Chrome 67 Beta is now available for Android, about two weeks after the stable release of Chrome 66. The main attraction in this version is WebXR, the upgraded WebVR API that supports augmented reality content. There's also a new tab switcher UI hidden behind a flag, and some other minor improvements.
The first version of WebVR was announced in early 2016, with Firefox and Chrome being early adopters. The goal was to bring virtual reality content to the web, with support for all headsets - from Google Cardboard to the high-end Oculus Rift and HTC Vive. The standard continued to evolve for about a year, and Google loved to show it off. But in September of last year, the Chrome team said the WebVR API was being reworked to "support a wider variety of devices."
The updated version was announced in February as 'WebXR.' Unlike the older WebVR standard, WebXR supports both virtual reality and augmented reality. Developers would be able to make web apps that take advantage of ARCore on Android, and Apple's ARKit on iOS. Starting with Chrome 67, WebXR is now an 'origin trial,' meaning it's one step closer to a wide rollout.
360 Stereo Photo demo on Chrome 67 Beta
Once you enable the #webxr flag in chrome://flags, you can try out some VR demos. On Android, you can use any regular VR headset for the demos. On Windows, you can try them with an Oculus Rift, HTC Vive, or Windows Mixed Reality headset (thanks to Chrome's new SteamVR support).
Horizontal tab switcher
Chrome still hasn't rolled out the 'Modern Design' interface that has been in testing for a few months, but another UI experiment has appeared in Chrome 67. There's a new #enable-horizontal-tab-switcher flag, and when turned on, tabs are stacked horizontally instead of vertically.
Left: Horizontal tab switcher on current UI; Right: Horizontal tab switcher on Modern Design UI
There are rumors that Android P will adopt a horizontal tab switcher, so perhaps Chrome is being updated to match the upcoming changes. Either way, there isn't much of a functional difference between this and the current layout - you're just swiping in a different direction.
Like always, Chrome 67 includes changes for both users and developers. Here are some smaller features that ship with this update.
- AppCache from insecure contexts (e.g. HTTP) is no longer supported.
- Web pages can now listen for the back/forward buttons on mice (desktop only).
- The Web Authentication API is now enabled by default on Chrome desktop.
- Support for -webkit-box-flex-group, -webkit-box-lines, and percent values of -webkit-line-clamp has been removed.
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