Chrome Update Lets You Speak to Google
Google has kept the latest update for its Chrome browser pretty quiet, but it adds a number of features that will please both security junkies and casual users. Chrome 27 fixes 14 major security vulnerabilities, speeds up website load times and adds a voice search similar to what Android users have come to expect.
While they may not be the most glamorous part of the Chrome update, the 14 security fixes are arguably the most important. Google ranked 10 of these vulnerabilities as high-risk, including potential misuse of the program's memory cache after using widgets, the developer-friendly Pepper plugin or Chrome's media loader.
Google rewarded outside security experts who discovered these issues with cash incentives between $1,000 and $2,000. The most generous prize, however, went to an investigator who discovered a vulnerability in Chrome's Web audio.
Because many users have not yet updated to Chrome 27, Google has not yet revealed the details (for fear of giving exploiters ideas), but Finnish security researcher Atte Kettunen earned an oddly specific $3,133.70 ("31337" is Internet junkie speak for "elite") for his efforts.
More relevant to everyday users are the improvements to speed and voice search. Google has done some back-end work to improve Chrome's speed, estimating that websites now load an average of 5 percent faster.
The other major innovation is Chrome's voice search. Android users are already familiar with the little red microphone icon that allows users to save precious finger muscles by speaking their search queries instead. By visiting Google's homepage and clicking the small microphone icon next to the search box, users can now ask questions or just speak search terms. [See also: The 10 Biggest Online Security Myths And How to Avoid Them]
Most users will probably find the voice search functional but mundane. It offers no special features over simply typing in queries, and although the speech accuracy was accurate in our trials, this feature may vary by accent or be less useful for those with a tendency to mispronounce words. On the other hand, slow typists or disabled users will find voice search to be an invaluable boon.
Chrome 27 introduces a few other small tweaks, including improvements for the developer-centric "chrome.syncFilesystem API" kit and a new Adobe Flash build.
While Chrome will self-update if given a few days, users who just can't wait to give voice search a spin can click on "About Google Chrome" for the option to update right away. Now you, too, can discover Barack Obama's age or who played Tasha Yar on "Star Trek: The Next Generation" without resorting to something as pedestrian as a keyboard.