Chrome 56 reloads faster and shoots Flash in the knee


— 12:00 PM on January 27, 2017

Some of Google's projects, like Google Voice, go years between updates. Higher-priority projects like the company's Chrome web browser see more frequent refreshes. Faster refreshes are one of the key features of the new Chrome 56, along with support for the Web Bluetooth API and another step in relegating Adobe Flash to the dustbin in favor of HTML5.

Chrome developer Takashi Toyoshima details the new approach to page reloads on the Chromium blog. When a user refreshes a page, the browser communicates with the web server to determine if cached resources are still fresh, by issuing validation HTTP requests. According to Toyoshima, in previous versions of Chrome this process often resulted in "hundreds of network requests per page issued to dozens of domains." This type of inefficiency can be annoying on desktop systems, but can cause performance problems, reduced battery life, and increased data usage on mobile devices. Chrome's reload behavior was altered so that only the main resource is validated during a reload. Facebook previously notified the Chrome team that its browser was issuing three times as many validation requests as other software. After the changes, Facebook says page reloads are 28% faster and require 60% less validation requests.

The second biggest piece of news in Chrome 56 is another step forward in the march toward deprecating Adobe Flash. In the new browser release, the HTML5 by Default feature is enabled for all users. With the change, the Flash player is disabled unless the user gives it permission to run, on a per-site basis. Google says this change should result in a safer, more power-efficient browsing experience.

Meanwhile, Chrome 56's support for the Web Bluetooth API adds the ability for web applications to interact with Bluetooth devices like smart light bulbs, fitness trackers, and printers. Chrome developer François Beaufort posted some interesting information on Google's Developer Blog about interacting with Bluetooth devices through a web app.

The Next Web reports about a new feature to aggressively throttle timers on background tabs that didn't make it into Chrome 56 but may be coming soon. The Chrome devs were inspired by pages that burn a lot of CPU cycles on tasks like running ads and analytics scripts. If this idea goes through, background tabs will see their CPU usage throttled, with a few exceptions. Pages with updating icons or playing audio will not be subject to throttling, and special care will be taken to ensure that any tabs that are loading continue to do so.

You can read more about the new features on the Google Developer Blog. If you've heard enough, head over to the Chrome desktop browser page and grab Chrome 56.

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