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Chrome 81: Released with support for Web NFC

The Chrome 81, originally scheduled for March 17 but delayed due to the COVID-19 epidemic, is finally being released.

Today's launch was expected to be impressive, but only two major features impressed - such as the improved support for WebXR (a feature of Chrome's Augmented Reality, originally released on Chrome 79) and initial support for the Web NFC standard.

The features that were planned for later came with the release of Chrome 81. Some of them are redesigned UI for Chrome web form elements and removal of support for TLS 1.0 and TLS 1.1 encryption protocols.

The first was released because Google engineers failed to put the finishing touches on redesign in a timely manner. The new form controls are scheduled to be released live with Chrome (Chromium) 83, which is expected to arrive in mid-May next month.

The plans to remove the TLS 1.0 and TLS 1.1 encryption protocols from Chrome, which were originally scheduled for Chrome 81, have now been transferred to Chrome 84. The decision to delay the removal of these two protocols is related to COVID-19, since the removal of the protocols may have prevented some Chrome 81 users from accessing critical government health sites who continued to use TLS 1.0 and 1.1 to configure HTTPS connections. The removal of the support would prevent users from accessing these websites completely, which Google wanted to avoid.

The release of Chrome 81 marks the most turbulent release in Chrome history. Because the browser builder had to switch functions from version to version and because the Chrome 81 delay for three weeks also disrupts the normal timetable Google's six-week release. Google has taken the first step toward removing a Chrome version. Google has said that the next version of Chrome is v83 and that work on v82 has stopped for good.

But while Google has moved some features from Chrome 81 to other versions, that doesn't mean that version will be missing. From all the news characteristics added to the current release of v81, the most important, so far, is the new API Web NFC.

Modern smartphones already support NFC technology, but end users usually need a special application running on their device to interact with real-world NFC tags.

The new Web NFC template added to Chrome will allow websites to interact with NFC tags, eliminating the need for users to have a special app installed on their phones.

Google believes that the new Web NFC standard will win web devs and expects widespread use, especially for Chrome for Android, where it could be used for scenarios such as:

  • Museums and art galleries can display additional information about a screen when the user touches it smartphone or the tablet running Chrome on an NFC card.
  • Websites, corporate sites, and intranets that handle a company's inventory will be able to read or write data on an NFC label on a container or product, simplifying inventory management.
  • Conference rooms can be used to scan NFC badges during the event.
  • Intranet and other corporate websites can use the Web NFC to share the configuration and initial secrets needed to provide new devices to an organization.

For now, this feature will not be widely available to all users, but will only be available as a trial. The field trial will run from Chrome 81 to Chrome 83, during which application developers can create applications based on the new Web NFC template and see how it runs and provide feedback to developers of Chrome, so they can be better adapted to a wider circulation.

Web NFC is currently scheduled to go live for all users on Chrome 84, but that may change if something happens during testing.

Chrome

But while Google has avoided removing TLS 1.0 and TLS 1.1, the Chrome 81 improves the security of HTTPS connections, but in a different way. Chrome 81 marks the latest version of Google's three-stage design to eliminate mixed HTTPS content from the web.

Mixed HTTPS content refers to websites that load content such as images, JavaScript or stylesheets via HTTP and HTTPS, which means that the site is not fully loaded via HTTPS.

Google's ultimate goal is to automatically upgrade HTTP content to analog HTTPS URLs. However, doing so is suddenly dangerous, as it can cause a "break" in the Internet.

Instead, to avoid any major "breakdowns," Google has chosen a three-step plan for this process, as discussed below, which ends today with the development of Chrome 81:

  • In Chrome 79, released in December 2019, we will introduce a new setting to remove blocked content on specific sites. This setting will apply to mixed scripts, iframes and other types of content that Chrome currently blocks from default. Users can change this setting by clicking on the lock icon on any https: // page and by clicking on Location Settings. This will replace the shield icon that appears on the right side of the main frame to unlock mixed content in previous versions of Chrome for desktop.
  • In Chrome 80, mixed audio and video resources will be automatically upgraded to https: // and Chrome will block them by default if they can't load via https: //. Chrome 80 will be released on early release channels in January 2020. Users can free up the affected audio and video resources with the setting described above.
  • Also in Chrome 80, it will be possible to upload mixed images, but they will cause Chrome to display a "Not Secure" chip in the main box. We expect that this is a clearer security UI for users and that it will motivate websites to transfer their images to HTTPS. Developers can use the Update-Unsafe Application or Content Security Policy instructions to avoid this warning.
  • In Chrome 81, mixed images will be automatically upgraded to https: // and Chrome will block them from default if they fail to load via https: //.

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