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Google's Chrome browser is 5 years old already

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September 6, 2013

Time sure flies these days. Case in point-- Google's Chrome browser has turned five already, if you can believe it. And Google has given it the mutant offspring of site-specific browsers as a small bonus.

Chrome's launch five years ago was marked by the publication of a comic book penned by comics deconstructor Scott McCloud. At the time of the launch, some were fascinated by the comic, which was the kind of daring thing Google did in those days when “Don't be Evil” was possible to take seriously.

Little did we all know at the time, but the author's name was a sneaky act of nominative determinism as Chrome has since morphed into an operating system that tries to do away with locally-stored data applications and instead favours the cloud.

Or did favour the cloud, as Google has today announced what it's calling a new type of web application that runs in Chrome but gets its own Window and works better when devices are offline.

Google is saying that this style of app is new, as they are not radically different from single-site browsers (SSBs) delivered by Mozilla's project Prism back in 2007 and Chrome's own application shortcuts feature.

Then as now, SSBs allow a web app to be given its own discrete window that behaves like a conventional application, inasmuch as it gets its own process and appears when users ALT-TAB to bring a window to the foreground.

The new apps work both online or offline, can happily save to Google Drive, sync saved content between devices and can be invoked from a new launcher.

The latter piece of software is for Windows and Chromebooks only, which will irritate Mac users who have had to do without application shortcuts since Chrome's release (and have often wondered why they're excluded). Google now promises this new set of tools will be available for Apple users real soon now.

Another difference this time around is that third party apps from the Chrome Web Store can run in SSB mode. Such quibbles should not distract from the fact Google has, in five years, gone from zero market share in desktop browsers to market leadership at over 30 percent.

Along the way, it has won hundreds of millions of users, no small feat when one considers that Internet Explorer is installed on just about every PC sold and Chrome is nearly always a discretionary download.

It has also proven a lot more secure than its rivals, welcome news for everyone, especially when you consider the several security issues with IE.

Of course, history has yet to decide whether Chrome could have succeeded without Google's enormous reach into so many corners of the internet, or if Chrome hastened the growth of that influence.

One still suspects future historians seeking to answer that question will spend more time reviewing the fate of Android than that of Google's new breed of applications.

In other hi tek news

More than eleven years after work began on the first version of the new television connectivity standard, the people behind the HDMI (High Definition Multimedia Interface) standard have taken the wraps off release 2.0.

But this is happening a year later than previously anticipated. On one hand, HDMI 2.0 is essentially nothing more than squeezing more bits per second through its own cable media-- 18 Gb/s, up from HDMI 1.0’s much slower 3.96 Gb/s, and HDMI 1.3’s 10.2 Gb/s.

The extra bandwidth will also allow HDMI 2.0 to carry video images at 50 Hz and 60 Hz frame rates. HDMI 1.4 currently allows 3840 x 2160 pixels at 24 to 30Hz or 4096 x 2160 pixels at 24 Hz.

4K color depths of up to 48 bits per pixel can now be supported as well with HDMI 2.0. The bus' clock rate rises from 165 MHz in HDMI and 340 MHz in HDMI 1.3 to 600 MHz, raising the per-channel TMDS (Transition Minimized Differential Signaling) rate from 1.65 Gb/s and 3.4 Gb/s to 6 Gbps.

Like HDMI 1.4, version 2.0 supports 3D video, and is able to host Ethernet networking traffic and has an audio return channel.

The new specification makes room for 32 separate audio channels, adds support for dynamic lip-syncing and extends the range of device control commands that HDMI’s CEC (Consumer Electronics Control) mechanism can support.

To be sure, CEC routes remote control commands from one device to another, allowing your TV remote control to operate your Blu-Ray player or your DVR, for example.

HDMI 2.0 is compatible with previous versions of the standard so that new consumer equipment can easily connect to old.

The cables remain the same, as do the connectors, but you’ll need Cat 2 (ie, High Speed) HDMI cables to take advantage of the higher bandwidth.

Work began on HDMI 2.0 back in January 2012. It promised the specification would be complete and ready to publish by the end of the year, but that deadline was missed. This year, the HDMI Forum promised a first-half release, but that has clearly slipped back to the second half of 2013.

The timing of the new specification is appropriate-- the 'IFA Show' opens this week in Berlin and is expected to play host to the new 4K TVs that manufacturers are expected to bring to Europe in 2014 as 4K broadcasts begin.

Source: Google.

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