Chrome for Android is testing new widgets and RSS subscriptions

Chrome for Android is testing new widgets and RSS subscriptions

The Chrome web browser has faced plenty of criticism lately, especially over the browser’s plans for cookie replacements, but it’s still chugging along with new features being added all the time. Google began testing a new feature earlier this year for following news from your favorite websites (powered by RSS feeds), and now the functionality is rolling out more widely. Meanwhile, Chrome’s updated widgets have reached the Beta Channel.

Google Chrome on Android has offered the same basic search widget for a while, which was created mostly as the result of an antitrust lawsuit in Russia, plus another widget with a list of your bookmarks. Google is finally updating Chrome’s widgets in the Beta Channel (via Android Police), though if you don’t see them, you might need to activate #enable-quick-action-search-widget-android and #enable-quick-action-search-widget-android-dino-variant in the chrome://flags menu.

The two existing widgets are still present in Chrome Beta, but three more have been added: a compact search widget with incognito/camera/voice buttons, a larger search widget with an added button for Chrome’s Dino game, and finally a dedicated widget just for the Dino. Tapping on the search box in the first two widgets takes you to Chrome’s search bar.

Meanwhile, Google is starting to roll out the ‘Start Surface’ New Tab Page redesign on the stable branch of Chrome on Android in limited tests. The new page retains the usual Google Discover feed, but adds the ability to follow sites using their RSS feeds. When you visit a website with a valid RSS feed, a new follow button will appear in the main Chrome menu. New articles from websites you follow will then show up on the ‘Following’ tab.

Adrienne Porter Felt from the Chrome team says this functionality is under development for the iOS browser, but plans for Chrome on the desktop are “a bit further out.” The follow feature is no match for a dedicated RSS reader, like Inoreader or Feedly, but it’s certainly better than only seeing algorithmically-recommended content.

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Corbin Davenport
Corbin Davenport

Corbin is a tech journalist and software developer based in Raleigh, North Carolina. He's also the host of the Tech Tales podcast, which explores the history of the technology industry. Follow him on Twitter at @corbindavenport.