Chrome 56 reloads faster and shoots Flash in the knee

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.

Comments closed
    • Laykun
    • 3 years ago

    [quote<]Pages with updating icons or playing audio will not be subject to throttling,[/quote<] Great, so now all ads will come with Audio and/or updating icons.

      • BurntMyBacon
      • 3 years ago

      I can vaguely recall old car commercials from when I still watched local broadcast TV that liked to jack the volume to 11. It may be a good idea to add easy to access per tab audio settings and a changeable default level level for new tabs (off for me). Of course, I could be overthinking things.

    • Welch
    • 3 years ago

    You could even say that Flash is “taking an arrow to the knee?”

    • lycium
    • 3 years ago

    > require 60% less validation requests

    Sorry to be a [url=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G0zNWswcqMg<]Stannis[/url<] here, but it's "fewer".

      • odizzido
      • 3 years ago

      If you’re writing as a job I think knowing the difference between fewer and less is important.

      This may help…
      [url<]http://www.qwantz.com/index.php?comic=909[/url<]

        • lycium
        • 3 years ago

        In linking this comic you have immediately made a friend 😀 It’s pretty weird how “more” is used for both discrete and continuous quantities, but on the other hand there is “much” vs “many”, which is just as weird sounding when people get it wrong: “how much people is coming to the party?” (which also plays on how people get “is” vs “are” wrong basically all the time, everywhere – RIP plural form).

    • ludi
    • 3 years ago

    Reminder that if you’re already using Chrome, you only need to go to the three-dot menu to the far right of the URL bar, click and select “Help => About Google Chrome,” and upon displaying the About window it will update automatically.

      • Shobai
      • 3 years ago

      You know, I had to laugh…

      That’s the process I tried, but after stalling at 97% downloading the update, Chrome gave me an ‘unable to complete…try again later’ error with a code that was hyperlinking their support page: the specific error code wasn’t in their list, and a quick search of the Google-tubes failed to find it either. Restarting Chrome was enough to finish the update, though, so who knows what the issue was!

        • UberGerbil
        • 3 years ago

        I had exactly the same issue, except I just went through the Help->About Chrome step again, and it restarted itself. It appears that error code is “unable to restart for some bogus reason.”

        • ludi
        • 3 years ago

        I saw the same on the first laptop I updated. I thought it might be a bug specific to that install. But then i saw it again when I updated my desktop PC, so I think it’s a bug in the Chrome update process. Still, it works fine, just have to manually restart the browser.

    • cycomiko
    • 3 years ago

    this change should result in a safer, more power-efficient browsing experience.

    yep… of course html5 seems to crush my work computer to oblivion, hogging everything and generally making chrome an unusable crash monster. But thats why we have extensions that force flash back on

      • DancinJack
      • 3 years ago

      I think you need a new computer?

      • Rand
      • 3 years ago

      I hate to say it but… I’ve usually found Flash videos far more efficient then HTML5 video playback. I often force flash

        • setaG_lliB
        • 3 years ago

        I haven’t found HTML5 video to be that inefficient. A 1080p VP9-encoded video in Chrome only uses 2-4% of my processor, and that’s with the CPU doing all of the work (GTX 970 here, so no hardware VP9 acceleration).

        Even my old single-core Athlon 64 4000+ can handle 720p YouTube video with the latest version of Chrome and Win7.

          • Deo Domuique
          • 3 years ago

          Microsoft’s Edge uses native DXVA even for VP9 videos, just so you know. There’s no more efficient browser than Edge currently… That’s why when I see only videos, I open Edge. For your Chrome, you can download the extension h264ify and then all videos on YouTube will be playing with DXVA and proper Video Engine utilization even on Chrome.

      • I.S.T.
      • 3 years ago

      I remember when all the *****y web pages could be made functional just by killing Flash in your Task Manager.

      Those days are so, so long past. I will miss them and occasionally drive by Google/Alphabet’s building while flipping them off.

    • Shouefref
    • 3 years ago

    So, Chrome is finally doing with Flash what Firefox is doing since a long time.

    • Chrispy_
    • 3 years ago

    /me unplugs his bluetooth dongle.

    Seriosuly, Chrome runs like a dog in certain scenarios; The way it handles multiple tabs to the same domain is also really stupid since it can run out of RAM and peg a single thread at 100% on a machine with 20GB of free RAM and 7 idle logical CPUs.

    I’ll update, because – let’s face it – I don’t really get a say in the matter, but I just hope they’re not making it even more bloated than it has already become. I remember when it was [i<]actually[/i<] fast...

      • jokinin
      • 3 years ago

      I remember when I could browse the web with a single core Athlon64 3400+ with 2GB of RAM on a 256 Kbps DSL and it felt fast 🙂

      • BurntMyBacon
      • 3 years ago

      So that’s what I’ve been missing.

      • TheRazorsEdge
      • 3 years ago

      Memory use will always be high because of the sandboxing. It’s a security feature. That’s something that you accept, or else you choose a different browser.

      If Chrome is pegging a CPU core, you probably have a page that is seriously misbehaving. I have one particular web site that I visit semi-regularly which caused this, although it stopped after I switched to a better adblocker.

      Most browsers will only spike CPU usage when garbage scripts are running, and most garbage scripts are from ad networks (although occasionally a site may have problems of its own).

    • jessterman21
    • 3 years ago

    Just updated – wow it is fast!

    • UberGerbil
    • 3 years ago

    Throttling timers on background tabs is nice, but I’m skeptical Google will ever be aggressive with this as they could be. After all, most of those pushed ads pay them. So it’s really in their best interest to keep pushing them even when they’re going to background tabs you never see. This, combined with browsers’ insistence on caching everything in the quest for faster page loads, means that a single background tab can consume a GB of memory or more over time. Chrome used to fill up all my virtual memory when given the chance, with enough tabs and enough time. I eventually resorted to the Great Suspender extension, which completely shuts down background tabs after a set amount of time (an hour is more than enough for me, but if you have streaming music or podcasts it might not be enough unless you’re careful to keep that in its own foreground browser window). Recommended.

      • derFunkenstein
      • 3 years ago

      There are some folks who are not super-thrilled about the upcoming changes that have totally legitimate non-advertising use cases. I wish this could be something affected by a whitelist instead of blanket across the whole internet, but I know that people find their ways around that stuff easily enough. I got timed out of a specific web app I use all the time when I use it in Chrome because setTimeout() doesn’t run in real-time. That vendor switched to something that runs every few seconds to see what time it is and determine if it should throw up a warning, but that stopped working a few weeks ago. With my luck they’ll figure it out just in time for this new behavior to ship and it’ll start all over again.

      edit: meant to link [url=https://groups.google.com/a/chromium.org/forum/#!topic/blink-dev/-dmrNAFHd-4/discussion<]this discussion[/url<]).

    • tipoo
    • 3 years ago

    “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.”

    I’ll probably sit out 56 then, but if the next one comes close to Safari battery life I’m all over that. Never figured out the page load stalls I have in that since Mavericks.

      • DancinJack
      • 3 years ago

      FWIW, I did read somewhere that Google is getting a lot of help from Apple on Chrome lately. Specifically this faster refresh stuff was mentioned. Hopefully they can expand to some other areas to, like you say, equal out the battery life issues a bit on macOS.

        • tipoo
        • 3 years ago

        It would be just my luck if Apples help on the battery life issues also introduced Safaris loading stallouts in Chrome, lol

    • UberGerbil
    • 3 years ago

    So now malicious web pages can turn out my lights and issue ransomware demands by printing them out on my printer. Yay!

    (Yes, I know there are supposed to be safeguards against that. But I also know software. Such safeguards have eliminated malware everywhere else, right?)

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