Google Chrome Beta for Windows 8 Arriving, but Not for WinRT

Google announced on Thursday that its Chrome browser will be available for testing on the Windows 8 release preview.

The test browser will be released at the Google Chrome dev channel for Windows, according to Google's blog post, which didn't specify when. The company plans to smooth out the user interface of the browser over the next couple of months, and will be seeking user feedback.

Google's test browser is just for the x86/x64 Windows 8 release preview, where it can run in both the "desktop" and "Metro" user interfaces of the operating system. While Windows 8 also will be available on ARM hardware (known as "Windows RT"), the ability to run any other browser besides Internet Explorer on that OS appears to be restricted by Microsoft.

WinRT 'Won't Run' Other Browsers
Google and Mozilla, which is also devising its Firefox browser for Windows 8, have both complained publicly that their browsers will not have access to the WinRT APIs necessary for their browsers to work as users would expect. In yesterday's blog post, Google went farther, stating that its browser won't run at all on WinRT.

"Chrome won't run in WinRT, i.e. Windows 8 on ARM processors, as Microsoft is not allowing browsers other than Internet Explorer on the platform," Google's blog states.

An attorney with Mozilla suggested last month that Microsoft could be veering into possible antitrust litigation turf with the restrictions of WinRT. He cited Microsoft's past antitrust supervision by the U.S. Department of Justice and the European Commission. Those bodies have faulted Microsoft for restricting API access and dominating the browser market via a Windows monopoly.

Microsoft hasn't clarified the WinRT browser restriction matter publicly. While it has published a guide for a "Metro style enabled desktop browser" (Word doc) that software companies can use to build browsers for Windows 8, it appears that this guide only applies to x86/x64 systems, and not to WinRT systems.

The latest test version of Microsoft's Internet Explorer 10 browser is called "platform preview 6." It was distributed with the Windows 8 release preview that Microsoft announced at the end of last month. This new IE 10 version comes with Adobe Flash Player 11.3 built into the browser for use on both the desktop and Metro user interfaces. (Microsoft made no mention about whether its own Silverlight would similarly be supported in IE 10.). Another new aspect of IE 10 is that Microsoft's "do not track" privacy option, first introduced in IE 9, is turned on by default.

Disagreement on Do Not Track
The do-not-track issue has been kicked around by all of the browser makers, with little effect. Microsoft's method depends on Web advertisers voluntarily honoring a request to not track user clickstream information. It's just a technical solution, as there's nothing legally binding on advertisers to behave in the proper way. Microsoft's do-not-track approach sends an HTTP string to indicate preference, a method that's currently under consideration at the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C).

Microsoft's embrace of having a do-not-track mechanism turned on by default in the latest IE 10 has caused some controversy. It apparently conflicts with the current W3C working draft, according to a Wired report. The W3C appears to be leaning toward the idea of not enabling do-not-track functionality by default, which could put IE 10 out of compliance once the spec becomes a W3C recommendation.

In response, Brendon Lynch, Microsoft's chief privacy officer, noted in a Friday blog post that the draft hasn't been finalized yet and that Microsoft plans to work on it with various stakeholders "in the months ahead." He didn't acknowledge that Microsoft may be going against the evolving spec with IE 10 on the do-not-track issue, but he suggested that Microsoft would stay engaged in "good faith" efforts.

"As discussions continue, Microsoft remains firmly committed to defining bona fide technical specifications and policies to govern DNT [do not track]," Lynch wrote in the blog post.

Mozilla's also has a do-not-track approach for its Firefox browser that apparently uses a similar method as Microsoft's approach. The Mozilla do-not-track system has been used by 8.6 percent of desktop users and 19 percent of mobile users, according to a May 17 Mozilla blog post.

Google has its own antitracking approach for Chrome called "Keep My Opt-Outs." The Keep My Opt Outs method apparently works through a cookie opt-out procedure, but just for U.S. advertisers. The approach is vaguely described by Google here.

About the Author

Kurt Mackie is senior news producer for 1105 Media's Converge360 group.


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