Google just released Chrome 90 to the beta channel. There aren't too many UI changes or new features for us regular folks on the surface, but under the hood, Google is working on a whole slew of improvements that you'll certainly notice once the latest beta goes stable. You'll get enhancements to copy-and-paste, better AR models, and support for a new codec that uses less bandwidth during video conferences.

Improved copy-and-paste

You know how you can drag and drop images from your file manager to a website, like when you want to attach an image or a PDF to an email? Chrome is working on bringing that same functionality to your clipboard. When you hit copy (or Ctrl+c) on a file in your file manager, you're usually not able to simply hit paste (or Ctrl+v) on a website to move that file to a website in Chrome. That's because the website doesn't have access to the path, which is what you've essentially copied. But Chrome wants to change that and is working on allowing web apps to read and access that specific path in your clipboard (only once you send the paste command, of course). This would essentially allow you to add files to a website without having to rely on drag-and-drop or those pesky file picker dialogs. A similar feature is already live in Safari, though of course, Gmail doesn't support its implementation in particular.

Since the feature is still hidden behind a flag (chrome://flags/#clipboard-filenames), it will likely take quite some time until the first few web apps implement it.

Prettier and more accurate AR models

The sphere dynamically reacts to lighting. You can try it in Chrome Beta 90 here.

After its failed VR foray, Google is doubling down on AR, and the Chrome developers are working on making Augmented Reality look even better on the web. They're testing an API that would achieve something similar to ARCore's Environmental HDR, making for realistic shadows and lighting effects on AR models rendered by web apps. Additionally, Google is working on a Depth API to let applications access depth information about the environment, further closing the gap between local apps and the web. Taken together, these new features could make models like those rendered in Google Search feel much more realistic.

Better gravity readings for web apps

In a similar vein, Google is looking to make it easier for developers to access gravity sensor data. Web devs currently have to rely on manually deriving readings from the accelerator sensor to guess gravity, but that can be imprecise depending on the accuracy of the sensor. The new GravitySensor API would allow developers to pull that data directly. This could make some motion-based web games or apps more accurate. The feature is hidden behind a flag in Chrome 90, so it'll take a while until it goes stable, not to mention until it's widely used.

Less bandwidth requirements for video conferencing

In the age of Zoom, Google Meet, and Microsoft Teams, Google is looking to make video conferencing less taxing on your internet connection and hardware. Chrome 90 for desktops is getting support for the AV1 encoder, optimized for video conferencing using WebRTC. Once services start using the codec, it will help with better compression efficiency, allowing for less bandwidth usage and better visual quality. AV1 should even work on connections with speeds as low as 30kbps.

More features

The Chrome team is also working on a few less significant features:

  • Google is experimenting with a Device Attributes Web API that allows web apps to ask for device information such as the serial number and the location. This helps create more secure environments for enterprises working with remote machines. The feature is currently hidden behind a flag.
  • You know these annoying content jumps on websites when images load and move the text around? The Chromium team has already done lots of things to eliminate that behavior, and the latest measure automatically adjusts a <picture> class container to the size of the embedded image, even before it is loaded. Google has long implemented similar measures for other, more widely used methods for adding images to websites, so you probably already benefit from the company's measures.

Google is aiming for an even faster Chrome release cycle going forward, but right now, we'll still have to wait about six weeks until Chrome 90 hits stable. Until then, you can check out the few new features in Chrome Beta (APK Mirror).

Chrome Beta
Chrome Beta
Developer: Google LLC
Price: Free