Thanks to Apple’s introduction of the WKWebView rendering engine beginning with the iOS 8 version of its mobile operating system, Google said it has been able to update its Chrome Web browser so it can perform far better on iPhones and iPads. Rolling out today, version 48 of Google Chrome for iOS is faster, more responsive and far more stable than previous generations of the browser, according to Google.
The switch to WKWebView from the previous iOS rendering engine has enabled Google to reduce Chrome browser crashes for Apple device users by 70 percent, according to a blog post by Google software engineer Stuart Morgan. Even Google’s “Aw, Snap!” error page loads faster when the renderer does crash, he noted.
Changing to WKWebView has also improved the performance of Chrome for iOS in terms of support for HTML 5, Morgan said, increasing the browser’s score on the HTML5test page from 391 to 409.
A Switch to Out-of-Process Rendering
Writing on the Chromium blog today, Morgan said that Apple’s introduction of WKWebView with iOS 8 gave Google a new opportunity to improve Chrome rendering on Apple devices to better match the browser’s performance on other operating systems.
“Out-of-process rendering was one of Chrome’s earliest innovations, and we’ve always wanted to bring its benefits to our iOS users,” Morgan said. “Unfortunately UIWebView, the component used to render Web pages on iOS, is in-process, so that’s never been possible before.”
Since iOS 8 was released in September, Google developers have been working to bring the advantages of WKWebView to Chrome for Apple users. However, “migrating to the new framework brought significant challenges,” Morgan said. An October 2014 post on the Google Code pages for Chromium developers noted the existence of technical limitations with WKWebView that meant “we can’t simply drop it in as a replacement.”
Cleanup Tool, Data Saver Improvements
In a separate post on the Chrome blog today, product manager AbdelKarim Mardini said the latest update also provides improved security for browser users.
For example, improvements to the Chrome Cleanup Tool — which scans for and removes software that could interfere with the browser’s performance — include easier viewing of extensions. The new version displays all extensions to the right of the browser’s URL bar, allowing users to right-click and remove any extensions they don’t want.
A new Data Saver extension also uses compression technology to reduce the amount of data needed to access and display Web sites while browsing on a laptop or PC. The technology is the same used in Chrome for Android’s Data Saver mode, Mardini said.
“If you’re using your computer at a library or coffee shop with spotty public Wi-Fi, it’s helpful to be able to manage your data usage,” Mardini said. “Clicking on ‘Details’ will tell how much data you’ve saved, and which Web sites are scooping up most data.”