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Latest Chrome update strengthens Incognito Mode defenses and more

Chrome
(Image credit: Google)

Google Chrome, one of the best internet browsers around, has been updated with a handful of new features.

The headline grabber is that Chrome's Incognito Mode will no longer let websites see when you are browsing privately.

In a blog post announcing Chrome 76, Google writes: "We want you to be able to access the web privately, with the assurance that your choice to do so is private as well."

Chrome 76's best new feature is actually an old trick

Chrome 76 looks set to bring back a much-loved Incognito Mode trick that made it easier to bypass paywalls on certain websites – specifically those using what's called a 'metered' paywall. 

This type of soft paywall gives you access to a certain amount of free content, and once you've reached your limit, prompts you to pay a subscription fee offering unlimited access.

Incognito Mode offered a generally effective workaround for metered paywalls, theoretically giving you an unlimited supply of free content by making it look like you hadn't visited the metered website before.

But publishers soon became aware of this ruse and started monitoring for Incognito Mode usage, blocking access to their sites for those browsing privately. 

Not quite killing the paywall

Chrome 76 will put an end to this practice, but will it restore Incognito Mode to its former, paywall-dodging glory?

To an extent, but it's worth noting that sites that require you to register for an account before accessing any content will still be able to keep tabs on how much of your free content allowance you've consumed – even if you're browsing Incognito.

Whatever the case, it certainly seems like Google is putting the privacy needs of the public before the financial concerns of big media.

"Our News teams support sites with meter strategies and recognise the goal of reducing meter circumvention, however any approach based on private browsing detection undermines the principles of Incognito Mode," the search giant said in its announcement.

What else is new in Chrome 76?

There are two other noteworthy things about Google's Chrome 76 update, starting with improved dark mode support.

The latest version of Google's browser will detect if the site you're visiting has a dark theme and automatically switch to it if the device you're using is in dark mode. 

If the site doesn't have a dark theme, Chrome won't force the issue by flipping the colours of the page to fit dark mode, which can look downright odd when done wrong.

Finally, Chrome 76 puts another nail in the coffin of Flash –  and despite all of the positive changes we've mentioned so far, this is something that could give many people a short-term headache.

That's because Chrome 76 will no longer remember your past Flash activation choices, so you'll have to click to allow it every time you visit a page with a Flash element.

It's a minor annoyance and part of a concerted effort by Google to remove Flash support from Chrome altogether by 2020.

The next Google Chrome update, Chrome 77, is expected to be out around September.