Fresh off of the release of Chrome 16 Web browser to the stable channel, Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) Jan. 5 made Chrome 17 available to the beta channel with a focus on speed and security.
Google applied its Instant Pages predictive search technology, which prepares the top search result in the background while a user chooses which Web link to click, to Chrome's omnibox address bar.
Going forward, Chrome will start loading some Web pages in the background before users finish typing the URL. When a URL auto-completes for a Website the searcher is likely to visit, Chrome will begin to prerender the page, anticipating that a user might be interested in returning to the page.
"Prerendering reduces the time between when you hit Enter and when you see your fully-loaded Web page -- in some cases, the Web page appears instantly," explained Chrome engineer Dominic Hamon in a blog post.
Instant Pages has been the default feature in Chrome since version 13. Google said Instant saves users two to five seconds on typical searches.
Google Chrome 17 beta also includes improvements to Chrome's Safe Browsing technology that can protect users from more types of malware attacks.
Chrome previously protected users from Websites that could exploit and run code oncomputers with no user interaction required. Now Chrome analyzes executable files (such as ".exe" and ".msi" files) users download.
What this means is that if a file a user downloads is malicious, or is hosted on a Website that is known to host a lot of malicious downloads, Chrome will warn users that the file appears to be malicious and tell them to dump it.
The move to bolster Chrome's security this way comes in response to the increase in insidious Websites, some of which try to pass themselves off as anti-virus software no less, that try to hoodwink users into running a file that will give a perpetrator access to their computers.
Hamon warned that no technical tools provide blanket protection from malicious downloads and that users should "always be careful about which files you download and consider the reputation of their source."
Chrome 17 kicks off a new year for Chrome, which finished 2011 with over 200 million users and 19 percent of the browser market, according to Net Applications. Google also agreed to pay rival/partner Mozilla $300 million a year for the next three years to make Google the default search engine in the Firefox browser.
Meanwhile, Piper Jaffray analyst Gene Munster said Chrome could be Google's next billion-dollar business.