The most influential Google Chrome features in its history





Fourteen years after it was first launched, version 100 of Google Chrome is now available for download. It has 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 just got their first smartphones and web browsers were very important. Microsoft’s now defunct Internet Explorer (which then had the largest market share) and Mozilla Firefox were the main players. Then a search engine company called 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 have an impact on how web browsers function today.

Synchronize features

A screenshot shows sync features in Chrome
Some of the sync features of later Chrome releases.

If you have multiple PCs or Macs, you know that aligning your devices is a must. The web browser is the crucial part of that as it contains passwords, bookmarks and websites that you visit often. Well, if you take a trip down memory lane, you won’t believe that Chrome was first launched without some syncing features. Google has steadily added it to the web browser over the years, making it the modern version you use today.

Cross-device bookmark sync was first added in version 4 of Google Chrome in 2010. Password sync came in 2011 with Chrome version 10 in 2011, and history sync first came in version 16 of Chrome.

As simple as those sync features are, they are the foundation for what we have in 2022. Now Google Chrome even has a reading list feature, which allows you to save your favorite websites to read them later on different PCs, without having to email yourself a link or add it to your bookmarks.

The united omnibox

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

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

The Omnibox launched in 2010, but has evolved quite a bit since then. Chrome version 12 added the ability to launch Chrome apps by name. Then came spelling predictions and improvements in Chrome 27 and history-based search suggestions in Chrome 29.

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

Extensions and the Chrome Web Store

The original version of Chrome with the modern Web Store
The original version of Chrome with the modern Web Store.

Today, just about every browser has some form of extensions or apps that extend or modulate the browser’s functionality. But again, one of the things that always made Chrome unique was the “extra” features. These include the Chrome Web Store and extension support. Over the years, these have evolved to help shape Chrome into the popular browser it has become.

Google first added support for the Chrome Web Store with Chrome version 9. The idea at the time 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 much 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 got support for extensions with the version 4.0 release. Extensions weren’t new at the time, as Firefox and Internet Explorer supported it in previous releases, but the method Google used made it unique. Chrome uses HTML, CSS, and JavaScript code for its extensions, making it easy for developers to code browser add-ons. 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. But with Chrome version 28 in 2013, Google switched to the Blink engine. This engine sees contributions from major tech players such as Microsoft, Opera, and Adobe. This move was controversial at the time, but it helped with faster development speeds and reduced code complexity.

The privacy features

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

Remember when Chrome first got privacy features? It’s something that’s always in the news these days, but Google has always made privacy a focus of Chrome. 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 privacy features in Chrome that have been added over the years include protection against deceptive websites, password creation, and Google account security checks.

Apple has recently taken up the mantle of privacy concerns with the latest versions of Safari, but Chrome has always made privacy and security a selling point of its design.

The modern look

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

From the beginning, Google Chrome has prided itself on its lighter and less obtrusive user interface. which had fewer buttons and tools to get in the way of the content. That aesthetic and design philosophy has influenced virtually every web browser since.

But Chrome doesn’t look the same as when it first launched. Over the past few years it has received major redesigns. We can’t cover all of the redesigns, but the most prominent came with Chrome version 69. This release set the tone for how Chrome will look and feel 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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