Chrome For Android AMA Summary

Chrome For Android AMA Summary

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Five members of Google’s Android For Chrome team descended on to Reddit earlier this week for an AMA. 1,208 comments later and the team which consisted of a Software Engineer, a Technical Program Manager, an Interaction Designer, a Product Support Manager and a Developer Advocate had answered a wide range of questions. Here are but a few of the best.

 

Will Chrome for Android ever support extensions?

“There are no plans to add extensions support on mobile. It is for a combination of reasons. Mobile devices are resource-constrained, and extensions can bog down the browsing experience. We are also concerned about how much abuse we see through extensions. A top user complaint about Chrome on desktop involves unwanted software, injecting ads or changing settings. This is typically accomplished via extensions.”

 

When will we be able to build a fully fledged Chromium (the Open Source counterpart) for Android?

“Soon!” – kerz_chrome Chrome for Android Technical Program Manager

 

For animation, do you recommend CSS or JS?

“It’s a blend. My good friend and colleague wrote up a lot about this on Web Fundamentals and also created a Udacity course for it.” – Kinlan Chrome for Android Developer Advocate

 

These are exciting projects, will they be merged or connected together? What is the relation between these projects?

“I suppose it is my Job as a Developer Advocate to present a consistent story about how all these interplay with each other. Not sure I am doing a great job at the moment.

with regards to polymer there is a lot of cool stuff happening there and I would check out rob dodsons Polycast series.

with regards to offline apps, that is something that I am working on a lot at the moment and there is a lot of interplay between manifest, service worker, push notifications and a bunch of other pieces that make it pretty hard to tell a hooked up story for every developer… Currently I am thinking about doing a smaller set of focused stories for industries so: how do you build the next media app, well you use X, Y , Z in this way.” – Kinlan Chrome for Android Developer Advocate

 

Any new features you are testing lately or thinking of?

“Good question! If you are a web developer, check out our upcoming features list to see what we are working on.
On desktop, things like Bluetooth are coming along well. On mobile, more work around Add to homescreen and web app install banners are getting worked on.” – Kinlan Chrome for Android Developer Advocate

 

Are there any plans to do more aggressive tab syncing between the browser and Android version? I.e the same tab being accessible on multiple devices so you can just pick up where you left on another device?

“On the Recent Tabs page, you can already access your currently open tabs from all your devices. We’re only syncing the URL and title of the tab, so when you reopen it on a new device you do lose state like how far you have scrolled down, any text you’ve entered into forms, etc.

We have looked into expanding this by automatically opening, reordering and closing tabs and windows across devices. However, when we’ve tried this out we weren’t satisfied with the overall experience. We found we didn’t want to use the exact same set of tabs on each of our devices, and that having tabs automatically open was jarring.

We’ve also looked at syncing more of your tab state. This is mostly about the privacy tradeoffs involved into syncing the whole state of a page, as well as technical complexity of saving and recreating the wide variety of web pages (and apps!) that people use every day.”

 

When will scrolling on Chrome for Android be smooth and not jerky?

“We care a lot about scrolling performance and we make small improvements to it almost every Chrome release. Although individually not always noticeable, it’s added up over time and if you were to compare to our first build (Chrome 16) on the same device, you’d see a night-and-day difference. An example of a recent improvement is that we changed the task scheduler (http://blog.chromium.org/2015/04/scheduling-tasks-intelligently-for_30.html) that helps smooth out loading and also scrolling when other tasks are exectuting.

That said, there are many causes to scroll jank and we haven’t yet tackled them all. It’s a continuous process of whacking perf problems one by one, and on particular websites we can still be janky. Expect to see more gradual improvements over time. For example, we’re in the midst of rewriting our painting pipeline to make smarter layering decisions, and to utilize the GPU even more than we are today.” – Kinlan Chrome for Android Developer Advocate

 

Why is there no option for tabs in overview for tablets?

“Great question! When Chrome launched the original tablet design, at the time it was believed that tablets would be your desktop replacement. That led to today’s design, where it has tabs and the whole feel of the desktop world. It makes it harder to apply the phone layout here, because the models are different. But as we’ve gone on it’s become clear that you might do way more complex tasks on your phone than on your tablet, which people use mostly for consumption like watching movies. There are a couple questions on this AMA about how to adapt for larger phones sizes, and I’d say our thinking for that would also apply to tablets, now that we have a better idea of how people are using them.” – rrolfe Chrome for Android UX Designer

 

Mobile web is severely crippled by a lack of lower JavaScript API access (e.g. Payments, Share Intents, etc.). Are there plans to bring these APIs to chrome? 

“We are actively working on bridging the gap between web and native and making it easier to get developers building better and more deeply integrated apps and site. Not sure about payments, but we are improving autocomplete and other areas around text entry to make conversions easier. Share is something that I am looking at (given my web intents history 🙁 ), we are working on other API’s such as bluetooth and background sync, we now have push notifications and network management (via Service Worker)” – Kinlan Chrome for Android Developer Advocate

 

Are their any cool new features that you guys are planning to implement? Have you thought about adding something like link bubble?

“We actually have a lot of new content consumption features coming out in the near future too. These come in all sorts of flavors (contextual search to make finding more information on page content easier, new ways to consume web pages that aren’t as readable on mobile, a more mobile-friendly new tab page, etc.). You can check out a lot of these by using Chrome Dev. Just go to chrome://flags and you can find some interesting stuff to turn on :).” – aurimas_chromium Chrome for Android Software Engineer

 

The newly added Push and Notification APIs are great! However, the Push API in Google Chrome currently relies on Google Cloud Messaging’s gcm_sender_id which requires an API key from Google. Is there a timeline for supporting the Web Push Protocol so that the Push API can be used without gcm_sender_id?

“Good question and there is a lot to it 🙂 – we shipped the W3C Push API with Google Cloud Messaging (GCM) as a (proprietary) server-side protocol in order to allow mobile web developers to use this API as soon as possible, but we are working closely with Mozilla etc on putting together the IETF web push protocol as a standardized replacement for the server-side protocol, and it’s shaping up nicely.

We’re going to spend a while experimenting and optimizing a GCM-based implementation of the web push protocol, and we’ll share more once we have something you can play with.” – Kinlan Android Chrome Developer Advocate

 

What do you think of moving the address bar to the bottom? With most of the current phones being 5″ and above, I think it makes a lot of sense in terms of usability.

“Totally makes sense! We’re always thinking about how to adjust the layout for the variety of devices out there. There’s some interesting considerations for the transition between phone to tablet to desktop and how we optimize both for screen size and the reach of your thumb. Definitely lots to explore there.” – rrolfe Chrome for Android UX Designer

 

Would you guys explain how you’re dealing with the slowness of Chrome and its memory hogging?

“We are profiling Chrome to improve our startup speed and proactively fighting memory bloat and memory leaks. For example, this year the first gesture latency and mean input latency has decreased steadily” – aurimas_chromium Chrome for Android Software Engineer

 

What’s the update cycle for the 5.0 Chrome Webview? Seems a little random at the moment.

“We’re planning to mirror the Chrome release cycle over time, as we get up to speed.” – kerz_ chrome Chrome for Android Technical Program Manager


These were just a few of the questions and hopefully they have answered some of your own. If you were unable to attend the AMA or have questions that were left unanswered we have an interview with a Google Developer Advocate coming soon.

Leave your questions below!