Google Chrome to block annoying video ads soon

Google revealed on Wednesday that the company’s Chrome web browser will soon block certain types of video ads automatically going forward.
If you have been to video sites, you may have noticed that these sites use a variety of ads attached to videos. Ads may be displayed when you hit the play button or in the middle of videos. Some sites even overlay ads on the video frame.
A survey of 45,000 consumers by the Coalition of Better Ads identified three ad experiences in videos of 8 minutes or less that fall beneath the organization’s Better Ads Standard. These are:

Advertisement that is displayed in the middle of the video, called mid-roll ads.
Advertisement that is displayed before the actual video that lasts longer than 31 seconds that cannot be skipped after the first 5 seconds.
Advertisement that is displayed in the middle third of a playing video or is larger than 20% of the video content.

Starting on August 5, 2020, Google Chrome will expand the built-in content blocking functionality to take these new ad experiences into account. The browser will “stop showing all ads on sites in any country that repeatedly show these disruptive ads”.
Google’s own platform YouTube will “be reviewed for compliance with the standards” just like any other site on the Internet that has video content. YouTube introduced a new option to publishers in 2018 to make video ads unskippable.
Google started to integrate content blocking functionality in the Chrome browser in early 2018 to slow down the rising number of systems with installed ad-blockers. Since the company could not just integrate a full-blown ad-blocker in Chrome, as it would reduce Google’s earnings significantly, it selected to try and reduce the number of “annoying” ad formats and types instead by using Chrome’s and Google Searches might to enforce the changes on all sites on the Internet.
The main idea was to ban certain ad formats and types on the Internet, mobile and desktop, by blocking all ads on sites that still use these formats.
The new standards apply to videos of 8 minutes or less only and it does not include videos with multiple pre-roll advertisements provided that these ads are skippable after five seconds.

Closing Words
Less intrusive advertisement is always a good thing but the change is not going far enough in my opinion. Mid-video advertisement is as annoying in longer videos than it is in shorter videos as it breaks the immersion.
Now You: What is your take on the new standard and the enforcement of it?
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Chrome 80 is out with SameSite Cookie Changes and mixed content upgrades

Google released Chrome 80 to the Stable channel today; the new version of the web browser is available for all supported desktop operating systems — Windows, Linux, Mac — as well as mobile operating systems.
Desktop users may run a check for updates to update the web browser right away but the update should be distributed to most systems automatically in the coming days. If you want to run a manual check, load chrome://settings/help in the browser’s address bar. Chrome contacts the update server to install the new version if one is discovered.
The big change in Chrome 80, apart from the usual security fixes and improvements, is the enforcement of the new cookie classification system. Google revealed plans in May 2019 to improve cookie controls and protections in the company’s browser through the SameSite cookie attribute.
SameSite supports three values of which “lax” is the default in Chrome and the value is automatically set if no other value is set by the site. Lax offers a compromise between security and convenience by blocking cookies from being sent in third-party contexts unless developers set the value to “SameSite=None; Secure” which ensures that third-party cookies will only be sent over HTTPS connections.
Google published a video, aimed at developers, that explains the concept in detail.

The SameSite=Lax enforcement is being rolled out starting in February. Google plans to enable it for a small group of users and increase the availability over time.
Tip: if you don’t want to wait, you can make the change right away. Load chrome://flags/#same-site-by-default-cookies in the browser’s address bar to open the experimental flag. Set the flag to enabled and restart the Chrome browser to apply the change.

The test that Google created somehow fails to return the correct results when using the flag. According to Google, all rows of the test page should be green if SameSite=Lax is being used but that was not the case for one test row.
Developers may consult this Chromium blog post for additional information on using SameSite on their webpages.
Chrome 80 adjusts how the browser handles mixed content to improve accessibility. Mixed content refers to non-HTTPS content on secure webpages. A simple example would be an image or script that is loaded via HTTP on a HTTPS site.  The new browser attempts to upgrade HTTP content to HTTPS by rewriting the URL. The content is still blocked if the upgrade fails, i.e. if the resource is not available via HTTPS.
Chrome 80 will only upgrade audio and video resources this way. Google plans to do the same for images loaded via HTTP on HTTPS sites in Chrome 81.
Deprecation of FTP support begins in Chrome 80 as well. FTP is still enabled in that release . In Chrome 81, FTP support is disabled by default but may be re-enabled using the flag or the startup parameter -enable-features=FtpProtocol. Chrome 82 won’t support FTP anymore.
Notification requests are made less annoying in Chrome 80 as well. Google announced the change in January 2020 to combat an ever increasing number of sites that ask users for permission to push notifications to their systems.
Now You: what is your take on Chrome 80?
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Google blocks paid Chrome extension publishing and updating

Google Chrome extension developers who try to publish new paid extensions for the Chrome web browser or update existing ones started to notice last week that Google would reject these outright with the rejection message “Spam and Placement in the Store”.
The Chrome Web Store accepts free and paid extensions unlike most other web browser stores that only accept free extensions (developers may still request a form of payment or subscription using other means).
A study published in mid 2019 revealed that 8.9% of all Chrome extensions fell into the paid category and that commercial extensions made up only 2.6% of all extension installations.

Chrome Extensions Developer Advocate Simeon Vincent published an announcement on the official Chromium Extensions forum on Google Groups that provides information on the decision.
According to the information, Google decided to halt all commercial Chrome extension publications because of a “significant increase in the number of fraudulent transactions involving paid Chrome extensions that aim to exploit users”. The abuse is happening on scale according to the message and Google decided to disable publishing paid items temporarily as a consequence.
Earlier this month the Chrome Web Store team detected a significant increase in the number of fraudulent transactions involving paid Chrome extensions that aim to exploit users. Due to the scale of this abuse, we have temporarily disabled publishing paid items. This is a temporary measure meant to stem this influx as we look for long-term solutions to address the broader pattern of abuse.
If you have paid extensions, subscriptions, or in app-purchases and have received a rejection for “Spam and Placement in the Store” this month, this is most likely the cause.
Developers affected by this will receive a “Spam and Placement in the Store” rejection. Vincent notes that developers should “reply to the rejection and request an appeal” to get the item published in the store; this process must be repeated for each new version of the extension according to Google.
Google made the announcement on January 25, 2020 on the official Chromium Extensions group but developers who tried to update or publish paid extensions have run into the issues for days without any form of information.
The only option that developers have at this point in time is to appeal the decision each time they publish an update or a new extension. Google has been criticized in the past for its handling of developers on the Chrome Web Store and in particular the rejection messages that often reveal little about the detected issue.
Now You: have you ever installed a paid Chrome extension? (via ZDnet)
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LastPass no longer listed on the Chrome Web Store

LastPass customers and new users searching for password managers on Google’s Chrome Web Store may have noticed that the LastPass extension for Google Chrome is currently no longer listed on the store.
A search for LastPass returns other extensions but not LastPass which is not listed in the Store at the time of writing; this comes days after some LastPass customers experienced issues when they tried to log into their accounts.
LastPass released a statement on Monday in which it provided information about the outage. According to the information, it was an “isolated issue” and not a “widespread outage”.
Over the weekend, a small group of LastPass users may have experienced error messages when attempting to log into their accounts. The LastPass team identified the isolated issue, confirmed it was not a widespread outage, and it has been completely resolved. All services are now working, and no user action is needed.

The official company blog provides no information on the removal of the Chrome extension. The Firefox extension is still listed on Mozilla AMO.
The company’s official Twitter account offers no information but the LastPass Support account does. Two messages were posted that provide information on the issue. The first states that the company is aware of the missing extension and that it is working on resolving the issue.
We are aware that our Chrome extension is currently unavailable in the Chrome Web Store and working to remedy the situation. We apologize for any frustration.
The second message provides additional details. According to the post, LastPass removed the extension from the Chrome Web Store accidentally.
The LastPass extension in the Chrome Web Store was accidentally removed by us and we are working with the Google team to restore it ASAP. You can still access your Vault by signing in on our website. Thank you for your understanding and patience in the meantime.
It appears that Google and LastPass are working on resolving the issue. LastPass users may access their passwords in installed extensions or by opening the Vault on the official website.
LogMeIn, the parent company of LastPass, announced in 2019 that it will be acquired by a private equity firm.
Now You: Are you a LastPass user?
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Microsoft will install a Bing Search extension in Chrome on some customer systems

Microsoft revealed today that it plans to install an extension in Google Chrome called Microsoft Search in Bing for some customers that will make Bing the default search engine in the browser automatically.
The move, which may remind some users of tactics used by the “old” Microsoft, forces Microsoft’s extension on systems of Office 365 ProPlus users in select locations (according to Microsoft, in Australia, Canada, France, Germany, India, United Kingdom and United States).
To give one example: Microsoft installed an extension in Firefox in 2010 automatically, also linked to the Bing Search engine, with an update for the company’s Windows operating system.

The company points out that customers may start to “take advantage of Microsoft Search” when Bing is the default search engine so that they may “access relevant workplace information” directly in the browser’s address bar.
By making Bing the default search engine, users in your organization with Google Chrome will be able to take advantage of Microsoft Search, including being able to access relevant workplace information directly from the browser address bar. Microsoft Search is part of Microsoft 365 and is turned on by default for all Microsoft apps that support it.
Starting with Office 365 ProPlus 2002, out in February/March, Microsoft Search in Bing will be installed in Chrome automatically. Microsoft notes that the extension will be installed when users install Office 365 ProPlus or when existing installations are upgraded.
Administrators who don’t want this to happen can prevent the installation easily according to Microsoft, and if it is installed already, it is easy enough to stop using Bing as the default search engine as well (there is a toggle to use the previous default search engine again).
Admins may run the following command to remove the extension again:

C:Program Files (x86)MicrosoftDefaultPackPCMainBootStrap.exe uninstallAll

Administrators may use these instructions to block Microsoft Search in Bing from being installed; instructions to block the installation using the Office Deployment Tool, Group Policy, or Configuration Manager are provided.
Admins may set the value in the Registry to block the installation:

Use Windows-R to open the run box.
Type regedit.exe and hit the Enter-key.
Go to HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINESOFTWAREPoliciesMicrosoftoffice.0commonofficeupdate
Right-click on officeupdate and select New > Dword (32-bit) Value.
Name it preventbinginstall
Set its value to 1

Closing Words
It is one thing to make customers aware of new functionality that they may not be aware of, another to make changes forcefully in third-party programs that may affect user workflows or preferences. It is likely going to backfire on Microsoft.
Users who set Bing as the default in Chrome don’t need the extension as they are all set up already. The extension won’t be installed in this case.
Now you: what is your take on Microsoft’s strategy to get customers to use Bing / Microsoft Search?
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Google wants to make third-party cookies obsolete

Google Chrome is the most popular web browser on the Internet even if you don’t look at all the other browser’s that use Chromium as their sources. Chrome gives Google telemetry data but also power to push technologies that it favors over others that it does not.
The company revealed plans to phase out third-party cookies recently on the official Chromium blog to increase “the privacy of web browsing”.  Google wants to address the need of “users, publishers and advertisers” before it starts to phase out support for third-party cookies in the Chrome web browser “within two years”.

Some web browsers started to block third-party cookies outright or implemented anti-tracking mechanisms to improve user privacy. Google states that it looked at those solutions and decided against implementing any of these because of “unintended consequences that can negatively impact both users and the web ecosystem”.
Tip: Chrome users may disable cookies on chrome://settings/content/cookies by setting “block third-party cookies” on the page to on.
One side-effect of blocking cookies outright is that other methods of tracking, fingerprinting in particular, became more widely used.
The company plans to launch privacy improvements in Chrome in February and anti-fingerprinting protections later in 2020. The improvements that will land in Chrome in February 2020 will limit insecure cross-site tracking.
Closing Words
Google is an advertising company first and foremost as the bulk of the company’s revenue comes from its advertisement branches. It is clear that there is a strong desire for privacy on the Internet and Google, though in a comfortable position in regards to Chrome currently, cannot just sit back and watch how other browsers torpedo the company’s revenue streams.
Sitting back would work for a while but it is likely that users would start to use other browsers, Chromium-based or not, more as time passes by thanks to better privacy protections and options.
If Google does not react now, it may not have the might that it has now thanks to Chrome to push certain changes.
Phasing out third-party cookies use on the Internet is one thing but whether that is really beneficial to users, advertisers and sites depends on potential replacements. It is possible that Google’s replacement will mostly be beneficial to the company itself and less or even disadvantageous to others.
Now You: What is your take on this?
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Google Chrome will support Windows 7 until at least July 2021

Microsoft will end support for its Windows 7 operating system next week on January 14, 2020. The last Patch Day for Windows 7 will provide users with a last round of security updates before support ends.
Enterprises and business customers may extend support by up to three years but need to pay Microsoft for that. Called Windows 7 Extended Security Update (ESU) program, it allows organizations to extend support and continue using the operating system for up to three years.
Windows 7 will continue to function even though no official security updates will be provided to Home systems anymore. The company 0Patch revealed plans to release unofficial security updates for Windows 7, and there may also be workarounds to get the ESU-only security updates installed on non-ESU versions of Windows 7.
As far as third-party software is concerned, it is often the case that support won’t end at the same date that official support for an operating system runs out. We have seen this when support for Windows XP ended back; Google supported Microsoft’s operating system until April 2016 even though it ran out of support in 2014. Other companies, Mozilla, Valve, Dropbox and others continued to support the operating system for a certain amount of time after official support end as well.
Now, it is Windows 7 that is reaching its end of support. The situation is very similar to the one when support for Windows XP ended. Windows 7 is loved by many and is used on many home and organizational devices still.

Google published information about its plans in regards to Windows 7 on the official Chrome Enterprise blog yesterday. The company revealed that Google Chrome will continue to support Windows 7 until at least July 15, 2021.
We will continue to fully support Chrome on Windows 7 for a minimum of 18 months from Microsoft’s End of Life date, until at least July 15, 2021.
Chrome users may continue to use the web browser on Windows 7 devices as the browser will receive updates just like Chrome for other versions of Microsoft’s Windows operating system that are still supported.
Mozilla has not revealed its plans yet but the organization has a good track record of supporting versions of Windows for a long time after support ended officially. Firefox users may also select to switch to Firefox ESR, the Extended Support Release, as it will likely be the version that will support Windows 7 for the longest officially.
Now You: Are you still using Windows 7?
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Google Chrome 80 introduces quieter notifications

Mozilla Firefox 72.0 was released yesterday and one of the changes in the release was that it toned down web notification requests. Now it is Google’s turn with something similar. From Chrome 80 onward, Chrome (and other Chromium-based browsers such as Vivaldi or Opera), Chrome users on the desktop and on mobile will experience less disruptions when it comes to notification requests.
Google plans to enable the quieter notifications feature automatically in certain cases but users of the web browser may also enable it manually directly.
As far as automatic enrollment is concerned, this happens under the following two conditions:

Users who deny notification requests frequently — Google does not reveal details — will be enrolled automatically to make notification requests less obnoxious.
Google will enroll users automatically if a site has a low engagement score.

Manual Option

Note: the change lands in Chrome 80 (the next stable version of Chrome scheduled for February 4, 2020) and is not available in previous versions. Chrome users who run development versions may enable the flag chrome://flags/#quiet-notification-prompts to make use of the feature right now.
Chrome users may furthermore enable the new feature manually in the following way:

Load chrome://settings/content/notifications in the browser’s address bar. You may alternatively navigate to Menu > Settings > Advanced > Site Settings > Notifications.
If “sites can ask to send notifications” is enabled, the new option “use quieter messaging (blocks notification prompts from interrupting you)” can be enabled.

Chrome users who have disabled notifications completely don’t need to do anything here. Those who have kept the option enabled can check the option to reduce the number of notification prompts.
Chrome displays “Notifications blocked” in the address bar for a brief moment and replaces the text with a bell icon that is crossed out.

A click on the text or the icon displays a prompt; it is not the notification prompt of the site. Instead, Chrome displays information that notification requests and notifications are blocked on the site.

Options to allow notifications for the site and to manage all notifications are provided in the prompt.
Closing Words
While I block notifications in all browsers because they don’t provide any value in my opinion, most users probably keep them enabled. The toning down that browser makers like Mozilla and Google have implemented or are about to implement are welcome changes.
Webmasters need to be aware that Google plans drastic measures for sites that abuse notifications. The company noted that it plans to “enable additional enforcement against abusive websites using web notifications for ads, malware or deceptive purposes”. While it does not mention these in the article, it is likely that a site’s visibility could be impacted in Google Search.
Now you: what is your take on the change?
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Google Chrome will display error codes on crash pages

Google is working on integrating error codes on error pages that the Chrome web browser displays when something goes wrong.
Google Chrome, like any other desktop browser, displays error pages when things go wrong. Error pages may be displayed if connections to sites cannot be established, when a tab crashes, or when there is a problem with the security of the connection.
The error pages may provide information on the error but that is not always the case. The dreaded Aw, Snap, “Something went wrong while displaying this webpage” for example does not reveal any useful information.
It is up to the user to figure out what happened and how to resolve the issue.
Google has implemented a change in the latest Chrome Canary version that may improve error troubleshooting. The browser displays an error code on the error page that may provide further information on the issue or may be of assistance when someone else is looking at fixing the issue.

The error code is displayed underneath the error message. Chrome users may load chrome://kill, an internal page that simulates an error, to see how it looks.
Not all error codes may reveal actionable information. While error codes such as “out of memory”, “wait timeout”, or “result code hung” may be useful, there are error codes such as “SIGFPE”, “SBOX_FATAL_MITIGATION”, or “STATUS_CALLBACK_RETURNED_WHILE_IMPERSONATING” that most users won’t find helpful at all.
The entire list of error code strings is available on the Chromium website. A public list of descriptions or explanations for each of the error codes is not available at the time of writing.
Chromium users may load chrome://crash/ to display a list of recent crashes of the web browser.
It is unclear at the time of writing if all or most Chromium-based web browsers will follow Google’s lead and display the error codes. Some, like the Canary version of the Chromium-based Microsoft Edge web browser, already display these codes as well.

Closing Words
Additional information about errors and issues that help troubleshoot problems are always welcome. The error codes that Chrome will display are for the most part not helpful to home users who try to find out why something did not work out as expected.
It may help support engineers and people on Google’s official support forum when it comes to figuring out why something produced an error.
Now you: what is your take on these error codes? Good mode or not useful at all? (via Deskmodder)
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Add a "real" search box to Google Chrome's New Tab Page

Google’s Chrome web browser displays a search field on the New Tab Page of the web browser by default. Users of the web browser may have noticed three things: first, that the search field is not displayed if most search engines are selected, second, that customization options are only provided if Google is selected as the search provider, and third, that the search field is fake.
Note: If you select Bing Search, you may notice that the search field is not fake. It works just like the search box on the Bing homepage.
Google placed the search field on Chrome’s New Tab Page in 2012 and has kept it there since. The search field’s sole purpose is to provide users with another option to run searches using Google Search. Activation does not return any search results, however. The only effect that a click or tap on the search field has is that the address bar field gets activated.

In other words: the search field redirects input to the address bar. Users could use the address bar right away instead and there would not be any difference.
Some users of the web browser may dislike the functionality. I dislike it because it offers no advantage over running searches directly from the address bar.
Google Chrome features an experimental flag that users may enable that turns the fake search field into a real search field.
Note that this works only if Google Search is the search provider in the Chrome browser.

Here is how that is done:

Load the following address by typing it in the Chrome address bar: chrome://flags/
Search for Real search box in New Tab Page. You may also skip the first two steps by loading chrome://flags/#ntp-realbox directly.
Set the status of the flag to Enabled.
Restart the Chrome browser.

When you open a New Tab page in Chrome after the restart and start to type in the search field on it, you will notice that it is now active and does not redirect to the address bar any longer. Google Chrome returns suggestions as you type based on the browsing history but also from Google Search.
Now You: what is your take on search fields on New Tab pages? (via Ask VG)
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