The most influential Google Chrome features in its history

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Fourteen years after its launch, version 100 of Google Chrome is now available for download. It’s been quite a journey and many features have been added along the way that have shaped the browser as we know it.

In 2008, many people had just received their first smartphone and web browsers were of the utmost importance. Microsoft’s now-defunct Internet Explorer (which then held the largest market share) and Mozilla Firefox were the major players. Then a search engine company named Google entered the space in 2008 and changed the game forever.

Even if you don’t use Chrome today, many of the most important features of the modern web browser started with Chrome. These are the ones that still impact how web browsers work today.

Synchronization features

Some of the sync features of later versions of Chrome.

If you have multiple PCs or Macs, you know that syncing your devices to match each other is a must. The web browser is the essential part of it, as it contains the passwords, bookmarks and the websites that you visit frequently. Well, taking a trip down memory lane, you won’t believe that Chrome first launched without some syncing features. Google has steadily added them to the web browser over the years, helping it become the modern version you use today.

Synchronization of bookmarks across devices was first added in version 4 of Google Chrome in 2010. Password synchronization arrived in 2011 with Chrome version 10 in 2011and history synchronization arrived for the first time in Chromium version 16.

As simple as these sync features are, they form the basis of what we have in 2022. Now Google Chrome even has a Reading List feature, allowing you to save your favorite websites to read later. on different PCs, without having to send you an e-mail. link it or add it to your favorites.

The Unified Omnibox

A screenshot shows Chrome version 5.
Chrome version 5 running on Windows 10.

Many web browsers today allow you to search the web from the bar where you enter your URL. We take that for granted now, but having a separate search bar and address bar was standard before Google Chrome introduced it in version 6.0.

The Omnibox was launched in 2010, but it has evolved a lot since then. Chrome version 12 added the ability to launch Chrome apps by name. This was later followed by spelling predictions and improvements in Chrome 27, and history-based search suggestions in Chrome 29.

Until today, the Omnibox is the central way to use Chrome. Not only can you combine your web searches and URLs, but you can also use it to perform quick calculations, define words, create a custom search engine for a website, create new documents in Google services, and even more.

Extensions and Chrome Web Store

The original version of Chrome running the Modern Web Store
The original version of Chrome running the modern Web Store.

Almost all browsers these days have some form of extensions or apps that extend or modulate the functionality of the browser. But again, one of the things that always made Chrome unique was its “extra” features. These include the Chrome Web Store and extension support. Over the years, these have evolved to help make Chrome the popular browser it has become.

Google first added support for the Chrome Web Store with Chrome version 9. The idea back then was to add features to Chrome and improve the web. You can find Chrome apps that open as websites, games that open in Chrome, and more. Google stopped accepting Chrome web apps in March 2020, but the Web Store is still the place to find extensions.

A screenshot shows the Google Chrome Web Store.
The original Google Chrome Web Store

Speaking of extensions, Chrome first supported extensions with version 4.0. Extensions were nothing new at the time, as Firefox and Internet Explorer supported them in previous versions, but the method Google used was what made it unique. Chrome uses HTML, CSS, and JavaScript code for its extensions, which has made it easy for developers to code add-on experiences for the browser. That’s why there are nearly 137,345 Chrome extensions today, according to backlinko.com.

As for the engine that powers all these experiences, it has always been WebKit, a browser engine developed by Apple. Yet with version 28 of Chrome in 2013, Google switched to the Blink engine. This engine sees contributions from major technology players such as Microsoft, Opera and Adobe. This decision was controversial at the time, but it helped to speed up development speeds and reduce code complexity.

Privacy Features

A screenshot shows Incognito mode in Chrome.
Incognito mode in the original version of Google Chrome.

Do you remember when Chrome first got privacy features? It’s something that’s still going strong these days, but Google has always made privacy a Chrome priority. In 2012, Chrome version 23 introduced a Do Not Track feature, which we still have today.

Not to mention Incognito mode, a part of Chrome since its launch that allows you to browse the web without saving cookies. Other Chrome privacy features added over the years include protection against deceptive websites, password creation, and Google Account security controls.

Apple has taken care of privacy issues recently with its latest versions of Safari, but Chrome has always made privacy and security a selling point of its design.

The modern look

A screenshot shows version 69 of Chrome running on Windows.
Chrome version 69 running on Windows 10.

Right from the start, Google Chrome prided itself on its lighter, less intrusive user interface. which had fewer buttons and tools to get in the way of the content. This aesthetic and design philosophy has influenced just about every web browser since.

But Chrome doesn’t look the same as when it launched. Over the past two years, it has undergone major overhauls. We can’t go into all the redesigns, but the biggest one came with version 69 of Chrome. This release set the stage for the look and feel of Chrome in 2022 as part of Google’s material design. It included a softer look with more rounded shapes and icons and a fresher color palette.

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