Four weeks ago, Chrome 95 became generally available with enhancements to user-agent (UA) client hints, limits on cookie sizes, and removal of FTP support. Today, Chrome 96 has hit the Stable channel with improvements to the Clipboard API, a faster cache mechanism, and more.
Starting with improvements to the Clipboard, the API currently sanitizes PNG metadata that it reads. However, with Chrome 96, this behavior is being modified so that it does not strip away the metadata attached to a PNG. Google says that this will result in faster copying-and-pasting in most scenarios, and in its own limited testing, it noted improvements of 14x when handling "very large PNGs". The latest implementation is strongly supported by web developers.
Next, Chrome 96 also features a "back-forward cache" so that you can instantly navigate to your previously visited pages. This is intended to enhance your browsing workflow. Google is also splitting the reporting cache into distinct per-document and network caches. It also features some changes to enhance the privacy in these reporting logs, you can read more about the implementation here. Additionally, the browser will always connect to websites via HTTPS if it has deployed an HTTPS DNS record. This is yet another step in the move from HTTP to HTTPS.
Google is also introducing an "InteractionID" to the Event Timing API in Chrome 96 to enable developers to easily collect performance-related information. You can read about the implementation in more detail here but an interesting takeaway is that the Safari WebKit team has responded negatively to the change, saying that it overlaps with its own Long Tasks API, so unless it gets a more coherent picture about how the APIs will tie together, it does not support Google's modification.
Chrome 96 has some Progressive Web Apps (PWAs) enhancements in tow as well. It enables them to register as handlers of custom protocols via the installation manifest to increase discoverability. It also allows developers to define an optional ID to globally identify their PWA. This change is currently being made available to Chrome on desktop only.
In terms of more developer-facing improvements, Chrome 96 comes with COEP: credentialless to prevent accidental leakage across processes, enables WebAssembly modules to hold references for DOM objects, and allows website authors to respond to high contrast modes on Windows and macOS via the "prefers-contrast" Media Query.
In line with W3C specifications, Chrome 96 will prevent the flow of CSS properties from body to viewport when contained and will also pack a "speak-as" descriptor for CSS counter-styles to meaningfully pronounce the spoken form of a counter. This will be a significant enhancement for those utilizing speech synthesizers on Chrome. Math functions in CSS will be able to use "" even where only "" is accepted. Finally, some data properties are being added to easily measure the end-to-end delay and synchronization of audio-video sync in real-time communication (RTC) systems.
Chrome 96 has started rolling out. If it does not update to version 96 automatically for you throughout the course of the day, head over to Help > About Google Chrome to trigger the update once it becomes available. Next up is Chrome 97 which will hit the Beta channel on November 18, but will land on Stable much later on January 4, 2022.