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InfoQ Homepage News Chrome 76 Shipped With PWA Installation, Stealthier Incognito Mode, Extension Tracking

Chrome 76 Shipped With PWA Installation, Stealthier Incognito Mode, Extension Tracking

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Google recently released Google Chrome 76. Chrome 76 makes it easier to install Progressive Web Apps (PWAs) on the desktop, disables a commonly used Incognito Mode detection technique, and allows users to track extension activities.

Users visiting web sites which meet the PWA installability criteria will see an install button in the omnibox. Clicking the button triggers a prompt to install the PWA.

PWA developers may listen for the appinstalled event and detect PWA installation. Additionally, PWA developers may also replace the default installation prompt with their own by listening for the beforeinstallprompt event. Google mentions a few patterns by which developers can promote their PWAs.

With Chrome 76, websites can no longer detect the Incognito Mode by making a FIleSystem API request, which is rejected in Incognito Mode. Some websites, like the New York Times, have used this technique to prevent visitors who are in incognito mode from bypassing their paywalls on the web or the limitations on the amount of free articles. Google recommends websites to require readers to log in rather than working around the Incognito Mode:

Sites that wish to deter meter circumvention have options such as reducing the number of free articles someone can view before logging in, requiring free registration to view any content, or hardening their paywalls.
Our News teams support sites with meter strategies and recognize the goal of reducing meter circumvention, however any approach based on private browsing detection undermines the principles of Incognito Mode.

Chrome 76 also facilitates checking extension activities. The feature can be enabled by running Chrome with the --enable-extension-activity-logging flag. After doing so, users can navigate to the extension panel (Chrome menu > More tools > Extensions). By clicking on the Details tab for an extension, users should see a new View Activity log section, which leads to a History tab containing a list of activities performed by the extension. While the list of activities may be hard to comprehend for normal users, the list can be exported to a JSON file for careful examination.

Chrome 76 additionally implements 43 security fixes, features changes for web developers, such as Web Payments API improvements. Some web features are removed or deprecated, while the developer tools also benefit from additional functionalities.

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