What's New in Chrome and ChromeOS 107

Photo:  Konstantin Savusia (Shutterstock)
Photo: Konstantin Savusia (Shutterstock)

Google updates Chrome like clockwork. Each month, you can expect a new version of the browser, sporting new features and changes for all of us to enjoy. Chrome 107, in particular, focuses the changes on Chromebooks, with ChromeOS 107, including a Stage Manager-like camera feature and the ability to close your laptop without putting it to sleep.

New Chrome 107 features

First up, let’s take a look at Chrome 107, Google’s latest update to the web browser you’re probably using right now. How-To Geek’s Joe Fedewa took a look under the hood to see what new features and changes you can expect when you hit that “Update” button. That said, this update was relatively light.

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Google’s new CDM is officially here

Chrome 107 is the first version of the browser to include Google’s new CDM (Content Decryption Module). In short, a CDM is what allows DRM-restricted content to play in a browser. Without the CDM, you wouldn’t be able to watch services like Netflix, since they couldn’t verify you had the right to watch their content.

Chrome and Chromium-based browsers currently use the Widevine CDM, but it will soon be retired in favor of Google’s new version. Chrome 107 is the start of this rollout, while other Chromium browsers will receive the updated CDM Nov. 15. By Dec. 6, the existing Widevine CDM will no longer work; make sure to update your browser by then to continue watching DRM content on the web.

User-agent reduction

Google is marching on with its user-agent reduction plan. User-agent reduction aims to reduce the amount of user data in the “user-agent string,” which typically allows servers and networks to see your application, OS version, and other identifying information. Trackers can use this information for fingerprinting, in which they build profiles of you to follow you across your browsing activity.

With Chrome 107, Google has entered “Phase 5" of this plan. The big takeaway for us is this update helps protect our identities online just a bit better.

New ChromeOS 107 features

With this update cycle, Google was more focused on Chromebooks, which is exciting for those of us out there with ChromeOS machines. Thanks to Chrome Unboxed, we have our first look at what’s new:

Camera framing

Any Chromebook user with a relatively new iPad will welcome this change. ChromeOS 107 offers Camera Framing for compatible devices, a feature that uses software to track your head movements during video calls. It’s similar to Apple’s Center Stage, and makes it easier to engage with people when moving around. If your Chromebook supports it, you’ll see a pop-up alert to activate the feature after updating to ChromeOS 107. It will also appear as a quick-settings option.

Close your Chromebook without it sleeping

If you are the administrator of your Chromebook, you can choose to disable the feature that automatically puts the device to sleep when you close the lid. If you ever need to close up your Chromebook for transport, but need to keep certain processes running in the background, this is the feature for you.

Upgrades to virtual desks

With ChromeOS 107, Google introduces some great upgrades to virtual desks. First is the ability to merge desks. If you find some of your virtual desks to be a bit redundant, merging them is a quick solution to clean things up. Instead of just the “X” you see to close a desk in overview mode, you will now see a merge icon that moves that desk to the one to its left.

Also new is the ability to save desks for later, perfect for those times you want to clear a desk temporarily, but not lose its contents. The new “Save desk for later” button in overview mode can preserve what you were doing for a later time.

Long-press to access secondary keys

Chromebooks will soon have the ability to access secondary keys, like accents and special characters, by long-pressing corresponding keys. This feature is currently in testing in Chrome 107, but you can activate its flag to try it out right now. Enter the following into your browser: chrome://flags#enable-cros-diacritics-on-physical-keyboard-longpress then hit enter. Enable the flag, restart the browser, then try long-pressing different keys to see what happens.

Look out for privacy indicators

This feature was actually spotted by How-To Geek, and it’s a welcome addition to ChromeOS. Like macOS, ChromeOS will soon show privacy indicators to let you know when an app is using your webcam or microphone. You’ll soon be able to try it out via a flag in the Canary channel, which means you’ll need to download Chrome Canary if you haven’t done so already.


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