Google have released Chrome 21 – the latest Stable Channel version.
If you already use Chrome you can get the new version by clicking the ‘wrench’ (spanner) icon then ‘About Google Chrome’ to check for updates – version 21 (currently 21.0.1180.60) will be downloaded and installed automatically if you don’t already have it.
New users can download and install Chrome 21 directly here. Alternatively there is also a full standalone offline installer here – this may be useful if you want to save the Chrome installation file e.g. to put on a flash drive and install on multiple computers without having to re-download it each time.
The official Chrome 21 changelog lists 15 security fixes in detail and includes reference to a new API for high-quality video and audio communication. Apart from the security fixes (paying out total rewards of $2,000 to the finders) there are in fact many ‘behind the scenes’ technical changes – and quite cool they are too:
- Chrome 21 includes a new getUserMedia API, which lets you grant web apps access to your camera and microphone without a plug-in. This allows web apps to create cool experiences like Magic Xylophone (play it just by waving your hands in front of the camera) and Webcam Toy (a clever photo booth app).
[Sites with media functionality can only request access to your camera and microphone. In response to this request, you can choose to allow, deny or choose options for the site - so you shouldn't have to worry about sites 'watching' you in secret on your webcam!]
- Support for high resolution Mac Retina screens e.g. the new Retina Macbook Pro
- Deeper Google Cloud Print Integration – now your printers in Google Cloud Print are integrated right into Chrome’s print dialog, so you can easily print to your Cloud Ready printer, Google Drive, Chrome on your mobile device, or one of over 1,800 FedEx Offices
- Default integral Flash Player has changed from Chrome’s Flash (version 11.3.300.268) to PepperFlash (version 22.214.171.124). Pepperflash is a cross-platform API for plugins for web browsers. According to Google, Pepperflash is currently an experimental feature of Chrome so it is odd that it is now the default player on W7 and XP systems I have tested…
Early reports from some users report audio and video problems as a result of using Pepperflash. If you encounter issues, try disabling the Pepperflash plugin – Flash Player will revert back to the original Chrome Flash plugin. See our guide on disabling Flash plugins to resolve crashes.
The technical changes behind the scenes have had other benefits – the HTML5 test score has improved from 414 to 437 which puts Chrome back into top place amongst all browsers tested.
Opera 12 – 385
Firefox 14 – 345
Safari 5.1 – 317
IE9 – 138 (continues Microsoft’s traditional failure to comply with web standards – even the yet to be released IE10 only scores 319…)
Note: these scores only indicate how well browsers support the current draft HTML5 standard – they don’t necessarily mean that a browser actually performs any better. However, higher scores in the tests indicate that a browser may better cope with (and display) webpages that make heavy use of HTML5.
Chrome 21 RAM usage is still excessively high, sucking up 1GB+ in my own tests with just 10 multimedia rich tabs open. This is a problem which Google really needs to address – Firefox used to have a reputation for being a memory hog but it is now Chrome that seriously lags behind.
The changes in Google Chrome 21 are mostly behind the scenes (security fixes and technical changes) but they add potential for some very clever web apps and games in future that can make use of your webcam – not quite like Kinect for Xbox but a step in the same direction.
Chrome’s hefty RAM usage is increasingly out of step with the reductions being made by competitors – more optimization is urgently required.