Only a week after Google upgraded the stable version of Chrome to 11, the company bumped its beta users to version 12 beta last night. Google Chrome 12 beta (download for Windows | Mac | Linux) pushed a moderate range of under-the-hood improvements to Chrome beta users, including better hardware acceleration, stronger privacy controls, and slightly safer file downloads. It also killed support for Google Gears, a move the company announced back in March.
The new beta includes two security improvements. Flash-based local shared objects, which are bits of Web sites stored locally on your computer, can now be deleted from within Chrome's settings. In the past, you would have to use a special online tool from Adobe to remove them.
The second security enhancement that Chrome has expanded is security algorithms that check Web sites for malicious content to downloads. The browser will now natively prevent some malicious downloads from being saved on your computer. Note that this is not a full-powered replacement for your security software.
Improved hardware acceleration in Chrome 12 beta comes in the form of support for 3D CSS, which means that the browser will now leverage the processing power of your computer's graphics card when handling 3D animations written in CSS. This requires your graphics card drivers to be up to date.
Another change is built-in preliminary support for screen readers, which are programs that help the visually impaired by reading aloud what's on the screen when moving the mouse. The support includes readers such as JAWS, NVDA, and VoiceOver.
If Chrome 12 development stays on schedule, these improvements are expected to make it to the stable release about one month from now. The full Chrome changelog is available here.