Google has already announced that it would be dropping H.264 support from Chrome, but some other key players in the browser arena aren't backing down. Microsoft, of course, is standing behind MPEG-LA's codec -- and now it's making sure that Chrome users will still be able to view HTML5 video embeds which are encoded with it. The magic will be handled by a new browser add-on called Windows Media Player Extension for HTML5. No, it's not a full-on plug-in -- which is kind of what we were expecting, given Microsoft's affinity for NPAPI tomfoolery.
To add the extension to your Google Chrome install, just visit Microsoft's download page and agree to the alert you see above.
If you reload your Gmail tab, you should be prompted to enable the desktop notifications -- otherwise, head into Settings, scroll down to Desktop Notifications, and choose what kind of notifications you want. You can currently toggle chat, new mail, and new important mail -- but presumably, you'll be able to select which labels will produce notifications.
If you want more control over your Twitter stream, check out the Proxlet Chrome extension. Proxlet lets you easily mute any user (temporarily or forever), block any Twitter app, or filter out any hashtag. The most obvious use for Proxlet is filtering out app spam from the likes of Foursquare and Paper.li, but it's also great if your friends are tweeting from a conference you don't like or they suddenly pick up a hashtag meme that doesn't interest you.
The really fantastic thing about Proxlet is that it also works with some desktop and mobile apps, including TweetDeck Desktop, Twidroyd and Twitter for iPhone. The idea is so slick that it might not be a bad idea for Twitter to look at acquiring Proxlet or implementing some of these filters themselves. Sure, Twitter is supposed to be simple, but new use cases -- like app spam -- need new user tools, and Proxlet is one of the best new tools you can add to your arsenal.
Gmail interface tweaks tend to be all or nothing: you either keep the standard Gmail interface with all its bells, whistles and distractions, or you hide all the links and sidebar doodads at once. The Minimalist Gmail Chrome extension is different: it gives you control over 40+ individual elements of the Gmail interface, from the top bar all the way down to the footer.
Minimalist Gmail is mainly useful for hiding parts of the interface that don't do anything for you: the invites box (why is this still around, anyway?), the legal section in the footer, the links at the top to other Google sites, and virtually anything else you can think of. It's got other perks, too: you can replace the links in the Google Bar with custom links of your own. Mousing over each option will show you the part of the interface it affects, so you can see what you're about to hide.
Lifehacker calls Minimalist Gmail "the best Gmail tweaker for Chrome yet," and they're probably right. With this many individual options for fine-tuning, individual obsessives will find certainly find something to nitpick here, but the average user who's annoyed with Gmail clutter will absolutely love Minimalist Gmail.
Google made a minor tweak to the Gmail navigation links recently -- moving Photos into a more prominent spot and Reader into the More drop-down. While I wasn't particularly concerned (I've got Firefox hotkeys wired to most of my bookmarks for fast mouse-free access), the change created quite a stir on Twitter.
But as is usually the case, enthusiasts who don't want to accept changes on their favorite Web sites have already responded. If you want your Reader link back and you're using Google Chrome, grab the Put Reader Back extension. Once installed, just reload your Gmail tab to see the change.
In a strong, head-held-high missive, Adobe has detailed a new initiative to bring Flash local storage clearing to Web browser UIs. The new API, NPAPI ClearSiteData will let Firefox and Chrome users clear Flash's Local Shared Objects, or 'Flash cookies,' in the same way that you currently clear cookies and temporary Internet files.
LSOs are very commonly used throughout the Web, but unlike conventional cookies they're a little harder to delete. A lot of websites use them to track you across the Web, but they're also used by sites like YouTube to store your video preferences.
Google has just dropped a bomb shell: Chrome will no longer support H.264 HTML5 video playback. The open-sourced WebM (VP8) and Ogg Theora video codecs will be the only options for HTML5 video. H.264 will not be dropped immediately, but probably with the next stable build of Chrome.
Google cites plenty of damning reasons for the exiling of H.264. Open codecs are improving faster, thanks to the contributions of "dozens of developers"; open codecs are more readily adopted by browsers and hardware vendors; and most importantly, codecs like WebM and Theora are free. Free from patents, free from licensing fees; free to use however you like.
Mozilla stated a few months ago that Firefox would never support H.264, which now leaves just Internet Explorer 9 as the sole supporter of H.264 HTML5 video. IE9 also supports WebM, however, which means H.264 will hopefully just fade away into patent-encumbered nothingness -- or perhaps Flash, which will still support H.264 video, has finally found its HTML5-era niche.
In other news, frothy blogger John Gruber mentions that this will force publishers and broadcasters to use Flash, or force them to re-encode their content for WebM delivery. The fact is, these companies don't want to distribute their content via HTML5 video. Flash, with its DRM and P2P, is a far more suitable platform for commercial broadcasting. Flash also has the advantage of being universally installed -- again, let's not forget that Firefox never intended to support H.264, and has a much larger market share than Chrome.
Update: apparently Safari also has native support for H.264 video, via WebKit rendering engine.
When Google made the decision to introduce an in-tab bookmark manager for Chrome, it only made sense that other personal pages -- like your settings -- would move to tabs as well. A tabbed options page for Chrome began taking shape in July 2010, when we shared a video of the feature working in Chromium. Now, it's become the default in Chrome Canary.
It's just as easy to get around in the tabbed settings page and perhaps a little easier, since the search field allows you to find specific settings instantly -- and we do mean instant. As with Google Instant in the Omnibar, Chrome will load settings which match your input in real time in the righthand pane. The search function will even pull in portions of separate settings pages, which you can see in the screenshot after the break.
Chromapaper is a new Chrome web app that makes it easy to save pages to the popular read-it-later service Instapaper. Until today, it was called "Instapaper for Chrome," but because it's the work of an independent developer, Instapaper forced a name change to make it clear that this web app is unofficial. The name Instachrome was already taken by a similar extension, so Chromapaper it is.
Chromapaper has one feature that competing Instapaper extensions don't: offline reading in the browser. Instapaper can be used for simple bookmarking, but saving articles to read when you're not connected is its real strong suit, and Chromapaper is the first web app to bring that feature to Google Chrome. Just click the "offline sync" button to cache your saved Instapaper articles. When you're offline, fire up the Chromapaper app from your Chrome dashboard, and your articles will all be there.
Chromapaper doesn't add a toolbar icon, unforunately, so you'll have to use the old, reliable Instapaper bookmarklet to save articles.
And as you can see in the screenshot, there's an extension that does a nice job of integrating the contents of your bookmarks bar. Install "Bookmark list in context menu" and you've got two-click access to your favorite sites. It's a nice alternative to the horizontal bookmark bar, especially on smaller screens where every pixel counts. As its author points out, it's also a handy way to open bookmarks in full screen mode -- when there are no toolbars to click on.
One handy new context menu extension is Apps list, which (you guessed it) displays your installed Chrome Web Apps and lets you launch them without calling up the new tab page. Your apps are listed in alphabetical order, and you can choose to add a disabled apps shortcut -- which zips you to chrome://extensions and focuses on disabled items. It would be nice if the page filtered only disabled apps and extensions, but that's a limitation in Chrome -- not this extension.
Apps list also provides shortcuts to manage your extensions and jump to the Chrome Web Store. If you don't want to clutter your browser actions area with one of the app launchers we posted previously for Chrome, Apps list might be just what you're looking for.
Version 2.0.4 of the extension has been made available in the Chrome Web Store, and this version brings a couple of new and interesting features: recommendations and 'infinite scroll'. Recommendations for You has been designed to make it easier to see what tracks the users you follow are enjoying. The Noted tab will now display the songs other users have liked but you haven't noted yet.
Also new is infinite scrolling in list view -- which was previously limited to 50 songs per page. Passwords can now be reset from the settings page and there are many bug fixes and under-the-hood improvements as well.
Proving the Old World can still be positively refreshing when it comes to some things, the unstoppable decline of Internet Explorer in the motherland has finally left Firefox with the European pole position.
Internet Explorer, across all versions, lost about 8% of its market share between December 2009 and 2010. Firefox, on the other hand, by losing just 3% of its share, has ended up on top. The biggest winner, and seemingly the only browser to gain market share, is Google's fleet-footed Chrome browser, which began the year at 5% and ended at almost 15%.
In the rest of the world, Internet Explorer is still by far and away the most popular browser (at least according to StatCounter). In fact, the only other territory where Firefox is in the lead is Antarctica...
2010 has been one heck of a year for software development. We've seen scores of great new apps released and major updates for many of our favorites. "Release early, iterate often" has become the norm -- with alpha and beta downloads coming at us fast and 0.1 becoming the new 1.0.
The speed of change with some apps has been mind-boggling at times. Can you believe that Google Chrome's stable channel began this year at version 3? Let's take a look at some of our favorite apps which released major updates or debuted in 2010!
It works very similar to the voice input system that Google has built into Android. A microphone icon will show up in your browser's extensions area, as well as near any HTML5-powered search box on websites that it can be used for. To search for "kittens", the developer says, just click on the microphone and say "kittens". To search Google Images for kittens, say "google images kittens". To search Wikipedia, say "wikipedia" followed by your query.
Voice Search can search using the following sites by default: Google, Wikipedia, YouTube, Bing, Yahoo, DuckDuckGo and Wolfram Alpha. However, you can also add other search engines that you like.
This is at a very experimental stage at the moment, and as such you may find that you need to start Chrome with the flag --enable-voice-input for the add-on to even work. Instructions on how to add the flag are available on the app's page in the Chrome Web Store, which is also where you can download Voice Search for Chrome for free.
Fans of Quora, the web's most useful and addictive question-and-answer site, now have a new way to get their fix: a Quora Chrome extension. Developer Andrew Brown recently posted his spiffy Chrome add-on in response to (what else?) a Quora question. It adds a Quora button to your toolbar, giving you one-click access to the Quora search field, as well as showing your current number of unread Quora notifications.
Brown says that he's working on an option to pop up your actual notifications when you click on the toolbar icon, and he's even posted a work-in-progress screenshot of what those notifications will look like. For now, you can install the extension or follow its development via a GitHub repo.
60,559,541 (yes, that's more than 60 million) tabs were opened by those who had installed Chrome for a Cause in the four days that it counted. This number of tabs apparently amounted to raising $1 million (Google never mentioned how much each tab was worth), so it looks like each tab you opened, while having the extension installed, resulted in a contribution of about 1.65 cents.
Since you were able to choose which charity the money you helped raise would go to at the end of each day, here's how the $1 million will be split: $245,278 will go to planting trees in the Atlantic Forest, an endangered Brazilian tropical forest; $232,791 will help get clean water for communities in developing nations by building wells; $112,078 will help build shelter for poor families in Latin America; $267,336 will fund vaccinations against meningitis in Africa; $142,518 will go toward publishing books by local writers and illustrators, that will be donated to schools and libraries in Africa and Asia.
The donations will be made at the end of the year. You can keep the extension installed and, if so, it will notify you about future opportunities to work together with other Chrome users for good causes.
These days, you no longer have to be an esoteric nerd to sport a dual-monitor setup. Heck, many of us use three monitors, and some have been known to use entire walls. Now, when you have such a setup and try to watch a YouTube video in full-screen, you quickly discover an irritating fact: While you're watching a video in full-screen on one monitor, any click on another monitor collapses the video back to its tiny windowed size.
There are ways to get around this by replacing specific Flash DLLs with tweaked versions, but really, who wants to mess with system files like this? Window Expander for Chrome is a far less invasive solution. It adds a button to Chrome's Omnibar which you can click to display a full-screen window with the video you're currently watching. Since Chrome has so little, well, chrome, it's the next best thing to full-screen. Window Expander is simple, and it works. Go give it a try!
If opening Google Chrome's new tab page just to fire up an app feels a bit too clunky for your liking, check out a new extension from Google itself: App Launcher.
Once installed, you'll have access to a drop down menu which lists all your apps in alphabetical order -- unlike previously reviewed AppJump Launcher, which doesn't appear to list them in any particular order. Google's offering also features built-in search -- which could be handy if you've been able to find a whole pile of apps you decided to keep installed. Keyboard navigation is supported as well, allowing you to arrow up and down and tap enter to launch.
The extension currently lacks an options screen -- which would be a great place for Google to slap in another missing feature: hotkey support.
Install App Launcher for Google Chrome