Another six weeks, another Google Chrome release. To close out 2011, you’ll be running Chrome 16 and there’s one key feature the folks at Mountain View want to introduce to you: multiple user accounts.
The feature arrived on Chrome’s beta channel early last month, and it provides a handy way to keeps favorites and login information separate on a shared computer. That is to say, on a computer you share with people you trust, like family and close friends. See, there’s no password protection offered. Switching between accounts is a two-click operation, and it’s not the kind of feature you’d want to tap into on a computer located in a library or hotel lobby.
Even on a family PC, you might not want to set up multiple accounts if you’ve got autofill payment information stored and passwords remembered for online shopping sites. You don’t need any Justin Bieber biographies being surreptitiously purchased from Amazon by a youngster with just enough internet savvy to execute a one-click order now, do you?
For those of you who like to maintain separate profiles for workday and after-hours browsing, however, multiple profiles is a very welcome addition to Chrome. Keep all those productivity-killing bookmarks filed away in one profile and your favorite apps and tools in another. You can also use it to roll different sets of extensions and Chrome Web Apps for on-the-fly switching.
If you’re looking for a secure way to let multiple people use Chrome on a single computer and you still want things kept separate and secure, head to your operating system’s settings screens and add a new account or two and set up a password.
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Google figures your web browser should do it all, and that includes playing games. According to developer advocate Paul Kinlan, early next year Chrome is going to offer an even better gaming experience: by adding plug-and-play support gaming controllers.
Now, there’s already a good chance that your operating system might know what to do with a gamepad. “Might” isn’t good enough when you’re supporting 4-plus operating systems as Chrome is — and possibly adding a fifth by taking over browsing duties on Android as well. Chrome already offers plenty of gaming-related features, like WebGL and Native Client support for web-based gaming that could one day rival a traditional PC gaming experience.
Google’s pushed gaming in Chrome before, of course. When support for Chrome Web Apps arrived, Google promoted them by adding Entanglement and Poppit to users’ new tab pages. The company also made a ton of noise about the arrival of the web-based version of Angry Birds, which popped up back in May.
Ultimately, this new functionality might be less about gaming in Chrome than it is about providing developers with more direct access to a system’s hardware. That goal is one shared by Mozilla, whose plans for Boot To Gecko include providing web developers with access to a smartphone’s inner workings using standard web code.
Plug-in free support is also coming for microphones and cameras, and Google will also finally implement support for its own WebRTC framework. WebRTC uses the VP8 codec and other technology from Global IP Solutions, which Google acquired in 2010. WebRTC is open source and has support from Mozilla and Opera in addition to Google, and it’s set to bring Skype-like voice and video chat to browsers without the need for a plug-in (think Google Talk).
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