Chrome 70 released with Windows web app support and option to disable controversial login


Progressive Web App support added for Windows

Illustration by Alex Castro / The Verge

Chrome 70, the latest version of Google’s browser, is rolling out now on Windows, Mac, and Linux computers. The update sees Google reverse some of the controversial changes it made with the last version, by allowing users to stop the browser from automatically signing into their Google account after logging into one of the search giant’s apps. Chrome 70 also brings support for Progressive Web Apps, or PWAs, on Windows.

It’s rare to see a controversial version of a web browser, but Chrome 69 was exactly that. Shortly after release, people started to notice that the browser was unexpectedly signing into their Google accounts. This functionality, which stores your browser history, bookmarks, and passwords on Google’s servers when the Sync feature is turned on (which Google prompts users to do) is a big privacy concern for many.

Chrome prompts users to turn on Sync after adding a new user.
 Image: Google

Buried within the settings menu of Chrome’s latest version is an option labeled “Allow Chrome sign-in,” which you can set to off if you’d rather not be automatically signed in to your Google account at the browser level. The problem, as VentureBeat notes, is that this process is opt-out rather than opt-in, meaning all Chrome users will be automatically signed into Google’s browser and likely uploading their sync data unless they specifically change this setting. Google says that automatic sign-in was enabled to help make it clear when users are logged in on a shared device.

Google has also updated Chrome’s interface to more clearly explain what’s syncing, and has changed the way the browser clears cookies so that it’ll also delete your Google service cookies along with everything else.

Outside of fixing Chrome 69’s controversial changes, the new update also introduces a couple of new features — chief amongst them is support for Progressive Web Apps, or PWAs, on Windows. These are a simple way for companies to offer what appear to be native Windows programs using a web wrapper. Rather than developing a separate desktop app for a service like Spotify, a PWA could instead give the service its own window without the interface bloat of an address bar or tabs, and allow it to be launched from the start menu or desktop.

A clip produced by Google shows how Spotify could work as a PWA.
 Image: Google

Finally, Chrome 70 also brings support for a new video codec — AV1 — which is intended to succeed VP9 by offering much better compression. It also allows users to restrict Chrome extensions’ host access to specific websites and moves Chrome along to the next phase of its fight against insecure websites.

If you’re a Chrome user then your browser should prompt you to apply the update over the coming weeks. If you want to grab it right now then you can enter “chrome://settings/help” in the address bar and then force it to check for the update.