New Google Chrome Beta Gets Tab Syncing Across Devices

One of the coolest features of Chrome for Android is its ability to sync tabs with its desktop counterpart. You can start researching a topic on your desktop, leave for work, and continue researching from your phone while in the subway. Now, Google is taking this feature to its logical next level. The latest Google Chrome beta supports tab syncing across multiple operating systems and devices.

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The new beta makes all of your tabs from one system available on all other systems. You can simply click on the “Other devices” link in the “New Tab” page to access open tabs from any system on which you are logged in with your Google account. This feature was first spotted in the bleeding-edge versions of Chrome (including the Dev Channel, Canary, and recent Chromium snapshot builds) by Geek.com. Now, Google will be gradually rolling out the “Other devices” menu to Beta channel users over the coming week. If you want to take tab syncing for a spin, download the latest Chrome beta from here.

Firefox 14 to Come with Built-in PDF Support

With all the recent changes in the web technology stack and the advancements in web-browsers, third-party plugins are becoming a thing of the past. A decade ago, Adobe thrived on a business, which was based around providing an extra layer on top of the web. Adobe provided us with PDF readers and flash for web. However, with HTML 5, videos do no need a flash container to run inside a browser. When it comes to PDF files, Google Chrome has already devised a way to display PDF files in a web browser and now, Firefox has deployed its own solution to display PDF files in the browser.
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PDF.js is a well-known script that renders PDF files with HTML and JavaScript successfully. It can be installed as an extension. However, the good news is that the latest nightly version of Firefox 14 ships with PDF.js built in. This is a major improvement as it adds a default PDF support in Firefox. Although the PDF rendering from Pdf.js is not as smooth as Adobe Reader, it is worth the freedom.

Dr. Andreas Gal, the Director of research t Mozilla writes about the benefits of the PDF.js extension, saying,

The traditional approach to rendering PDFs in a browser is to use a native-code plugin, either Adobe’s own PDF Reader or other commercial renderers, or some open source alternative (e.g. poppler). From a security perspective, this enlarges the trusted code base, and because of that, Google’s Chrome browser goes through quite some pain to sandbox the PDF renderer to avoid code injection attacks. An HTML5-based implementation is completely immune to this class of problems.

Adobe plugin have attracted security vulnerabilities for too long, and with Flash losing ground, finally, we are moving towards a truly open web without any proprietary layers on top of it. The PDF.js project is developed openly and can be found on Github.

Microsoft Allots Special Status to Web Browsers in Windows 8, Google Confirms Metro Version of Chrome is Under Development

Microsoft, which has been making a lot of noise about the “no-compromise” development mantra of Windows 8, has been forced to make another compromise. Realizing that the new WinRT APIs are too restrictive for modern web browsers, Microsoft has created a special application class for web browsers.

nullWinRT or Windows Runtime is the new programming model that Metro apps will be using. WinRT applications can be developed using Visual C#, C++ etc. as well as web technologies like HTML, CSS, and JavaScript. WinRT is a sandboxed API that is more secure and power efficient than the classical Win32 API. The expectation is that WinRT will go a long way towards solving Windows’ malware problem. Unfortunately, Microsoft has already been forced to make compromises for the sake of practicality.

Windows Phone, which has received widespread critical acclaim, has had a very visible influence on Windows 8. Unfortunately, not everything that works in a smartphone is conducive to a desktop OS. The restrictive nature of Windows Phone has deterred developers such as Opera from supporting the platform. No one made a big fuss about it since Microsoft has a fairly small smartphone market share. However, if Windows 8 were to do the same thing, anti-trust proceedings would be all but certain. Moreover, Microsoft itself executes Internet Explorer Metro with elevated privileges.

The solution proposed by Microsoft is far from ideal, but compromises never are. The Metro version of a browser will be dependent on the classical version. Hence, a user will have to download and install the browser through a classical installer package. This means that third party web browsers won’t be available in the Windows Store. This is a fairly significant limitation, since ARM devices will only support the new Metro interface, and sideloading of apps will be disabled. Another restriction is that only the browser that the user sets as default will be able to run in the new Metro mode.

Firefox had already confirmed that it intends to release a Metro-fied edition. Now, a Google rep has informed Mashable that Chrome for Windows 8 is also under development. “Our goal is to be able to offer our users a speedy, simple, secure Chrome experience across all platforms, which includes both the desktop and Metro versions of Windows 8,” the rep said. “To that end we’re in the process of building a Metro version of Chrome along with improving desktop Chrome in Windows 8 such as adding enhanced touch support.”

Google Chrome Finally Hacked

After managing to remain unscathed for four consecutive years, Google Chrome has finally been breached, and Google is rewarding the hacker with $60,000. Google Chrome’s security features were bypassed successfully by hackers in both Pwn2Own and Pwnium.

Google-Chrome-PwnedPwn2Own is an annual hacking fest sponsored by HP, which challenges hackers to breach fully patched web browsers and operating systems. Google Chrome was the only browser that couldn’t be hacked for the past four years. This year, it was the first to fall. A team from the French security firm VUPEN, lead by its co-founder and head of research Chaouki Bekrar, managed to take complete control of a fully patched 64-bit Windows 7 (SP1) machine within five minutes by using two zero-day exploits. VUPEN also claims to have zero-day exploits for Internet Explorer, Firefox, and Safari.

This year, Google is also running its own competition called Pwnium, which has a total bounty of $1 million. Google decided against sponsoring Pwn2Own, since its new rules don’t compel hackers to responsibly disclose vulnerabilities to the software developer. VUPEN itself intends on selling the exploits to its clients. Sergey Glazunov, a Russian university student, managed to bypass Google Chrome’s sandbox feature in Pwnium.

The breaches mean that Google will no longer be able to tout its clean record. However, Chrome developers aren’t mourning. While announcing the contest, Chris Evans and Justin Schuh from Chrome’s security team had explained that they have a big learning opportunity when they receive full end-to-end exploits. “Not only can we fix the bugs, but by studying the vulnerability and exploit techniques we can enhance our mitigations, automated testing, and sandboxing”.

Adobe Partners with Google Chrome for Flash Player on Linux

Adobe Flash creates an extra layer of content on top of the open web. No wonder it is loathed by all open web enthusiasts. It is full of security vulnerabilities, requiring patches after every few days. However, there are some things it does really well (think flash video). With the advent of HTML 5, all the reasons to use Adobe Flash are dying fast, and Adobe can sense it too.
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In its roadmap for Flash runtimes, Adobe made it clear that it is not going to develop Flash for Linux anymore. Flash Player will not be available for a direct download from Adobe. Instead, Adobe is relying on Google Chrome to release Adobe Flash bundled with their browser product.

Adobe has been working closely with Google to develop a single, modern API for hosting plug-ins within the browser. The PPAPI, code-named “Pepper”, aims to provide a layer between the plug-in and browser that abstracts away differences between browser and operating system implementations. You can find more information on the Pepper API at http://code.google.com/p/ppapi/.

Google Chrome already runs Adobe Flash in a sandbox, and the Pepper API will allow it to go cross-platform with its plugin support. Moreover, the Pepper API will provide Flash for both x86 and x64 installations, although Adobe killed Flash for x64 Linux desktops back in June 2010.

Google Chrome will start including the peppered Flash Player later this year. The canonical version of the code for Pepper API has already been moved to the Chromium subversion repository. However, with the size of the Google Chrome bundle already being an issue, I wonder how bloating it further will help anyone.

Smooth Scrolling Comes to Google Chrome in Chrome 19

has seen tremendous growth since it was released 2 years ago. It has competed with browsers like and Internet Explorer by adding new features which have drawn users towards it. However, one of the most requested feature that has been missing in Google Chrome has been smooth scrolling.

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Smooth Scrolling allows users to browse webpages in a single flow without continuous jumps in the display. The lack of this feature made scrolling in Chrome a bad experience if not worse. However, the wait for Smooth Scrolling might be over in a few months because Google has now included the Smooth Scrolling feature in the development version of Google Chrome (v19.0.1041.0 dev-m).

With the introduction of this feature, scrolling in Chrome has become less jumpy and maintains a single flow when you are scrolling from top to bottom or vice versa. The feature might be rolled out with the stable version of Google Chrome in near future, so you might have to wait a month or two before you can start using it.

If you are using the dev version, you will have to enable the Smooth Scroll feature in about:flags before you can use it. Head over to about:flags and enable "Smooth Scrolling". This feature is available for Windows, Linux and Chrome OS only so Mac OS X users won’t be able to use it yet.

Mozilla Reveals Firefox’s Roadmap for 2012

Yesterday, we reported that Mozilla is working on a Metro-fied version of Firefox for Windows 8. Today, we are going to take a look at some of the other major stuff Mozilla has in store for Firefox fans in 2012. The Firefox roadmap, which was published yesterday, offers a pretty detailed look at all the major new features that are planned for Firefox. Here are the features that appealed to us the most.

  • Chrome Migration: Firefox can already import user data (such as cookies, history, and bookmarks) from Internet Explorer, Opera, and Safari. The only notable exception is Chrome, which is currently the most popular browser after Internet Explorer. However, this will be fixed soon with the addition of support for data migration from Chrome.
  • Add-ons Sync: Firefox Sync (previously Weave) is a perfectly capable sync tool; however, it has one major limitation. It can’t sync add-ons. Again, this will also be fixed soon.

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  • New Tab Page: Opera’s speed dial has really really caught on, and almost all major browsers have already implemented it in some form. The only one that is yet to properly utilize the default tab page is Firefox. There are quite a few extensions that do a great job of plugging this shortcoming, but Mozilla will baking in speed dial like visual bookmarks soon.
  • Home Tab: In addition to adding a new tab page, Firefox will also get a new “Home” tab that will essentially behave like a pinned tab. It will be a locally hosted, highly personalized and customizable page that will provide quick access to websites, downloads, and apps.
  • Panel Based Download Manager: Currently Firefox’s Download Manager exists as a separate window. Most other browsers like Chrome and Opera offer a much more integrated experience. In the future, Firefox will allow management of downloads from any existing tab, through a panel.
  • Firefox Share: Social media is now mainstream, and millions of users regularly share and discover content through services like Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr and Pinterest. Although extensions and bookmarklets are available for sharing content on various social media websites; Mozilla hopes that offering a single, integrated location for sharing and commenting on links will improve user experience.
  • Log into Firefox: An evolved version of the Firefox Account Manager feature that we had first seen a couple of years back will finally make it into Firefox. Users will be able to automagically sign into various connected accounts by simply logging into Firefox Sync.
  • Integrated Translation: Firefox will be taking a leaf out of Chrome’s book, and automatically translate foreign language websites.
  • Add-on Performance Indicator: Faulty add-ons have long been a cause of headache for users, as one bad add-on can bring Firefox on its knees. Mozilla wants to empower users by providing stats on the performance impact of each add-on. We imagine that this will be similar to what Internet Explorer 10 does.
  • Firefox Focus: Users will be able to manually trigger a special “Focus” mode that will strip away advertisements and redundant formatting from webpages, and present the actual content in an easy to read format. This feature will be similar to Instapaper or Safari Reader.
  • IonMonkey: IonMonkey is Firefox’s next-gen JavaScript that is expected to be introduced towards the end of the year. Although, all modern browsers have outstanding JavaScript performance, IonMonkey should bring tangible performance benefits.
  • Inline PDF Viewer: Firefox will be getting out of the box support for PDF document rendering. Instead of relying on plug-ins, Firefox will be opening PDF files inline using a JavaScript library.

Head over to the roadmap webpage for the full list of planned new features, as we have only covered the more exciting ones. One thing that is clear is that there’s plenty in store for Firefox in 2012. However, a rather disappointing aspect is that most of the new features planned for Firefox are simply stuff that we have already seen in other browsers. If Mozilla really wants to turn the tides and outsmart Chrome, it will probably have to be more innovative.

Mozilla Announces Firefox on Metro for a Touchscreen Optimized Browsing Experience

FirefoxMozilla took way too long to bring Firefox to smartphones, and suffered as a result. It had a go in 2004 with Minimo, but users had to wait until 2011 to get a version of Firefox Mobile that wasn’t slow as a cow and didn’t crash on a whimsy. Not wanting to repeat its earlier mistake, Mozilla has begun working on a Metro-fied version of Firefox for Windows 8 months ahead of the release of Microsoft’s next major operating system.

Firefox on Metro will be a full-screen, touch optimized app built on top of the same Gecko engine that powers Firefox classic. It’s still early days for the project, and Mozilla isn’t providing a lot of information. However, here is what we do know.

  • The feature goal here is a new Gecko based browser built for and integrated with the Metro environment.
  • Firefox on Metro, like all other Metro apps will be full screen, focused on touch interactions, and connected to the rest of the Metro environment through Windows 8 contracts.
  • Firefox on Metro will bring all of the Gecko capabilities to this new environment and the assumption is that Mozilla be able to run Firefox as a Medium integrity app so that it can access all of the win32 Firefox Gecko libraries avoiding a port to the new WinRT API for the bulk of the code.
  • Firefox on Metro is a full-screen App with an Appbar that contains common navigation controls (back, reload, etc.,) the Awesomebar, and some form of tabs.
  • Firefox will have to support three “snap” states — full screen, ~1/6th screen and ~5/6th screen depending on how the user “docks” two full screen apps. The UI will to adjust to show the most relevant content for each size.
  • In order to provide users with access to other content, other apps, and to Firefox from other content and apps, it will integrate with the share contract, the search contract, the settings contract, the app to app picking contract, the print contract, the play to contract, and possibly a couple more. Firefox on Metro will be a source for some, a target for some, and both for some.
  • Mozilla might offer a live tile with user-centric data like friends presence or other Firefox Home information updates
  • Ideally Mozilla will like to be able to create secondary tiles for Web-based apps hosted in Firefox’s runtime.

Mozilla is hoping that Microsoft will allow it to run Firefox as a medium integrity app (like Internet Explorer 10 Metro App). Medium integrity apps typically have more privileges and can load old school Win32 libraries. This will make Mozilla’s task simpler. Even then, Firefox on Metro is expected to hit alpha and beta stages only in the second half of the year. A preview should be ready by the second quarter of 2012.

Chrome 17 Arrives with Pre-fetching and a Host of Security Fixes

ChromeAs 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.

German Government Recommends Google Chrome for Windows 7 Users

The German Government is relying on Google Chrome for the safety of its users online. It has recommended all Windows 7 users to move to Google Chrome, which offers a better sandbox protection and automatic update features. This recommendation has been put up as part of a security best practices guideline.The Germany’s Federal Office for Information Security declared Chrome to be the best browser, from a security perspective.
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Google Chrome is indeed secure, and we have seen it claim wins in multiple Pwn2Own contests. It has remained unbeaten for a long time, and this is owing to the extremely secure sandbox.

In computer security, a sandbox is a security mechanism for separating running programs. The sandbox typically provides a tightly controlled set of resources for guest programs to run in, such as scratch space on disk and memory.

The Germany’s Federal Office for Information Security, known as BSI in Germany, said,

Your internet browser is the key component for the use of services on the Web and thus represents the main target for cyber-attacks. By using Google Chrome in conjunction with the other measures outlined above, you can significantly reduce the risk of a successful IT attack.

Overall, this is an excellent move by the German Government to make its users secure. Germany sees a market dominated by Firefox at 51% and IE at 24%, and there are only 14.3% Google Chrome users, currently. However, this recommendation has some practical issues. Google Chrome has had issues with the Flash Player, its rapid release cycle poses problems for developers and most importantly, it puts too much of data in the hands of Google. This can raise serious privacy concerns.

The guidelines laid down by the BSI can be found here.