Google was the first to launch their Chrome browser using their rapid cycle release. This basically meant that there would be browser updates in quick succession. While there may not be massive updates and a large number of features bolted on, it meant that version numbers of their browsers would quickly switch over. Chrome 17 for example was launched earlier in February and now their next major release Chrome 18 is already here. It’s available for download from Google’s site and if you’ve already been using the browser, then you probably have it already. If Chrome hasn’t auto-updated, head over to the Tools icon on the right top of the window and click on About Google Chrome. The latest build of Chrome will then download and install by itself. The browser is available for Windows, Linux and Mac.

Chrome 18, available for download now

Chrome 18, available for download now

The new update adds a bunch of new features, along with many more fixes. Google has improved performance for Canvas3D and WebGL. This has been done by adding graphics hardware acceleration to it. The feature has existed in the beta release, but it’s finally been made public in this final release. WebGL is another interesting area, that Google has dwelled into with the new Chrome browser. It allows users to interact with 3D objects and do 3D graphics in a browser. This has been possible before, but the browser has required a plug-in of some sort. With accelerated WebGL support, the new Chrome browser will be able to do just that. Google even has a page dedicated to WebGL demos where you can try out some of the WebGL features, with the new Chrome 18 browser. 

For WebGL, acceleration is available via 3D graphics accelerators, but also using software with something called SwiftShader. Of course, a software rasterizer can’t perform as well as a decent discrete hardware accelerator. Along with these features, Google has tweaked a few components of the user interface. The New Tab button for example, is brighter and more prominent. Adobe’s latest Flash player component is also integrated in the browser. Chrome 19, the next release may come out sometime in the next month or two, but you can always go use an early dev build from their download page.

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