(Credit: Screenshot: Download.com/Tom McNamara)

Both Google Chrome and Mozilla Firefox use a "rapid release" system where they roll out frequent updates containing a handful of changes, rather than holding off for one or two big updates a year. As a result, we first spotted some changes coming to Google Chrome in the "Canary" testing version just a few weeks ago, and they're already slated for Chrome 69, due for wide release on September 4.

SEE: How to beef up your Chrome and Firefox security in 2018

We didn't forecast more limitations on Adobe Flash, however. With Chrome 69, the browser will ask you to confirm when you want to view Flash content on a particular website -- every time you re-open the browser. Meaning, there's no set-it-and-forget-it function like there used to be, either globally or on a per-site basis.

This won't inconvenience as many users as you might think, though; Google claims that less than 10 percent of Chrome customers use Flash on a daily basis at this point. YouTube's switch to HTML5 in 2015 probably contributed to this shift; as of May this year, it was serving 1.8 billion active users a month, making it one of the most popular destinations on the Internet.

Flash used to be a near-universal way to stream videos and games embedded in a web browser, but a continual flow of security exploits and concerns about its proprietary nature left the Internet collectively looking for safer and open-source container alternatives like HTML5. Apple has never even bothered to support Flash in iOS, but Google will continue to support it until Chrome 87 comes out in 2020. Microsoft also intends to end Flash support in Windows that same year.

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How does the Material Design refresh feel?

While the changes with Flash are going on mostly under the hood, there's the rest of the vehicle to consider, and the changes to Chrome's look and feel are some of the biggest that it's gotten in years. Gone are the trapezoid-shaped tabs, the blank New Tab button, and even the squared-off address bar. It's all about roundness now, plus the address bar doesn't have a clear outline like it did before.

Now the address just has a darker shade to indicate its boundaries, and there's a "+" button to open a new tab (or you can continue to press Ctrl+T in Windows, or Command+T on a Mac). The user currently logged into Chrome also gets their own profile pic that you can click on for shortcuts to the browser's built-in password manager, address book, and payment wallet.

On the whole, Chrome 69 feels lighter and more forward-looking, but since the visual updates deliberately take up very little screen space, it's unlikely to rock your world. If you want to check it out yourself, we've got the download for the beta version of Chrome that contains all the changes.

The takeaways

  1. Google is on the verge of releasing version 69 of their Chrome web browser, which brings with it a refreshed interface and additional restrictions on Flash content.
  2. Google and others remain committed to dropping Flash support completely in 2020.

Also see

Tom McNamara is a Senior Editor for CNET's Download.com. He mainly covers Windows, mobile and desktop security, games, Google, streaming services, and social media. Tom was also an editor at Maximum PC and IGN, and his work has appeared on CNET, PC Gamer, MSN.com, and Salon.com. He's also unreasonably proud that he's kept the same phone for more than two years.