feature for most consumers, it does have its share of disadvantages. If you have a tight data cap, the last thing you want is your browser to waste your bandwidth by loading pages you might not even want to visit. It will also create headaches for webmasters by registering fake hits that will increase bandwidth and server resource consumption, besides messing up analytics. Netscape had earlier experimented with pre-fetching, but it allowed the webmasters to be in control.
The other major new feature is called “Safe Browsing”. Going forward, Google will cross check all downloaded executables against a whitelist of publishers and files. If it doesn’t find a match, it will attempt to determine if the download is safe or not by leveraging a complicated machine learning algorithm. It is worth nothing that this feature sends data about the file along with your IP address to Google. After two weeks, any personally identifiable information (such as IP address) is deleted, and only the file URL is retained on Google’s servers.
Chrome 17 also fixes a grand total of 20 security vulnerabilities. Google awarded a total of $10,500 to security researchers for the discovery of these potential security threats. You can learn more about the security issues patched by Google over here.
The new release can be downloaded from google.com/chrome. However, Chrome users on the stable channel should be automatically updated to the Chrome 17 during their next browsing session.