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Chrome gets sharp after dumping 30-year-old Windows technology

IDG News Service

Google last week said that it was finally ditching a 30-year-old technology to display fonts on Web pages in its Chrome browser for Windows.

In an announcement Thursday about some of the notable changes in Chrome for version 37, which reached Google’s Beta build channel earlier that day, a software engineer said the preview relied on Microsoft’s DirectWrite technology.

“Chrome 37 adds support for DirectWrite, an API on Windows for clear, high-quality text rendering even on high-DPI displays,” said Emil Eklund in a July 17 blog post.

Microsoft introduced the DirectWrite API with Windows 7, which shipped in the fall of 2009, and back-ported the technology to Windows Vista Service Pack 2 (SP2) at the same time with what it called a Platform Update. Windows XP, the now-retired operating system — but one that still powers one-in-four personal computers worldwide — does not support DirectWrite.

Prior to the switch to DisplayWrite, Chrome used Microsoft’s Graphics Device Interface (GDI), which was a core component of Windows since the graphical user interface’s (GUI) debut in late 1985. Microsoft had been working on GDI for at least two years before that.

Chrome 36, the current version out of Google’s Stable build channel, continues to use GDI to render text on Windows.

Eklund said that DirectWrite had been a top user request for years: An entry in Chromium’s bug tracker — Chromium is the open-source project that feeds code to Chrome proper — about adding DirectWrite support to the browser was penned Oct. 22, 2009, the same day Windows 7 launched.

As far as a reason for the long stretch between that entry and DirectWrite support making it into Chrome, Eklund said, “The switch to DirectWrite … required extensive re-architecting and streamlining of Chrome’s font rendering engine.”

Much of that difficulty stemmed from the sandboxing — an anti-exploit and anti-crash technology — of Chrome’s rendering engine; it wasn’t until February of this year that developers reported on the bug tracker that they’d managed to get DirectWrite to work inside the sandbox.

Other browsers have long since adopted DirectWrite. Mozilla’s Firefox, for example, switched from GDI to DirectWrite with version 4, which debuted in March 2011. Microsoft’s own Internet Explorer (IE9) began using DirectWrite with IE9, which also shipped in March 2011.

DirectWrite was one of the reasons why Microsoft declined to add the then-powerhouse Windows XP to the list of supported editions for IE9, a move that made the company the first major browser developer to drop support for XP.

If all goes according to plan, DirectWrite support will reach the Stable edition of Chrome with version 37. Google does not hew to a set timetable to browser upgrades, as does Mozilla, but it typically rolls out a new version every six to eight weeks.

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HTML5: 10 Provocative Predictions For The Future


ReadWrite

For HTML5 developers and decision makers, the most important technologies right now are HTML, JavaScript, CSS, mobile platforms and devices and evolving HTML platforms (browsers and operating systems). But what does that mean in the real world? It means these 10 things in 2013:

1. Rise Of HTML5 Mobile Platforms

HTML5 has played an increasingly important role building cross-platform apps for mobile devices. So far that has primarily been done using native “wrappers,” such as Cordova, which allow HTML and JavaScript to power apps on other native platforms (such as iOS and Android). This technique is called “hybrid” app development.

This year, though, a wave of emerging platforms will support HTML5 apps as a first-class citizen – no wrapper required! The biggest players will be Chrome OS, which is about to get much more attention from Google; Firefox OS, already scheduled to start shipping on low-end ZTE and TCL devices in Europe; Tizen, a new HTML-focused platform backed by many industry heavyweights, including Intel and Samsung; Ubuntu Phone, which brings the most popular flavor of Linux to phones, again with a HTML-centered ap strategy; BlackBerry 10, which puts HTML and JavaScript at the center of its next-gen app strategy; and Windows 8, which introduced a new HTML and JavaScript development model for it’s “Windows 8 style” apps.   One (or more) of these platforms is bound to succeed in 2013. My money is on Chrome OS and Tizen. With the backing of Google, a revamped developer and consumer push, and the broadest platform strategy (spans mobile and desktop), Chrome OS is very well positioned.

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Microsoft confirms hackers exploiting critical IE bug, promises patch

Computerworld (US)

FRAMINGHAM – Microsoft on Monday issued a security advisory that confirmed in-the-wild attacks are exploiting an unpatched bug in Internet Explorer. The software maker is working on a fix. The advisory addressed the “zero-day” vulnerability — meaning it was discovered and exploited before a patch was available — that was found and disclosed by researcher Eric Romang over the weekend. On Monday, the Metasploit open-source penetration framework published an exploit module for the bug, putting pressure on Microsoft to act quickly.
http://bit.ly/OWuCf3

Google Finally Adds Do-Not-Track Support in Latest Test Version of Chrome

All Things D

Google has included support for the Do Not Track privacy setting in its latest Chrome developer build, which was released today. Do Not Track — which aims to help users opt out of being tracked across Web sites for the purposes of targeted advertising — is contentious and still somewhat theoretical. But since Chrome is close to becoming the world’s most-used browser, if it’s not already, its support for DNT is pretty important. Of all the major browser providers, Google had moved the slowest on Do Not Track, but had earlier this year agreed at the request of the Obama Administration that it would implement DNT.

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Google Chrome Overtakes Internet Explorer

PCWorld (US) 

Google’s Chrome is now the most popular Web browser worldwide, surpassing Microsoft’s Internet Explorer for the first time, according to the latest figures from StatCounter. After years of slowly chipping away Internet Explorer’s market share, Chrome took the lead with 32.76 percent share, while IE dipped to 31.94 percent.

Just a year ago, Internet Explorer was leading the Web browser market share with 43 percent, followed by Mozilla Firefox with 29 percent, and Chrome was third with 19 percent. Twelve months later, IE has lost 12 percent of the browser market share while Chrome gained 13 percent to the detriment of IE and Firefox, which also lost about 4 percent of its users and now comes in at just over 25 percent.

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Google Pays Users for Browsing Data

Digiday 

Google is building an opt-in user panel that will track and analyze people’s online behaviors via an extension to its Chrome browser, called Screenwise. Users that install the plug-in will have the websites they visit and the ways in which they interact with them recorded, and they will then be paid with Amazon gift cards worth up to $25 a year in return.

According to Google, the project is essentially a market research tool, and information gleaned from it will be used to improve its products and services for its users.

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Google and Mozilla Announce New Privacy Features

NY Times, 1/24/11

Add two more Internet browser makers to the list of companies planning to offer Web users new ways to control how their personal data is collected online.

On Monday, Mozilla and Google announced features that would allow users of the Firefox and Chrome browsers to opt out of being tracked online by third-party advertisers. The companies made their announcements just weeks after the Federal Trade Commission issued a report that supported a “do not track” mechanism that would let consumers choose whether companies could monitor their online behavior.

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