Hello Chrome 12, good-bye Google Gears

Google pushes Chrome 12 out across its stable browser channel, with hardware acceleration improvements and new security tweaks, and sounds the expected death-knell for Google Gears.

Google updated its stable browser channel today, pushing Chrome 12 to its widest base of users. Chrome 12 stable (download for Windows | Mac | Linux) doesn't contain any surprises from the Chrome 12 beta that was released a month ago, but it does bring more hardware acceleration support and better browsing security. It also marks the end of public support for Google Gears, the offline Web app tool.

The security improvements are the biggest change in version 12. In addition to 14 security holes getting patched, including five marked high priority, Google has expanded its "Safe Browsing" technology to include malicious file protection. It won't block all malicious file downloads, but it does do a better job of examining your downloads before they reach your hard drive. In the blog post announcing the new Chrome release, Google was careful to address privacy concerns and point out that the enhancements don't track which sites you've been downloading files from.

Another security change adds the user's ability to delete Flash cookies. This makes sense, given that Flash has come baked into Chrome for some time.

The hardware acceleration has less of an immediate impact, although it can be used immediately and really will affect Web browsing down the line as more and more people get computers with powerful graphics cards that the browser can leverage to render content, especially video, faster. In Chrome 12, 3D CSS gets some love, and if you're running Windows Vista or Mac OS X 10.6 or above, you can watch this Chrome Experiment provided by Google, which shows how 3D CSS can be used to rotate the video, change its size, and add a playlist.

Minor changes in Chrome 12 include the ability to launch Web apps from the location bar; giving sync its own settings page, as other options have received over the past few months; improved screen reader support; and for Mac users, a better warning using Command-Q to close the browser. The full changelog can be read here.

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