Tech Matters: Google adds new features to Chrome for 15th birthday
The world’s most popular browser is turning 15 this month — Google’s Chrome is favored by more than 60% of internet users — and will receive a useful package of upgrades over the coming weeks. These include new color palettes to distinguish your accounts at a glance, especially helpful for those who use work and personal accounts on the same machine, new search features and, most importantly, real-time protection against known malicious websites.
You’ll want to watch for updates in the upper right corner of your Chrome browser window if you don’t quit Chrome after a session. Quitting Chrome will automatically trigger an update if one is available the next time you open your browser. Otherwise, the usual three dots will show as an update button and are color-coded as follows: green means an update was released less than two days ago, orange indicates an update was released about four days ago, and red tells you it’s been at least a week since an update was released. All you have to do is click the button and Chrome will automatically relaunch with all of your open tabs intact.
First up is a minor redesign to increase the legibility of Chrome icons and offer simple-to-apply themes and color palettes. More than just a way to personalize your experience, different graphics and colors can be applied to each of your profiles on Google. For instance, if you’ve been using a different profile picture for your work and personal accounts, adding a completely different background image and color scheme will make it far more obvious than the tiny photos. Look for the “Customize Chrome” button in the lower left corner to make your choices. Note you can use the eyedropper to choose a custom color from your new background for tabs and icons or a color that offers high contrast for better visibility..
Google has already rolled out new search features, so give them a try. Select the “Search this page with Google” option from the three-dot menu when you’re on a webpage. That will open the Google Search side panel, where you can find related searches, learn more about a page’s source or start another search altogether without opening another tab or going back to your search page. You can pin the Google Search side panel to your toolbar if you find it useful.
The company has also added AI capabilities to Search, but because it’s still an experimental feature, you’ll turn it on by using the Labs section. Look for the beaker at the top right of a search window, click it and then select “SGE while browsing” and toggle it on. On participating sites, you can tap to see a list of AI-generated key points with links that take you right to that information on the page. You can also use “Explore on page” to show you questions an article answers with links that take you to where you’ll find the answers on that page.
Now we come to my favorite Chrome update, which is an update to Safe Browsing. Before the update, Chrome checked for flagged harmful sites every 30 to 60 minutes, but later learned this wasn’t frequent enough. “But phishing domains have gotten more sophisticated — and today, 60 percent of them exist for less than 10 minutes, making them difficult to block,” Google’s Parisa Tabriz wrote in a Chrome blog post.
The upgrade will now check sites against Google’s known-malicious sites in real time, without sharing your browsing history with Google. “By shortening the time between identification and prevention of threats, we expect to see 25 percent improved protection from malware and phishing threats,” she said. This heightened protection will be distributed over the next few weeks.
The Chrome Web Store — offering a wide variety of add-ons to your browser — will also see a security update. Google said it has expanded its Safety Check to extensions so Chrome can help identify extensions in the store that were recently unpublished, in violation of its policies, or potentially malicious. You will have the choice to review add-ons that fall under the first two categories and keep them or delete them, but those found to be malicious will be automatically deleted.
Leslie Meredith has been writing about technology for more than a decade. As a mom of four, value, usefulness and online safety take priority. Have a question? Email Leslie at email@example.com.