Chrome 28 on iOS bolsters browser's ties to Google app ecosystem

Chrome 28 on iOS bolsters browser's ties to Google app ecosystem

Also starts to roll out data squeezing scheme already available to Android users

Google on Wednesday updated Chrome for iOS, which now opens some links in other Google apps, yet more evidence of the search giant's push to subvert rivals' ecosystems by keeping users corralled within its own.

The integration of Chrome 28 now extends to the Google+, Google Drive, Google Maps and YouTube apps, with more coming in the future, said Peter Lee, a company engineer, in a brief blog entry Wednesday.

Chrome's Settings let users decide which supported apps open when pertinent links are clicked in the browser.

Links displayed in the browser to those services -- to Google Maps directions offered by a local business, say -- can be opened within the pertinent apps rather than inside Chrome itself, said Lee. The integration requires users log into their Google accounts.

Also new to Chrome 28: Those Google apps can be launched from the browser without returning to the iPhone or iPad home screen.

The additional ties between Chrome and other Google iOS apps smacks of the same strategy the Mountain View, Calif. company is pursuing on the desktop, where it's gradually been porting features of Chrome OS to the browser.

Some analysts view those moves as an attempt to replicate important pieces of Chrome OS in the Chrome browser, with a goal of keeping users -- no matter what operating system powers their hardware -- within the Google service environment as long as possible.

Today's additions to Chrome 28 could be viewed in the same light, simply aimed at the iPhone and iPad rather than Windows PCs or Apple Macs.

Also on the new feature slate: iOS support for the data compression Google's already offered to Android device owners.

"We are also rolling out an experimental data compression service to help you save bandwidth, load pages faster, and browse more securely," said Lee. That compression, which debuted on Android a week ago, was first discussed by Google at its May I/O developers conference.

In practice, Google's technology resembles Opera Software's, which for its Opera Mini browser re-routes page requests to its own proxy servers, aggressively compresses the data, then sends the results to their destinations. After redirecting the page request to its proxy servers -- rather than send them direct to the destination -- Google converts images to the company's own WebP format and compresses other page elements. Google has claimed data reductions of up to 50%, largely due to WebP's smaller files when compared to the Internet's de facto JPEG and PNG standards.

Not everyone will see the data reduction immediately, Lee warned, as Google plans to take several days to switch it on for all. Users can check whether it has been enabled on their iPhone or iPad by opening Chrome's Settings: A "Bandwidth management" entry indicates it has.

Lee touted the data compression as positives for users because, "you save bandwidth [and] load pages faster," which are both true. Also true: The faster that pages load in Chrome, the less likely users will revert to Safari, the iOS default.

Chrome has made progress on mobile: According to metric vendor Net Applications, it accounted for about 4% of all mobile browsers used in June, an increase of about half a percentage point. Since the first of the year, Chrome has almost doubled its mobile user share.

Net Applications does not publicly disclose iOS user share for Chrome separately from Android; the latter, where Chrome is the default, is most likely the bulk of that user share.

As of Wednesday, Chrome was at No. 115 on the App Store's free app list.

Chrome 28 can be downloaded from the App Store free of charge.

This article, Chrome 28 on iOS bolsters browser's ties to Google app ecosystem, was originally published at

Gregg Keizer covers Microsoft, security issues, Apple, Web browsers and general technology breaking news for Computerworld. Follow Gregg on Twitter at @gkeizer, on Google+ or subscribe to Gregg's RSS feed. His email address is

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