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Chrome 17 Beta Starts Loading Before You Finish Typing

The latest version of Google's browser also protects better against malicious downloads.

Version 17 of Google's popular Chrome browser entered the beta channel on Thursday, packed with an array of new features designed to improve the software's speed and security.

Perhaps most notable is the fact that Chrome can now start loading some Web pages in the background, even before the user has finished typing the URL into the browser's “Omnibox” search and address bar.

“If the URL auto-completes to a site you’re very likely to visit, Chrome will begin to prerender the page,” explained Google Software Engineer Dominic Hamon in a post yesterday on the Google Chrome Blog. “Prerendering reduces the time between when you hit Enter and when you see your fully-loaded web page--in some cases, the web page appears instantly.”

Scrutinizing Executables

New security features, meanwhile, include improvements to Chrome’s Safe Browsing technology that are designed to help protect users from a wider variety of malware attacks.

Until now, Chrome has focused primarily on protecting against sites that exploit the user's computer without requiring any user interaction, Hamon noted. Today, however, there are a growing number of malicious websites that try to convince the user to download and run harmful files--sometimes even claiming that those files are free anti-virus products, he added.Accordingly, Chrome 17 is now better able to analyze executable files that the user downloads, including “.exe” and “.msi” files.

'Chrome Will Warn You'

“If a file you download is known to be bad, or is hosted on a website that hosts a relatively high percentage of malicious downloads, Chrome will warn you that the file appears to be malicious and that you should discard it,” Hamon explained.

Other improvements made in the Chrome 17 beta--technically version 17.0.963.26 of the software--include new extensions APIs and numerous smaller changes, according to a separate blog post by Google's Jason Kersey.

The new Chrome 17 beta version is now available as a free download for users of Windows XP, Vista, and 7. Meanwhile, the current stable version of the browser--Chrome 16--was just updated with fixes for three high-risk security vulnerabilities, Google says.

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