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Chrome 97 is coming today with controversial Keyboard API feature

Chrome 96 hit the Stable channel almost two months ago and even though the current release cadence means that we should expect a new build every four weeks, this was not the case with Chrome 97 due to the holiday season in the west. Today, Chrome 97 is finally arriving in the Stable channel, with a notable feature being a new attribute in the Keyboard API, which is proving to be quite controversial.

Chrome 97 logo with spy keyboard and crossed swords against Firefox and Safari

Previously, some web apps like Excel, PowerPoint, and Word could not use the Keyboard API to identify which key has been pressed on a specific layout such as French or English. The addition of the "keyboard-map" value solves this problem and while web developers obviously support it, it has faced strong criticism from Apple's WebKit team and the development team at Mozilla. Both have voiced privacy concerns, saying that this API exposes a fingerprinting surface that can be used to identify and track you, especially if you're using a keyboard layout that is uncommon in a region. As such, the API change has been classified as "harmful" by Apple and Mozilla, and will not be implemented in Safari and Firefox, respectively.

Yet another change is that newline normalization in a form will now be done at a later stage in Chrome, which will align its behavior with Safari and Firefox which already do this. Additionally, CSS math functions can now accept a "number" value where previously only "integer" was supported. Similarly, the perspective CSS function now supports a "none" argument that resolves into the identity matrix so animations that utilize it can make use of it in an easier manner.

There is a new HTMLScriptElement.supports() method too. This enables developers to utilize a unified way to detect new features that use script elements. It's also easier to search from the last index of an Array using two new methods.

Another interesting feature in Chrome 97 is an enhancement to the communication protocols. Currently, developers use either WebSockets or RTCDataChannel when communicating bidirectionally with a remote server. The former is based on TCP which means that is not suitable for latency sensitive applications while the latter is based on SCTP, which is mainly designed for peer-to-peer communication. Google is now introducing a WebTransport protocol framework that tackles both these problems and supports bidirectional communication of reliable and unreliable data using cancelable streams and UDP-esque datagrams. There has been no signal from Apple yet but Mozilla has classified it as "worth prototyping", which is obviously a good sign.

Finally, a "name" attribute has been added to the "PermissionStatus" interface too so that it's easier to identify and differentiate between different objects of the Permissions API. Service workers handling navigation requests will now utilize the origin and redirect chain from "FetchEvent.request" as well.

Chrome logo on a light blue and black background

Chrome 97 will start rolling out in the later hours of today. If it does not update to version 97 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 98 which will hit the Beta channel on January 6, and will land on Stable on February 1.

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