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Browser watch, February 2017

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Every month, there are exciting and relevant developments in browser news that web designers and developers will want to know about. What happens with your favorite browser or one that you haven’t become familiar with (yet!) can profoundly affect the quality and output of your client work.

So without further ado, we present a new, monthly feature that tracks all the latest browser developments over the past month, so you’re always on top of what each new browser is doing.

Chrome gets 28% faster

In its quest to always update the performance of its browser, Google recently announced that page reloads within Chrome on both desktop and mobile are now 28% faster. Go on—give it a try! Maybe you’ve already noticed this improvement, but this initiative was a joint project between Google, Facebook and Mozilla. To get this done, Google engineers simply streamlined Chrome’s reload behavior, so it now just validates the main resource (as opposed to making many network requests to check if resources like images are still valid).

Apple improves its Safari Technology Preview

The experimental browser of Apple, Safari Technology Preview, received an update at the end of January that focused on fixing some bug issues as well as addressing some prior performance issues. As a result, this will impact Web Inspector, JavaScript and CSS. Only available for those developers who are running macOS Sierra, this latest iteration of STP features a bunch of patches related to enhanced JavaScript and CSS handling. General website handling was improved, too.

Opera debuts its first concept browser, called “Neon”

While not a replacement for its main Opera browser, Neon is an experiment in simplifying one’s browser experience to a handful of select tasks. With a nice design that blends into your desktop, Neon is more of a concept browser than a real replacement for any of the established browsers on the market. Nonetheless, it’s important since it gives us a glimpse of the future of browsers and what the Internet can evolve into. Some of its memorable features include newly improved, circular icons and a new take on the omnibox, which is Opera’s search feature.

Firefox makes focus available in 27 languages

Mozilla’s Firefox Focus, known as the privacy browser, is encouraging people to browse with more privacy than ever by becoming available in 27 languages for iOS. Coinciding with late-January’s International Privacy Day, this initiative is a continuation of Mozilla’s overall mission to empower users to have more control than ever over their web behavior. Some of the new languages included in this rollout include Welsh, Czech, Ukrainian and Songay. The company’s not done yet either: it plans to continue adding more languages in the future, so more people all over the world have the option of private browsing.

Latest version of Google Chrome stops Gmail support

Google confirmed that, by the end of the year, some versions of Google Chrome won’t be supporting Gmail any longer. This has natural security implications for users. In addition, users may also miss out on important bug fixes and updates. In the next few months, look for Chrome version 53 and earlier to stop support for Gmail. From February 8th onwards, Google will display a banner at the top of users’ pages (the ones who use the online portal of Chrome), urging them to upgrade before the end of 2017.

Microsoft Edge receives stellar features in Windows 10 creators’ update

Recently, Microsoft revealed what new improvements would be coming to Edge, the company’s new browser. One of the biggest changes is the greater availability of extensions. As a result, extension developers will enjoy more access to about 30% more APIs when compared to the original release. End users will therefore enjoy extensions with greater power. Microsoft is hoping that this round of new features will generate more interest in its new browser from the developer community. Since Microsoft abandoned Internet Explorer, it’s been pushing Edge as a competitor to Chrome and Firefox.

Microsoft gains market share with Edge

In welcome news for the company, Microsoft’s Edge browser seems to be gaining (if only a little) on its top competitors in the browser market. According to a NetMarketShare report, the Edge now has 5.48% of the browser market in January, which is an improvement from the 5.33% of the market it owned in December 2016. Overall, the gains for Edge look even better and promising: year-on-year, Edge has risen an impressive 178% in market share. Of course, Internet Explorer’ market share continues to free-fall while Chrome only gets stronger at almost 58% of market share in January.

Vivaldi tackles the noisy tabs problem

The Vivaldi browser already allows users to identify what offensive tab has a specific ad or video playing in the background causing unwanted sound or noise, but the new player on the browser block has decided to one-up itself and go a step further. Now, users are able to activate Vivaldi’s tab-muting feature by using their keyboards. The company has also thrown more muting-related commands into the mix, so users have unprecedented control. For example, Mute Other Tabs, Unmute All Tabs, Unmute Other Tabs, Mute All Tabs, and Mute/Unmute Tab are all new options for users.

Firefox supports new WebGL2 standard

WebGL2 is the new standard that gives developers the chance to use high-quality and dazzling 3D graphics that are made available for the first time ever on the Internet. Continuing where WebGL1 left off, this new standard empowers developers to harness accelerated rendering features that are more modern. This includes multi-sampled rendering support, expanded texturing functionality, and transform feedback. The end result benefits both developers and users alike: You’ll get to see more interesting and captivating visual content on the Internet. At a time when video content is taking up more and more bandwidth on the web, Firefox’s support for WebGL2 is timely and makes sense.

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