Google is working on software that will improve Chrome (Windows, Mac) during moments when people lose their network connection by letting the browser load its own stored copy of previously visited Web pages.
Google programmer Randy Smith said yesterday he's added support for "offline cache mode" to Chrome. It's only on the developer version of the browser so far, and it's disabled by default, but the flag to enable it says the feature will let Chrome load Web pages from the browser's local cache if the online version isn't available. That could help when reloading pages or restarting the browser with no network.
If you're interested in the feature and have the Chrome Canary or developer versions -- neither as well tested as Chrome beta or stable, of course -- here are CNET's instructions on how to enable offline cache mode.
Offline usability been a sore spot with browsers for years, and it becomes more prominent as Google tries to persuade people that its browser-based Chrome OS is ready for mainstream use. The Internet is spreading ever farther, but it's by no means everywhere, even when technical issues don't bring it down temporarily.
Smith cautioned that with the feature, people will see out-of-date "stale" information if an old version of a Web page is cached on the computer, and they won't get a warning about it.
And he's looking for feedback about where the idea is a problem.
"I'm most interested in Web sites for which this produces a bad user experience (i.e. ones for which you wish you had gotten the error page instead of the cache data)," Smith said. "I expect for most Web sites some data will be better than no data, but I'd like to know about the corner cases for which that isn't true."
Judging from the discussion about the patch, it seems likely that Google wants to add the feature to Chrome for iOS, too.
Google spokeswoman Lily Lin declined to comment on the work. "As you know, we're always experimenting with new features in Chrome but have nothing to announce at this time," she said.