Chrome 38 Beta Web Browser Includes Guest Mode, Other Features

Chrome's newest browser, still in beta form, is designed to enable users to share their browser with a guest but keep their settings, bookmarks and other details private.

Google Chrome 38 browser

Fresh after the latest Stable release of the Chrome 37 Web browser in late August, Google has taken the wraps off the Chrome 38 Beta version—the beta edition of the next version of the browser—and shared more details about some of its upcoming features.

One of the key new features is a "guest mode" that will allow a Chrome user to share the browser with a friend when desired, without giving the friend access to one's personal settings, bookmarks and other details. The new feature was announced by Roger Tawa, a Chrome engineer, in an Aug. 28 post on The Chrome Blog.

"Anyone who's argued over the TV remote knows that sharing a living room doesn't mean you want to share everything else," wrote Tawa. "The same is true on the Web. So in the latest Chrome beta, we're exploring a new way for you to share your computer without sharing your business."

That's where the Guest Mode comes into play.

"With the new 'Guest mode,' you can let others use Chrome without letting them see your stuff," wrote Tawa. "And after they've closed out their tabs, their browsing information is deleted from your computer as well. To enable Guest mode, click on You (or your name if you've signed in) > Switch person > Browse as Guest."

Chrome users will also get other new capabilities, including the ability to sign into Chrome on any device and have their settings, bookmarks and other features follow along with them, wrote Tawa. In the beta version of Chrome 38, users can click on the word "You" in the upper right corner of the Chrome window and then click "Sign in to Chrome," he explained. "You'll be able to switch devices and pick up where you left off with all of your tabs, bookmarks, and history automatically kept in sync."

For users who want to share their computer with someone else, they'll be able to click "Switch person" to add their profile and access their own bookmarks, apps, and theme, he wrote. By switching, users can keep their stuff separate, he added.

Other new features also being tested and included in the new Chrome 38 Beta are a new screen orientation API, a network information API and a new HTML element called <picture>, according to a related Aug. 28 post by Andreas Rossberg, a senior software engineer.

The latest Chrome Beta release "includes a ton of new primitives and APIs to simplify development and give developers more control over their Web applications," wrote Rossberg.
The new <picture> HTML element takes the concept of responsive design, previously solved by sending duplicate resources to the client, and bakes an elegant solution right into the Web platform, he wrote. "It allows developers to list multiple versions of images that may be appropriate for the browser to display based on screen size, pixel density, or other factors."

Also included is a Network Information ("NetInfo") API, which is now enabled to give Web applications access to the current type of network on a device running Android, iOS, or Chrome OS, wrote Rossberg. "This could allow an app to only do data-intensive activities such as syncing when connected to a Wi-Fi connection."

A new Screen Orientation API allows developers to not only detect whether a device is in portrait or landscape mode, but also to lock the screen orientation while a user is within that app, he wrote.

Google released the latest Stable Version 37 of Chrome in late August, featuring a key improvement that benefits Windows users—a move to the Windows DirectWrite API, which enables users to now see clear, high-quality text rendering even on high DPI video monitors. The Windows DirectWrite API is now part of Chrome after being one of the top user requests for years, according to a previous eWEEK report. Before DirectWrite, Chrome used the Graphics Device Interface (GDI) to render text. GDI dates back to the mid-1980s and reflects the engineering trade-offs of that time, particularly for slower, lower-resolution machines.

Also included in the latest Stable version of Chrome 37 are several new apps and extension APIs, as well as 50 security fixes and a host of performance improvements.

In February, Google began bumping up the enterprise management tools for its Chrome Web browser as part of an effort to drive Chrome's increased adoption by businesses around the world. The new Chrome for Business initiative was aimed at making it easier for companies to choose Chrome for their employees. Among the new Chrome management capabilities directed at businesses' IT managers is a cloud-based management capability for Google Apps for Business and Education customers to make it easier for employers to allow their workers to bring in their PCs or devices for work.

In September 2013, the Chrome browser celebrated its fifth birthday. Launched in 2008 as a desktop or laptop application, Chrome today is widely used as a mobile Web browser on many different devices.

Chrome has had quite a ride since its birth. In June 2012, it surpassed Microsoft's Internet Explorer as the world's most used browser for the first time, and has added many useful features over the years to encourage even more users to adopt it.