Google is promising to support Chrome on Windows 7 for at least the next 18 months.
“We will continue to fully support Chrome on Windows 7 for a minimum of 18 months from Microsoft’s End of Life date, until at least July 15, 2021,” Max Christoff, Chrome’s engineering director, wrote last week in a post to a company blog.
Christoff touted the post-retirement support as a win for enterprises, which over the last several years have designated Chrome as their workers’ primary browser. He highlighted the management tools Google offered as well as Chrome’s sync skills. “If you haven’t started your move to Windows 10 yet, or even if your organization is mid-way through migration, you can still benefit from the enterprise capabilities of Chrome,” Christoff contended.
That emphasis was no surprise. This week will mark not only the end of support for Windows 7 (Tuesday, Jan. 14) but also the public debut of Microsoft’s refurbished Edge (Wednesday, Jan. 15). Microsoft, which built the new Edge with Google’s Chromium technologies – the same that drive Chrome – has pitched the browser as a better fit for enterprises, based on Microsoft’s long history of management prowess.
It remained unclear on Monday how Microsoft will support its new Chromium-based Edge on Windows 7. Historically, Microsoft has stopped serving browser updates when the underlying operating system exited support. However, Edge on Windows 7 will, like Edge on Windows 10, be updated using mechanisms separate from the OS. Microsoft may continue to support its new Edge after this week on all Windows 7 PCs, not just those in organizations that have paid for Extended Support Updates (ESU).
Google’s pledge to support Chrome on Windows 7 for “a minimum of 18 months” was reminiscent of its support for the browser on Windows XP. Months before that operating system’s April 2014 retirement, Google told users it would support Chrome at least until the following April.
Google yesterday said that in four weeks Chrome would follow Firefox’s lead and tamp down on intrusive requests by websites to dun users with notifications.
“To protect notifications as a useful service … Chrome 80 will show, under certain conditions, a new, quieter notification permission UI [user interface] that reduces the interruptiveness [sic] of notification permission requests,” wrote PJ McLachlan, a Google product manager, in a Jan. 7 post to a company blog.
Chrome 80 is scheduled to release Feb. 4.
What Firefox is doing
Mozilla, the maker of Firefox, just rolled out version 72 this week. High on the list of new features for the browser: An end to intrusive, page-obscuring pop-ups from sites asking to send the user future notifications.
Firefox 72 will prevent most of these pop-ups from appearing. Instead, the browser will display a small cartoon speech bubble in the address bar, then briefly jiggle it for attention. The user can ignore it – leaving the bubble in place – or at any later time interact with it to show the pop-up and choose whether to accept notifications from the site.
Mozilla’s complaint about the site notification appeals rested on two facts. First, the vast majority of the requests are denied – ultimately, 99%, according to the firm’s research – and second, the pop-ups disrupt the user’s workflow.
Chrome’s take on the same problem
Google set a more conciliatory tone. Calling notifications “an essential capability” for some web applications, McLachlan also said it’s Google’s goal to “protect notifications as a useful service for users.”
Chrome 80 will treat site requests similarly to Firefox 72. Rather than allowing sites to place pop-ups on the page requesting permission to send notifications, Chrome 80 will slip into what Google called a “quiet UI” that features an alarm bell icon with a strike-through. On Chrome for the desktop, the icon will appear near the right edge of the address bar. (On mobile Chrome, it will show near the bottom of the screen.) The first time Chrome presents the quiet UI, an in-browser dialog, which can be dismissed, will explain the feature.
Users will be able to engage the new notification request UI manually using a new option found in Settings > Advanced > Privacy and security > Site Settings > Notifications. Toggling the “Use quieter messaging (blocks notification prompts from interrupting you)” switch turns on the pop-up blocker.
Google will also automatically enable the quieter UI for some users. Those who “repeatedly deny” the notification requests will be auto-enrolled, McLachlan said without going into specifics. Google will automatically silence some sites as well.
“Sites with very low acceptance rates will be automatically enrolled in quieter prompts,” McLachlan added. “They will be automatically unenrolled once the user experience is improved.”
McLachlan criticized sites that request notification permission right off the bat, saying that those websites often have very low acceptance rates. “We recommend that websites wait until users understand the context and see benefit in receiving notifications before prompting for the permission,” he wrote.
Google has frequently used Chrome to force websites to make changes that the search giant believes are beneficial to the web in general. A prominent example was Google’s push to get sites to adopt HTTPS. The Mountain View, Calif. company will use that same tactic here, punishing sites that don’t meet its guidelines – whatever they end up being – on notification appeals. It can wield the stick because of Chrome’s domination of the browser market: In December, 66.6% of all personal computer browser activity was credited to Chrome, overwhelming any rival (the closest competitor was Firefox, with a paltry 8.4%).
Firefox’s approach didn’t bother trying to influence websites on their notification practices for the simple reason that few would make changes under threat from Mozilla and its small browser share. Chrome, on the other hand, must be obeyed; to refuse risks largely losing control of notification requests.
Google has a reason for wanting notification entreaties to be less intrusive and disruptive: Anything that keeps users focused on tasks such as web searches – which then display Google’s ads – and not distracted by extraneous chores will better the firm’s bottom line.
The best part? Whether you’re a new Chromebook convert or a Chrome OS vet, the ecosystem’s ongoing evolution means there’s always something new to learn and consider. So behold: some of 2019’s most useful and thought-provoking Chromebook tidbits. Catch up while you can and make sure you’re making the most of your work and/or personal technology.
Make Gmail’s web-based snoozing feature far more powerful with this easy-to-implement efficiency-boosting enhancement.
And with that, we’ve reached the end of our 2019 Chrome OS coverage. What a ride it’s been, eh? Don’t unbuckle yet, though: If there’s one surefire prediction for 2020, it’s that we’ll have plenty more to discuss here in the ever-overlapping areas of Chrome OS and Android.
Enjoy the brief bout of quiet — ’cause it won’t stay that way for long.
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Mobile web browsing is all about finding what you need quickly and with as little hassle as possible — well, in theory, anyway. In the real world, the act of surfing sites from your smartphone is often anything but efficient.
From sites that have not-so-friendly mobile interfaces to browser commands that take far too many steps to execute, hopping around the World Wide Internuts from a handheld device can frequently leave something to be desired.
Fear not, though, my fellow finger-tappers: There are plenty of tricks you can learn to make your mobile web journey more pleasant and productive. Try these next-level tips for Google’s Chrome Android browser and get ready for a much better mobile browsing experience.
1. Switch tabs the simpler way
Got multiple tabs open? Move between ’em with minimal effort by sliding your finger horizontally across the address bar. You’ll be zapping between sites in seconds.
2. Manage tabs like a pro
For more advanced tab management, swipe down on a tab, starting at the address bar. That’ll take you to Chrome’s tab overview interface, where you can see all of your open tabs as cards.
From there, simply tap on any tab to jump to it, or swipe sideways on it to close it.
3. Close all of your tabs at once
When you have tons of tabs open and want to clean house quickly, tap the three-dot menu icon within that same tab overview interface — and whaddya know? There’s a handy hidden command there for closing all of your tabs in one fell swoop.
4. Copy a site’s URL in no time
Sure, you can copy a site’s address by opening the main Chrome menu, selecting “Share,” and then selecting “Copy to clipboard” from the list that appears — but sweet sassy molassey, that sure seems like a lot of steps.
Snag a URL with less work by tapping the address bar at the top of the screen and then hitting the copy icon (what looks like two overlapping rectangles) directly next to the page’s URL.
5. Save a page for offline viewing
The next time you’re about to head onto a flight, into a tunnel, or into a time machine that’s transporting you back to an era without Wi-Fi, plan ahead and save some articles for your offline reading enjoyment.
You’d probably never know it, but Chrome actually makes that easy to do: While viewing any web page, open the main Chrome menu — by pressing the three-dot icon in the app’s upper-right corner — and tap the downward-facing arrow icon at the top. And that’s it: Chrome will save the entire page offline for you. Whenever you want to find it, just open up that same menu and select “Downloads.”
All of your saved pages will be there and waiting, regardless of what place, year, or dimension you happen to be visiting.
6. Convert a page into a PDF
Maybe you want to make a more permanent and easily shareable offline copy of a web page. Hey, no problem: Just save it as a PDF.
Open Chrome’s main menu while viewing the page, then select “Share” followed by “Print” (which may actually be listed as “Chrome: Print,” with a Chrome icon above it, depending on your Android version). Make sure the printer is set to “Save as PDF” — if you see some other printer name at the top of the screen, tap it to change it — and then tap the circular blue icon in the screen’s upper-right corner and hit the “Save” button on the next screen.
All you have to do next is open your phone’s Downloads app or your favorite Android file manager to find the document.
7. Act on text within a web page
Why waste energy typing things into Chrome when you can just tap to find what you need? Anytime you see text on a web page that you want to act on, press and hold your finger on the words — then use the sliders that appear to adjust what’s selected.
Chrome will pop up a small menu with options to perform a web search on the phrase or to share it to any other app on your device (like a messaging service or note-taking app, for instance). If you’re using Android 8.0 or higher, the system should also automatically recognize and offer appropriate one-touch suggestions for things like phone numbers, physical addresses, and email addresses.
8. Search without stopping
There’s an even simpler way to perform a web search when you only need a quick peek at the information: Highlight the phrase you want to look up, as described in the previous tip — and then look for the Google bar that appears at the bottom of your screen.
Either tap it or slide up on it, and you’ll be able to glance at the results for the term right on top of the page you’re already viewing. You can then tap on any result you see to open it in a new tab, tap the top of the search results panel (or slide your finger up on it) to open that as a new tab, or tap the “x” at the top of the search panel (or slide your finger down on it) to close it altogether, if you’ve seen all you need to see.
9. Get answers right in Chrome’s address bar
Sometimes, you don’t even need to open a thing to get the information you require. The Chrome Android browser is able to serve up instant answers right within its address bar — so if, for instance, you want to know how old Mark Zuckerberg is (the correct answer is always “old enough to know better”) or how much $25 is in euros, just type the question directly into the box at the top of your browser. Chrome will give you the info right then and there, and you can go right back to whatever else you were doing without having to load another page.
10. Preview a link before you commit
I don’t know about you, but I tend to open up an awful lot of links while I’m looking around the web. And more often than not, I end up looking at the resulting pages for approximately 2.7 seconds before deciding to close ’em and move on.
The Chrome Android app has an incredibly useful command that now saves me tons of time in this area. The catch is that it’s still under development as of this writing, which means it’s hidden — and so you’ll have to do a teensy bit of under-the-hood tinkering to find it.
It’s pretty easy, though: Just type chrome:flags into the browser’s address bar, then type the word ephemeral into the search box at the top of the screen. See the option labeled “An ephemeral Preview Tab in an Overlay Panel”? Tap the box beneath it, where it says “Default,” and change it to “Enabled.” Tap the blue box at the bottom of the screen prompting you to restart the browser — and then, open up any web page (heck, even this one!) and press and hold your finger on any link you see.
Select the newly present “Preview page” option from the menu that appears, and there ya have it: You can see the linked page in an overlay panel, just like with the search results in our previous tip. Just slide up on the panel to see more of the page, slide it up all the way (or tap its title bar) to open it as its own tab, or slide it downward (or tap the “x” in its title bar) to dismiss it entirely.
11. Find what you need faster
Chrome has a hidden way to scan a page for a particular term without much effort: Open the browser’s main menu, select “Find in page,” and type in the term you want. Hit the down arrow at the top of screen once — and then, instead of hitting that same arrow over and over to see every place the term appears, slide your finger down the vertical bar at the right side of the screen.
That’ll move you rapidly through the page, with every instance of your term highlighted for hassle-free viewing.
12. Zoom single-handedly
Pinch-to-zoom is, like, so 2013. When you’re using your phone with a single hand, as so many of us tend to do these days, Chrome has two far easier methods of magnifying a specific part of your screen.
First, on many devices, you can simply double-tap anywhere on a page to zoom into that area and have it take up the full width of your display. Double-tapping a second time will then zoom back out.
Second — and especially nifty — you can double-tap and leave your finger down, then drag downward to zoom in or upward to zoom out. It sounds a bit strange, but give it a try; it’ll get you where you need to go without all the awkward finger yoga that comes with one-handed pinching.
(Note that these advanced zooming methods won’t work on all web pages; generally, if a site is already optimized for mobile viewing, you’ll be limited to the regular ol’ pinching action. But more often than not, the need to zoom comes up when a site isn’t properly optimized — or when you’re deliberately viewing the desktop version of a site — and that’s when these techniques are typically available.)
13. Zoom where you wanna zoom
For some inexplicable reason, lots of websites prevent you from zooming in on your mobile device in any manner. And for a variety of reasons — whether you want to make the text larger or get a closer look at something that catches your eye — there are bound to be times when you want to move up close and personal.
Thankfully, Chrome lets you take back control. Head into the app’s settings, open the Accessibility section, and find the option labeled “Force enable zoom.”
Activate the checkbox alongside it and get ready to zoom to your heart’s content — whether the website you’re looking at wants you to or not.
14. Make the web easier to read
Let’s face it: Some websites don’t exactly make reading pleasant. Whether it’s an annoying layout or a font that hurts your cerebrum, we’ve all come across a page that could be a little easier on the eyes. (Uh, no need to name any specifics, OK?)
Google has a solution: Chrome’s simplified view mode, which makes any website a bit more mobile-friendly by simplifying the formatting and stripping out extraneous elements such as ads, navigation bars, and boxes with related content.
Look in that aforementioned Accessibility section of Chrome’s settings and make sure the box next to “Simplified view” is activated. Then, whenever you’re opening an article, watch for a white bar at the bottom of your browser with the words “Show simplified view.” Tap it — and the text will transform right in front of your tired eyes.
Need easier reading yet? Go back to that Accessibility section of Chrome’s settings and play with the “Text scaling” slider at the top of the page. It’ll make all the text you encounter across the web larger, independent of your system-level text size setting.
15. Refresh with a flick
Need to reload a page? Swipe downward from anywhere in the main browser area. (You’ll need to be scrolled all the way to the top of the page in order for it to work.) Once you see a circle with an arrow appear, you can let go, sit back, and say: “Ahh. Isn’t that refreshing?”
16. Slide your way through Chrome’s commands
Excessive tapping is for amateurs. Instead of tapping Chrome’s menu icon, lifting your finger, and then tapping the item you want (pshaw!), slide downward on the button to move right into the menu without ever lifting your precious paw. Just keep swiping down until you reach your desired option, then let go — and Chrome will select it for you.
17. Pick up where you left off
One of Chrome’s most powerful features is something you might not even know exists: The browser always keeps all of your tabs synced and available across devices — which means you can open up Chrome on your Android device and get to the same tabs you left open on your laptop or desktop computer.
All you’ve gotta do to take advantage of it is open up Chrome’s main menu and select “Recent tabs.” There, you’ll find a full list of tabs currently or recently open in Chrome on any devices where you’re signed in. Just tap the tab you want, or press and hold on a device’s name to find an option to open all of its listed tabs at once.
18. Find that site you surfed to earlier
Maybe it’s not a recently open tab you need but one you had open a while ago — say, a page you were viewing from your laptop last night, before you shut it down and put on your favorite pink footie pajamas.
Well, no problemo: Tiptoe your way back to Chrome’s main menu, and this time, select the line labeled “History.”
Here’s the secret about that section: It shows every page you’ve had opened in Chrome while signed in on any device — including desktop and laptop computers along with any other phones or tablets — all in a single searchable list. You can browse through the pages chronologically or look for specific keywords using the box at the top of the screen.
This might also be a good time to remind yourself about the existence of Chrome’s Incognito mode for the type of web surfing you don’t want kept on record. And don’t forget, too: You can always clear your full browsing history from Chrome on any device, should the need ever arise. (Don’t worry: I won’t ask for details.)
19. Make a site especially easy to access
For any site you visit routinely, make your life a little easier by placing a one-tap shortcut directly to it on your device’s home screen. Just look in Chrome’s menu for the “Add to home screen” option. That’ll put the current site’s icon right where you’ll always see it for fast future access.
20. Speed up your browsing and use less data
These tips all revolve around the notion of saving time — so how about one that quite literally makes web pages load faster while also helping you use less data?
Chrome’s Lite Mode is a powerful yet out-of-sight system for doing exactly that: When activated, the feature routes pages through Google’s servers — in a split second — before they reach your device. The pages are then compressed and sent to you in a sized-down form, though you probably won’t notice any difference from a visual perspective.
You can try it out by opening the Lite Mode section of Chrome’s settings. Once the feature’s been running for a while, visiting that same section will show you a detailed breakdown of exactly how much data you’ve saved over time.
21. Swim into a wilder channel
You may know that Chrome offers different release channels for its desktop browser — but did you know you can also opt to be more adventurous with Chrome on your Android device?
If you like trying out new features before they’re released, grab Google’s Chrome Beta app. It gets new elements and interface changes before they’re ready for prime time (which, fair warning, means they might occasionally be a bit unpolished).
If you want to go a step further, try out the Chrome Dev app. It’s described as the “bleeding edge” version of Chrome, with experimental elements that are guaranteed to be “rough around the edges.” (Careful with those fingers!)
And if you’re really feeling bold, give the Chrome Canary app a whirl. It’s the most unstable and frequently updated channel of Chrome, with features so fresh they’re bound to be partially uncooked on occasion.
The best part? All of the Chrome Android channels exist as separate standalone apps. That means you can install any or all of them and run them right alongside the regular Chrome app, with no major commitment and no real risk involved.
And that, my friends, is what we call livin’ on the edge — in the most gentle and hazard-free way imaginable.
This article was originally published in June 2018 and updated in December 2019.
Gamers rarely form a consensus on anything, but if you were to poll hobbyists regarding the best run-and-gun shooters of all time, the Contra and Metal Slug series would surely be mentioned. They’ve endured as legends in a packed niche defined by high-powered weaponry, legions of enemies to blast, chunky explosions, wild multiplayer action, and hulking bosses. You can now add the recently released, JoyMash-developed Blazing Chrome to the genre’s annals. Featuring tense shooting action in a world devastated by a robot apocalypse, Blazing Chrome wears its classic video game and film inspirations on its sleeve. It doesn’t do much to push the genre forward with fresh gameplay features, but Blazing Chrome does nearly else everything right.
Blazing Chrome takes place in a world where humans live underground after an AI-controlled robot army seizes power. Thankfully, a resistance forms, one fronted by a soldier named Marva and her ally Doyle, a robot reprogrammed to defend humankind.
There’s a definite Terminator 2: Judgement Day vibe that comes with the sight of a blonde woman and her robot companion kicking ass, but Blazing Chrome’s sparse narrative prevents it from feeling as though it’s leaning too heavily on the James Cameron classic. In fact, Blazing Chrome’s thin story, one bookended by opening and closing cinematics, simply sets the stage and doesn’t get in the way of the action. Sometimes simple is better.
The Dream Team
You begin by selecting either Marva or Doyle. Besides a few animations, there isn’t much difference between the rebel fighters. Both fighters handle similarly as you jump, shoot, and melee attack the many mechanical monstrosities that seek to prematurely end your uprising.
That said, after you complete the game’s six missions—missions that you can tackle in any order much like the wonderful SNK-developed Shock Troopers—you’ll unlock two additional characters: Raijin and Suhaila. Raijin is a katana-wielding ninja, while Suhaila totes a cybernetic arm. The pair are more melee-orientated than the starting heroes and offer a fun, alternate way to combat enemies. For example, Raijin has an air dash that can get you out of trouble in a pinch (or into it if you aren’t careful). Unlike Metal Slug and Shocktroopers, Blazing Chrome doesn’t let you swap between characters after you run out of lives, but that’s no big omission.
Blazing Chrome’s level design is reminiscent of Contra III: The Alien Wars‘ stages, with its bombed-out, post-apocalyptic landscapes. Fortunately, JoyMash eschews Alien Wars’ obnoxious, rotating Mode 7 levels; instead, the development crew uses hoverbikes and Space Harrier-like jetpack sections to break up the on-foot combat. The hoverbike sections are particularly enjoyable, as the increased game speed gives Blazing Chrome a shmup-like feel.
Like the Metal Slug games, Blazing Chrome scatters mechs throughout its stages. The mechs can’t take many hits, but considering that your player character can only take one, they supply solid armor. Plus, they deliver big damage to foes. If you can guide a mech through a stage to a boss fight, you can take down those powerful enemy characters in just a few attacks.
You’ll need the many weapons that Blazing Chrome tosses your way, as the game is just as difficult as the run-and-gun titles that inspired it. There’s an Easy difficulty setting that lessens the intensity and supplies you with bots that boost your offensive and defensive capabilities, but it’s still somewhat challenging; pattern recognition and supreme reflexes are still required to survive. Thankfully, the controls don’t impede your desires. Except in one instance, as I explain below.
Platform Movement Issue
In most platform-based run-and-gun shooters, pressing down+jump lets you drop from one platform to another. This has been a genre staple for a long, long time, as it lets you quickly change your plane when it comes time to evade an incoming attack or do damage to a different area of a boss’ body.
In Blazing Chrome, however, down+jump executes an invincible horizontal roll that’s great for evading attacks on your plane, but lacks vertical movement. This becomes somewhat of a problem in stages that have many platforming elements. Instead of immediately dropping to another plane, you must press jump and then guide your character down. It’s a bit awkward.
The Steam Machine
Blazing Chrome doesn’t demand many resources, as you’d expect from a game that boasts 2D, pixel-based graphics. According to the title’s Steam page, Blazing Chrome requires that your gaming desktop or gaming laptop contain at least an Intel Core 2 Duo E8400 or AMD Phenom II X2 550 central processing unit, Nvidia GeForce GT or Radeon HD 3870 graphics processing unit, 2GB of RM, a scant 200MB of disk space, and the Windows 7 operating system. My gaming desktop, a machine that boasts a 3.2-GHz Intel Core i5-4460 CPU, 8GB of RAM, and an Nvidia GeForce GTX 1080Ti GPU, ran Blazing Chrome at 60 frames per second without hiccups.
As a Steam game, Blazing Chrome supports the launcher’s many features, including Steam Cloud, Steam Leaderboards, and Remote Play Anywhere. In addition, Blazing Chrome has 39 Steam Achievements for trophy hunters.
Unfortunately, Blazing Chrome only supports local co-op play. That said, if you purchase the game from Steam, the launcher’s Remote Play Together functionality lets you blast robots with someone in your Friends List (and they don’t even need their own game copy). The one limitation here is that, if you don’t have a friend available, you cannot play with randoms.
The New Legend
Simply put, Blazing Chrome is a near-flawless title. It’s easy to pick up and play, delivers thrills and challenge, and is just incredibly fun. Developer JoyMash obviously has much love for the run-and-gun genre and the era in which it was birthed. If you enjoy classics like Metal Slug or Contra, Blazing Chrome needs to be in your Steam wishlist.
If you liked this review and would like to see more, please join the PCMag Steam Curator page. There you’ll find reviews every Steam game we’ve reviewed, as well as in-depth previews of upcoming Steam titles.
Gather ’round, kiddos — ’cause it’s time for a story.
Once upon a time, Chrome was a lean, mean browsing machine. It was the scrappy lightweight kid in a block filled with clunky old blobs of blubber. People had never seen a browser so fast, so thoughtfully constructed! It stripped everything down to the essentials and made the act of browsing the web both pleasant and secure — qualities that were anything but standard back in that prehistoric era.
Well, fast-forward to today, and the fairy tale is over: Eleven years have passed since Chrome’s debut, and the browser — just like that one college buddy of yours — has grown considerably less lithe. These days, in fact, Chrome has earned a bit of a reputation for being somewhat bloated and, thanks to all the third-party software associated with it, not always entirely secure. My, how things have changed.
Still, Chrome remains the de facto standard of modern web browsing, commanding a whopping 67% of the global market, according to recent data from analytics vendor Net Applications. And it has plenty of positives to offer, not least of all its tight integration with the rest of the Google ecosystem — a particular boon for G Suite users.
So whether Chrome’s feeling slightly too sluggish or you simply want to tighten up its security, take the time to go through these 10 steps. They’re all easy to pull off and free from any significant side effects — and together, they’re practically guaranteed to give your browser a much-needed fitness boost.
(Note that, except where specified, these tips revolve around the Chrome desktop browser and should work the same regardless of your operating system — even with Chrome OS, where the browser is built into the system software.
1. Clean up your apps and extensions
Chrome is basically its own platform at this point, and the apps and extensions that run within it can work wonders in customizing the browser and expanding its capabilities. But every single one of those add-ons requires a certain amount of resources to operate — and the more of ’em you have installed, the more bogged down and slothful Chrome can become.
Not only that, but many Chrome apps and extensions require access to at least some of your web browsing activity. That’s why periodically looking over your list of installed apps and extensions and clearing out any items you no longer need is one of the easiest and most effective ways to speed up your browser’s performance while simultaneously strengthening its security.
So type chrome:extensions into your browser’s address bar and carefully evaluate every app and extension you see. If there’s anything you don’t recognize or no longer need, click the Remove button within its box to get rid of it.
The more you can clear out, the better.
2. Put your remaining add-ons under the microscope
For any apps and extensions that you didn’t uninstall, look closely at what sort of access they’re claiming to your web browsing data — and whether they really need to be privy to that much of your activity.
Start once more by typing chrome:extensions into your browser’s address bar — but this time, click the Details button associated with each remaining app and extension, then look for a line labeled “Site access.” If you don’t see such a line, the add-on in question isn’t accessing any of your browsing data. Check it off your list and move onto the next one.
If an app or extension is listed as having access “on all sites,” meanwhile, it’s able to see and even modify what’s in your browser all of the time — without any restrictions. Stop and ask yourself if it genuinely needs that ability. If it doesn’t, switch its setting to either “on specific sites” or “on click,” depending on which setup seems to make the most sense. (If you choose “on specific sites,” you’ll then have to designate which specific sites the extension is allowed to access. If it’s an extension that modifies the Gmail interface, for instance, you might want to set it to operate only on mail.google.com.)
You may run into some extensions that stop working properly as a result of such a change, but it’s worth giving it a whirl. And if an extension won’t function with more limited access without any logical reason, well, it’s worth considering whether it’s really an extension you want to be using.
3. Step up your tab management smarts
If you’re the type of person who keeps tons of tabs open, listen up: Your hoarding habit is bogging your browser down. The more tabs you keep active at once, the slower Chrome will run. It’s inevitable.
The obvious solution is to stop leaving stuff open that you don’t actually need open — but if you absolutely need to have more than a handful of tabs running at any given moment, think about snagging an extension that’ll manage them more intelligently for you and prevent ’em from bringing your browser to a crawl:
The Great Suspender runs in the background and automatically suspends any tabs you haven’t looked at after a configurable amount of time. That way, your tabs remain readily available but don’t needlessly eat up resources when they aren’t actively in use.
Toby for Chrome transforms Chrome’s New Tab Page into a series of custom tab collections. The idea is that instead of leaving tabs open, you can save them there and then pick up where you left off later.
Tab Snooze takes a cue from email and allows you to send any tab away and then have it return at a set date and time. So instead of keeping everything you’ll ever need right in front of you, you can snooze tabs you aren’t actively working with and then have ’em reappear when you’re likely to need ’em.
One or more of those tools will go a long way in keeping both Chrome and your brain from getting overloaded.
4. Consider a script-blocking extension
You know what really slows the web down, more than anything connected to your own local browser? It’s certain sites’ overuse of scripts — tracking scripts, ad-loading scripts, video-playing scripts, you name it. (Not that, uh, we’d know anything about such matters ’round these parts. Insert awkward whistling here.)
A script-blocking extension like uBlock Origin will keep such scripts from running and make your web browsing experience feel infinitely faster as a result. You can even manually whitelist sites within the extension as you see fit — whether to keep legitimate scripts, such as video players you actually want to use, from being blocked, or maybe just to keep certain unnamed writers from being shackled in their publication’s basement for having encouraged readers to block revenue-generating scripts.
Erm, let’s move on, all right?
5. Put your mobile browser on a data diet
Here’s one for the Android-owning folk among us: The Chrome Android browser has a handy hidden option that routes slow-loading pages through Google’s servers in order to simplify their code and make them quicker to open. It all happens instantaneously, and nothing looks different as a result.
The feature’s called Lite Mode, and you can flip it on by going into Chrome’s settings on your phone, scrolling down toward the bottom of the list, tapping the line labeled “Lite Mode,” and then flipping the toggle to the on position.
It won’t make a night-and-day difference, but it’s one of the few effective speed-enhancing options available in Chrome’s mobile form — and hey, every little bit helps.
6. Let Chrome preload pages for you
Waiting for a page to load is the worst part of web browsing, but Chrome has an out-of-the-way feature that can take at least some of that pain away by selectively preloading pages you’re likely to open.
It works by looking at every link within a page that you’re viewing, using some Google voodoo magic to predict which links you’re likely to click on, and then preloading the associated pages before you actually click ’em.
This one’s available in both the desktop browser and within the Chrome app on both Android and iOS:
On the desktop, type chrome:settings into your address bar, scroll down to the bottom of the screen and click “Advanced,” then in the “Privacy and security” box look for the line labeled “Preload pages for faster browsing and searching” and activate the toggle alongside it.
On Android, open the Chrome app’s settings, tap “Privacy,” then look for the line labeled “Preload pages for faster browsing and searching” and make sure the box next to it is checked.
And on iOS, open the Chrome app’s settings, tap “Bandwidth,” then tap “Preload Webpages” and select either “Always” or “Only on Wi-Fi” from the options that pop up. (Going with “Always” will result in speedier browsing even when you’re using mobile data, but it’ll also burn through more mobile data as a result.)
If you want to take this same concept even further, the third-party FasterChrome extension will preload a page anytime you hover your mouse over its link for at least 65 milliseconds. That way, when you’re about to click something, the loading starts in the background — and by the time you get there, the time-consuming work is finished and the page is ready to appear.
7. Switch to a better DNS provider
Every time you type a web address into Chrome, the browser relies on a Domain Name System server to look up that URL, find the IP address where the site is located, and then take you to the right place.
More often than not, your internet provider is the one responsible for doing that job — and suffice it to say, it doesn’t tend to do it particularly well. By switching yourself to a third-party DNS provider, you can seriously speed up the time it takes for a web page to come up after you type in its address, and you can also keep your internet provider from collecting data about what websites you visit and then using that information to make even more money off of you.
Cloudflare and Google both offer DNS provider services for free, and both are generally considered to be among the fastest and most reliable options available — and, what’s more, both promise not to store any identifiable info about you or to sell any of your data. You can switch to either of them as your DNS provider by changing a setting in your router’s configuration or by adjusting your settings on a device-by-device basis. This easy-to-follow guide has specific steps for doing that on a variety of different products.
8. Fill in the web’s security gaps
By now, you probably know that most websites should be using HTTPS — a secure protocol that puts a lock icon in your browser’s address bar and lets you know (a) that a site actually is what it proclaims to be and (b) that everything you send to the site is encrypted.
But while most sites have come around to the standard, some still inexplicably cling onto the older and far less secure HTTP protocol.
Well, here’s the fix: A Chrome extension called HTTPS Everywhere will switch insecure sites over to HTTPS for you and ensure anything you transmit to them remains safe from snooping eyes. It’s developed by the Electronic Frontier Foundation and the Tor Project, and it’s completely free to use.
9. Clean up your computer
If you’ve tried all these steps and your Chrome browser is still struggling, it might be worth checking to see if something funky is going on with your computer that could be affecting Chrome’s performance.
If you’re using Windows, Chrome has its own simple-as-can-be tool for seeking out and removing any malware or other programs that might be interfering with Chrome’s proper operation: Just type chrome:settings into your address bar, click “Advanced,” and then scroll all the way to the bottom of the screen and click “Clean up computer.” Click the Find button on the next screen, then wait while Chrome scans your system and walks you through the process of removing anything harmful it uncovers.
If you’re using a Mac or Linux system, look through your list of installed applications and see if there’s anything present that you don’t recognize — or try a third-party malware checker if you want to dig deeper. (You can find some specific scanner recommendations for Mac here and for Linux here.)
On Chrome OS, meanwhile, malware isn’t really an issue, thanks to the software’s unusual architecture, but it can never hurt to take a look through your launcher and make sure nothing unusual or unexpected catches your eye.
10. Give yourself a fresh start
Last but not least, you can always reset Chrome to its default state — eliminating all apps and extensions, restoring all settings to their out-of-the-box defaults, and giving you a completely clean slate on which to start over.
This isn’t something that’s advisable for everyone, but if your browser is really poky or having other problems and nothing else is making a difference, it’s a final step worth attempting. Type chrome:settings into your address bar, click “Advanced,” and look for the “Restore settings to their original defaults” option at the bottom of the screen. Click it, confirm that you want to proceed, and then sit back and wait for the deed to be done.
With any luck, your need for speed will finally be fulfilled — and you can start getting around the web with optimal security and without all the waiting.
For all of the overlap, though, Chrome OS and Android have never actually coexisted within the framework of a single device — living side by side on a multipart system, in other words, and acting as complementary halves of a unified experience. But if one ambitious inventor gets his way, that may be about to change.
The guy’s name is Ken Mages, and he’s come up with a product known as the CastAway. It’s described as a “second screen for your smartphone” — one that runs Chrome-OS-like software and puts “the world’s smallest Chromebook” right alongside your phone.
The CastAway popped up on Indiegogo last week and has been getting a fair amount of attention ever since, with around 800 people backing the project for a total of nearly $140,000 in funding as of this moment. (The project’s original goal was a much more modest $50,000.)
The concept was immediately intriguing to me, as you can imagine, but I had lots of questions — questions about how this whole thing would actually work, if and how it’d actually be useful, and, critically, if and when we’d actually see it in production.
So rather than simply speculate, I decided to sit down with its creator to get some answers. Android Intelligence Platinum members can listen to our conversation as a special bonus episode of my weekly podcast. Here, meanwhile, are 10 interesting things I learned from our chat.
1. At its core, the CastAway is actually just a tiny tablet that runs Chromium.
It’s easiest to talk about this product as using Chrome OS and being like a Chromebook, but technically, what it actually uses is Chromium — the open-source version of Chrome OS that’s developed by Google and freely available for anyone to grab. You can think of it kind of like Chrome OS without Google’s proprietary layer of apps and services. It’s the cake, in a sense, without the icing. And that has some significant implications, which we’ll talk more about in a moment.
The device itself is a standalone slate that doesn’t need a phone to operate. It’ll come with a 5.8″ or 6.3″ screen and a case that puts it side by side with your phone, with a 360-degree detachable hinge between ’em — but there’s no physical connection between the CastAway and your phone, and the case itself is literally just a case.
2. The interaction between the CastAway and your phone revolves around a custom app.
Mages and his team are finishing up work on an app that’ll allow the CastAway to interact with both Android and iOS devices via a direct Wi-Fi or Bluetooth connection.
The app will serve two primary purposes: First, on the phone side, an Android or iOS version of it will create a series of folders. Any images or files you open while the CastAway is connected will be copied into one of those folders. Then, on the CastAway side, a custom Chrome extension will be alerted to any activity within those folders — and anytime something new appears, the extension will grab it and bring it over to the CastAway so you can access it there.
That means if you take a photo on your phone while the app is running and the CastAway is connected, the photo will show up on the CastAway a second later — where you can view, edit, or manipulate it as needed.
“It almost happens in real-time,” Mages says.
The app’s second purpose is to serve as a clipboard where you can paste anything — text, photos, videos, or any other sorts of files — and have that content immediately copied and pasted over to the CastAway (or vice-versa).
3. The CastAway can also boot into a separate mode that allows it to act as a Bluetooth keyboard and trackpad.
In addition to its Chromium capabilities, you’ll be able to boot the CastAway into a special mode in which its screen serves solely as a Bluetooth input surface. Mages is still working out the specifics but says it’s likely to be a longer press of the power button — pressing and holding it down for somewhere around five seconds — that’ll trigger this secondary mode.
And being that it’s a purely Bluetooth-based function, the CastAway’s keyboard and trackpad function will work with any Bluetooth-compatible device, be it a phone, a tablet, or even a laptop or desktop computer.
4. The idea for the CastAway came from its creator’s own unusual setup.
Mages has long used Chromebooks alongside his smartphone. Over the years, he tells me, he came up with some crafty hacks to make the two work together.
“I’ve developed my own techniques and written some code of my own and had some code written professionally to make the two sympatico,” he says. “One would not think that that was a logical pairing, but you can actually do quite a lot in terms of making them work in a friendly way together.”
That experience led him to come up with the idea of a case that’d bring the two platforms together — in a portable form that he could then carry with him and continue to rely upon even when his full-sized computer wasn’t present.
“I didn’t want to carry my Chromebook around all the time. I wanted it next to my iPhone,” he says.
5. The CastAway runs Chromium instead of Android mostly because of the simplicity and versatility that software provides.
Mages was “looking for the best can-opener,” as he explains it, and quickly realized that Chromium had the potential to make things “just work” in a way other open-source operating systems wouldn’t allow.
“When you’re running the Chrome browser on Android or on iOS, you’re really running into restrictions that are imposed by Android or by iOS — that mostly surround digital rights management,” he says, pointing to the example of how opening Netflix in a smartphone browser will prompt you to download the Netflix app, whereas opening it in on a Chromebook will let you sign in and stream video right then and there.
And that same sort of logic applies to other areas where Mages wanted things to work without any extra action or thought on the user’s behalf.
“I like the fact that Chrome OS, if you throw a file at it … whatever you throw at it, it’ll know how to open it,” he says. “It won’t say, ‘Go get another app’ — it’ll just do it.”
6. The CastAway can run Android apps, but it seems to rely on an unofficial workaround.
Android app support is typically a feature that’s limited to Chrome OS and not available to anyone using the open-source Chromium code. The reason is that the presence of the Play Store relies upon specific Google elements and licensing — something that’s also true on the Android side of the fence (as we were reminded with the whole recent Huawei-Google app fiasco).
And yet, well…
“We found a way to get it to work,” Mages tells me. “Whether Google’s going to like that, love that, or hate that is a TBD.”
Mages’ hope is that the CastAway’s relatively low volume will let the product fly under the radar, but only time will tell. For now, I’ll say this: Having a core advertised feature of a product relying on an unofficial workaround would certainly make me a little nervous.
7. The CastAway team modified other parts of the Chromium code to allow certain things, like Netflix, to operate.
One thing that jumped out at me during our conversation was Mages’ mentioning of support for Netflix streaming on the CastAway device. That’s because of my experience with another company that uses the open-source Chromium code, Neverware — an organization we’ve talked about in these quarters before. Neverware, as you may recall, maintains a freely available Chrome-OS-like operating system for folks to install on old Windows or Mac laptops in order to give ’em new life.
But there are some catches — including the fact that Neverware’s software, as I discovered while evaluating it a few years back, doesn’t allow you to use Netflix. That’s because Netflix support isn’t instant or automatic, and Google itself had to work out an arrangement to make Chrome OS compatible with the service’s streaming requirements. That, however, is all part of the proprietary Google layer that isn’t available in the open-source Chromium version.
So how does CastAway allow Netflix streaming, then? Again, the answer seems to be by way of an unofficial workaround.
“We certainly have gone in and modified the architecture of Chromium to the extent that we needed to, to make sure that all the functions we needed would work,” Mages says.
And again, it’s hard not to wonder if this will end up ruffling the wrong feathers once CastAway progresses past the prototype phase and becomes an actual selling product. For now, at least, though, that’s how this impossible-seeming function exists.
8. One big question mark right now is how operating system updates will play out.
Google’s Chrome OS upgrades are fast, frequent, and full of both security fixes and feature expansions — but Google only rolls the software out to actual Chromebooks that use its license-requiring, fully finished software. Anyone using the open-source Chromium code, in contrast, is responsible for retrieving every update that comes along and then processing it and sending it out on their own.
Given how important we know these updates can be — and how frequently they’re delivered — that left me wondering what the plan was for keeping the CastAway up to date in the months and years after its release.
The answer, it seems, is that it’s still uncertain.
Mages tells me he’s currently “in conversations” with Neverware — the company we just talked about a second ago — to see if it could handle the CastAway’s updates through its own well-oiled rollout system. But that option is “pricey,” Mages says, and doesn’t scale to the CastAway’s current low volume.
The other option being considered is trying to work out some sort of arrangement directly with Google to have it assist with the CastAway’s updates — but, well, it’s tough to envision a scenario where that would realistically happen outside of the CastAway becoming a fully certified, formal Chromebook (which would obviously entail a pretty substantial shift from its current positioning).
The one thing that’s certain, Mages says, is that managing the pace of OS updates without some sort of external assistance would be “too much” for his current team to handle.
9. Mages is confident the CastAway will actually ship.
If there’s one million-dollar question with any crowd-funded hardware product, it’s the plain and simple reality check: Will we ever actually see this thing?
After all, we’ve certainly all heard about our share of promising-sounding projects that launched to great fanfare on Indiegogo, Kickstarter, or other such services and then failed to come to fruition. Mages is well aware of this, and he says he completely understands the need for skepticism. But he also says this is a professional, serious effort — put together by an experienced team, including former Microsoft and Intel executives and a former Dell design director — and that he’s 100% confident the product will, in fact, ship.
“One guy this morning got on Facebook and said, ‘I’ll bet anyone here on Facebook a thousand dollars at this product won’t deliver in May,'” he tells me. “I got on and said, ‘I’ll put a thousand dollars in escrow right now and take that bet.'” (The person didn’t take him up on the offer.)
Right now, Mages tells me, the main goal is to reach a volume where the cost of materials is low enough for production to be feasible. But he and his colleagues are “well on the road” to the manufacturing phase, he says, and are working hard to meet their stated May 2020 goal for shipping.
10. The ultimate hope is to position the CastAway to create a network that can be used for 5G access — and for advertising.
Make no mistake about it: Mages and his team have ambitions for this device that stretch far beyond its current form. They revolve around the idea of using the product to create a global network with its own profit-creating possibilities.
That network would function on two different fronts — the first of which would be providing carriers with a way to sell a simple 5G add-on for existing 4G phones.
“If the 5G resides on the Chromebook side, you now have 5G access,” Mages says. “So let’s assume my second-gen device does have a SIM card. Now you don’t need to go get a 5G phone that’ll cost two grand.”
The second front involves using that network of devices to — wait for it — sell ads that’d appear on the CastAway screen.
“When I get to some critical mass number … I will have a network that I can control through my Multitask+ app,” Mages says.
The hope, then, would be to let advertisers pay for the ability to have their promotions pushed through the Multitask+ app and featured on CastAway screens everywhere. That’d happen only if a device’s owner explicitly opted into the program, Mages assures me — a proposition that could eventually allow customers to get the device for free if they agree to watch a certain number of ads per month.
“I call that ‘back-of-the-phone advertising’ — because nobody’s using that space. It’s like a billboard on the road that everyone passes by and nobody’s got an ad on it,” he says.
And that, ultimately, brings us full-circle — and back to the underlying role of this initial gadget.
“I can’t talk about my ambitions about creating a network unless I have critical mass, and I can’t get to critical mass without an Indiegogo campaign that says, ‘Yeah, I’m interested in this,'” Mages explains. “The Indiegogo thing will tell me in 44 days if 1,000, 10,000, or 100,000 people are interested.”
While you can browse Instagram on your desktop or laptop, the website doesn’t offer a way to upload photos to Instagram. Because Instagram is a mobile-focused service, it wants you to upload your photos through the mobile apps.
However, there is a workaround which lets you post to Instagram with Chrome. Here’s how it works.
Step 1: Visit Instagram and Open Developer Tools
To start, open Instagram.com in Google Chrome and make sure you’re logged into your account. Right-click anywhere on the page and choose Inspect to open the Developer Tools panel. You can also use the keyboard shortcut Ctrl + Shift+ I on Windows or Cmd + Option + I on a Mac.
This will open a panel on the right-side with a bunch of HTML and other page details. But you don’t need to worry about any of that.
Step 2: Switch to Mobile View
In the top-left corner of the new Developer Tools window, you’ll see an icon that looks like a phone next to a tablet. Click on this to switch to mobile view—you can also use the keyboard shortcut Ctrl + Shift + M on a PC or Cmd + Shift + M on a Mac.
This mode tells the website that you’re using a mobile device. You’ll thus see the interface switch to something that’s a lot like you’re used to seeing on Android or iOS. Keep the Developer Tools open to continue to use the mobile interface, as closing it reverts to the desktop version.
Step 3: Upload Your Photo to Instagram
At the bottom of the screen, you should see the various icons for Instagram’s different tabs. If you don’t see this row of icons, refresh the page and it should appear. Click the Plus icon to upload any photo from your computer using File Explorer or Finder.
By default, Instagram only lets you upload a few image types, including JPEG. If you want to upload a PNG or something else, you’ll need to make a small change first.
On Windows, click the Custom Files box in the bottom-right corner of File Explorer and change it to All Files. If you’re on a Mac, click the Options button at the bottom-left of Finder and change the Format box from Custom Files to All Files.
Step 4: Edit Your Image
After you select your image, you have some options on the Edit tab. You can drag it around to to frame it as you wish. Use the Rotate button to spin it 90 degrees at a time. Click the full-size button in the bottom-left to toggle between the full width or a square size.
Swap to the Filter tab at the bottom of the screen to apply one of Instagram’s many filters. As you’ll notice, you don’t have access to all of Instagram’s editing tools using this method. We recommend using a photo editing app on your computer to make any adjustments before uploading your photos to Instagram.
From here, click the Next button and you can enter a caption, set the photo’s location, and tag people if you want. Then you’re all set to post your photo.
Alternative Option: Use the Windows 10 Desktop App
Instagram offers an official Windows 10 app on the Microsoft Store. It’s essentially a barebones port of the mobile app, so it works in the same way as the above process. If you post to Instagram often and don’t want to use the trick in Chrome every time, give the Windows 10 app a try instead.
Google this week said it may identify slow-loading websites in Chrome, shaming their developers to up their game.
“In the future, Chrome may identify sites that typically load fast or slow for users with clear badging,” wrote a trio of Chrome developers – Addy Osmani, Ben Greenstein and Bryan McQuade – in a post to the Chromium blog. They used the term badging to refer to on-screen cues and clues. “This may take a number of forms and we plan to experiment with different options, to determine which provides the most value to our users.”
According to Osmani, Greenstein and McQuade, Chrome will spotlight sites that “are authored in a way that makes them slow generally, looking at historical load latencies.” Molasses-slow sites, for example, may come with messages as the page forms up, warning waiting users that it “usually loads slow.” Presumably, that would give users a chance to abandon the intended destination, or – for those of the glass-half-full persuasion – the patience to wait. Fast sites could be tagged with a color-coded progress bar – Google suggested green – to “reward sites delivering fast experiences.”
The three engineers said that the move to highlight slow and fast sites would be conducted in “gradual steps” and the definitions of each would be “based on increasingly stringent criteria.”
Google’s rationale for the effort? “We’re constantly working to give users an experience that is instant as they browse the web,” wrote Osmani, Greenstein and McQuade.
Yet this won’t be about Chrome, as are most Google initiatives. If Google goes through with this, Chrome won’t become faster (or slower). Instead, it’s a way to deflect criticism. When users encounter a slow site, the browser – any browser – gets the first blast of condemnation. (Some may wonder if their network speed suddenly sank, perhaps because of a flaky ISP or even competition for consumption.) By pointing out that Site Y “usually loads slow,” Google preempts any carping about Chrome.
The longer play, of course, is to use Chrome’s dominance – last month it accounted for 67.4% of global browser activity by the tally of analytics vendor Net Applications – to pressure sites to become objectively faster. Along those lines, Osmani, Greenstein and McQuade offered site designers and developers some tips, including pointers to tools for measuring site performance.
Google has made a career out of pressuring the web to adopt its “advice,” leveraging the popularity of Chrome to get its way, whether that meant shifting to HTTPS or extending the lifetime of aged OSes, such as Windows XP, by supporting them long after their own makers dropped them. In most instances, cases could certainly be made that while the initiatives benefited users, they also did Google.
Chrome announced this “you’re slow” project Monday at its Chrome Dev Summit, which wraps up Tuesday. Neither the company nor the three developers who authored the blog hinted at a timetable for including slow-fast site labeling in the browser.
Now, don’t get too excited yet. This is a small start, to be sure — but it’s at least an acknowledgment that the Chrome OS upgrade situation could and should be better. And that’s a pretty significant step.
Before we get into what’s changing, let’s back up for a quick second to set the stage — because context really is everything in this situation. After all, Chrome OS upgrades are by and large commendable — particularly compared to how upgrades play out over on the Android side of the Google operating system fence. The reason’s simple: Given the close manner in which Google controls Chrome OS and the lack of flexibility it gives device-makers in modifying the software, the company’s able to provide a completely consistent experience from one Chromebook to the next. And as a result, Google itself is able to handle all Chrome OS software updates directly, which means every device gets ’em at more or less the same time — no matter who made the hardware.
Suffice it to say, that’s a pretty sharp contrast to the upgrade situation we see on Android, where device-makers are free to modify the operating system and consequently end up being responsible for processing and delivering updates for their own devices. If I had to sum up the effect that has on a typical Android device-owner in three words, I’d say: “It ain’t pretty.” Or maybe: “Yeah. Good luck.”
So what’s the problem with Chrome OS upgrades, then, if not the speed and reliability with which they’re delivered? Well, the issue is actually three-fold:
Every Chromebook comes with a built-in end-of-life date — a date at which it’ll no longer receive software updates — but that information is absurdly out of the way and difficult to find. It’s listed only inside an obscure Google help document, which no normal person would ever even know exists, let alone think to seek out and consider prior to buying a new device.
That end-of-life timing is wildly inconsistent. It’s based on when a Chrome OS device using any given processor first appeared on the platform, which makes it about as clear as mud to the typical laptop buyer. It also means an $800 device released today might receive less than five years of software support while a low-end laptop released tomorrow might get six and a half. From the perspective of actual human beings who pay for and rely on these products, it’s pretty forkin’ screwy.
The standard maximum amount of time any Chrome OS device receives software updates is six and a half years, which really isn’t much when you consider that lots of high-end Chromebooks now cost anywhere from several hundred bucks to well over a grand — and that similarly priced Windows systems remain reasonably updated for considerably longer.
So that’s the foundation. As for what Google’s doing to address it, well, there are a few things — and the company assures me we’ll see more in the months ahead.
For now, first and foremost, Google is extending the end-of-support dates for a bunch of existing Chromebooks. That aforementioned Google help document has been updated to reflect the changes, though there’s no easy way to see which devices have had their life spans increased and which have stayed the same.
If you compare the current page to the Internet Archive version of it from a couple weeks ago, though, you’ll see that quite a few Chrome OS products did indeed receive extensions. The extensions are by no means universal, and some are more generous than others, but a fair number of extra months have been tacked on across the board.
Honestly, it all seems a bit random from the outside. Some scattered examples:
The expiration date for the Acer Chromebook we talked about last time — the Chromebook 715, which just came out in October and sells for as high as $780 — has not been changed. That system is still set to receive its last update in June 2024, less than five years after its launch.
Acer’s Chromebook 11 C740, however, got a full year of added support, moving from June 2020 to June 2021 for its final update.
Two other Chromebook 11 models, the CB3-131 and C735, got extended by about eight months — from January 2021 to September of that same year.
The Acer Chromebook Spin 11 got a seven-month stay of execution, moving from November 2023 for its end-of-support mark to June 2024.
The Acer Chromebook R13 got nearly three years of added support, moving from September 2021 all the way to June 2024.
Asus’s latest Chromebook Flip, the C434 model, was extended a full two years — going from June 2024 all the way to June 2026.
The oldest Flips in the list, the C100PA and C101PA models, weren’t changed; they’re sticking with their original July 2020 and August 2023 dates, respectively.
The Chromebook Flip C302 got a seven-month extension and went from November 2022 to June 2023 for its last-update date.
Dell’s Chromebook 11 3120 got a bump of just over a year, going from June 2020 to September 2021.
The Dell Chromebook 11 3180 got a single-month extension, oddly enough, moving from May 2022 to June 2022.
Google’s own second-gen Chromebook Pixel (the 2015 model) received a full year extension, with its date shifting from June 2020 to June 2021.
Google’s Pixel Slate got an extra two years, going from June 2024 to June 2026.
The Google Pixelbook didn’t get an extension. As of now, at least, it still has the same June 2024 date it’s had all along.
Samsung’s Chromebook 3 got a full year of added support, with a change from June 2021 to June 2022.
Samsung’s Chromebook Pro got an extra seven months, shifting from November 2022 to June 2023.
So, yeah: The results are kind of all over the place. But there’s no question a lot of extensions are being granted. If you have (or your company uses) a model that isn’t among those listed above, the best thing to do is simply to look at this page to find it and see what its current expiration date is — and then, if you’re curious if and how the date evolved, to look back at this archived version of the page to compare.
That’s part one. Second, beyond these one-off changes for existing devices, Google tells me it’ll be extending the periods of active support for future devices, with the goal of bumping up the support time for new processors on the platform by 15 to 30 percent compared to the current standard. That’d come out to roughly an extra year to two years from when a processor first appears in a Chromebook — so instead of that maximum support window being six and a half years, in other words, it could be more like seven and a half to eight. The idea, it seems, is to evaluate each new device on a case-by-case basis instead of sticking blindly to a static standard. That makes a lot of sense.
And finally, Google’s planning to make each device’s end-of-support date more accessible by adding that info into the Chrome OS settings. That’d mean you could go into your Chromebook’s settings and find the date of its final software update right then and there.
This is all positive progress, without a doubt. But it doesn’t completely address the issue.
For regular folks buying Chrome OS devices, the end-of-life date is still too far out of sight and out of mind. That information is critical to understanding how long your Chromebook will remain viable and what sort of value you’re getting out of the purchase. I mean, come on: A $800 Chromebook that’ll remain viable for eight years is a dramatically different purchase than a $800 Chromebook that’ll become inadvisable to use just four and a half years down the road.
It shouldn’t be up to the person buying the product to somehow know that such a factor exists and then to dig up the details (whether in that out-of-the-way help document or in the system settings you’ll see only after you own a device). As I said when we last discussed this, the date should be clearly placarded on a computer’s packaging and made easy to find and understand: “This computer will receive operating system and security updates through June of 2024. Visit google.com/chromebook/expiration to learn more about why that matters.” This isn’t a scavenger hunt, for cryin’ out loud. It shouldn’t feel like one.
The case-by-case evaluation and extension of a Chromebook’s end-of-support date is clearly a good thing, meanwhile, though I’m not entirely convinced it’s as much of a positive change or as consistent of one as what’s needed. That brand new $780 Acer Chromebook that’s still sitting at less than five years of remaining support is the perfect example of why I remain skeptical. (And that’s a great example, too, by the way, of the type of device someone could very easily buy without any awareness of its unusually short life span. Placard it.)
All in all, though, you know what? This is definitely a step in the right direction. Any progress is good progress, and it’s easy to frame this as a win — which it is! I’d just suggest waiting to celebrate until we see how things progress in the months ahead and we actually know for sure how the final result ends up looking.
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