Chrome 38's new HTML tag support makes fatties FIT and SKINNIER

First browser to protect networks' bandwith using official spec

Google has recently pushed out Chrome 38, for desktop and mobile devices.

Google updates its browser every six weeks – so often, in fact, that much of the time there isn't much in the way of new or worthwhile features.

Not so with this release.

Among the changes Chrome 38 has support for new features in JavaScript, as part of the support for the ECMAScript 6 draft specification.

But the big news is Chrome 38 is the first browser to support the brand new HTML Picture element.

The Picture element is one of several new tools for web developers that lets websites serve different images based on the screen size of the device you're using. Though Picture gets all of the attention, much of the time developers won't even need the new element, just the new attributes for the <img alt=""> element.

What's the big deal? You’ve probably noticed it's increasingly common for websites to adapt their layout to fit your device. For example, on small screens a site might collapse menus and vertically stack content blocks that would be arranged differently on a larger screen. These flexible layouts are part of what's known as responsive web design. When done properly it means a single website, with all the same content, works well on every device.

Yet while developers have tools to handle changing the layout, there isn't much they can do about the size of images these layouts contain. While an image might be scaled down to fit your phone, behind the scenes your browser still downloads a large file. That's a waste of bandwidth – sending a huge image to a tiny screen. So, when building responsive websites, developers have resorted to various hacks when handling images. Until now.

The Picture element and the new attributes available on the good old <img alt=""> element change that. As Google puts it in the Chrome 38 announcement, these new responsive image tools "bake an elegant solution right into the web platform".

For now, Chrome 38 is the only browser with support for responsive images, though Opera 25 will have support when it emerges from Opera's beta channel. Firefox will also support responsive images in a release later this year, and Microsoft’s Internet Explorer team has indicated that responsive images support is on their roadmap as well.

Chrome may be the first web browser to support responsive images but the fact there's a solution at all has not come about thanks to some standards body or innovative browser developers, but thanks to the efforts of the web development community as a whole.

Responsive images demo pic

A picture is a picture is a picture - not quite the case in Chrome 38. Click to enlarge

The responsive images community group at the W3C, led by developer Mat Marquis, developed the specification for the new Picture element and the new attributes on the <img alt=""> img element. The spec took several years and a lot of hard work from several dozen core developers – but a spec is just so many words until a web browser actually starts supporting it, which is why Chrome 38 is so important.

Support for responsive images in Chrome 38 is largely the result of developer Yoav Weiss, who helped implement support for responsive images in Chrome as part of a successful crowdfunding campaign.

The net result of all this effort for users are websites that are faster and lighter on your mobile's data plan.

If you'd like to see the new responsive image support in action, make sure you've got the latest version of Chrome and head on over to this responsive images demo. ®

Similar topics

Broader topics

Other stories you might like

  • UK government opens consultation on medic-style register for Brit infosec pros

    Are you competent? Ethical? Welcome to UKCSC's new list

    Frustrated at lack of activity from the "standard setting" UK Cyber Security Council, the government wants to pass new laws making it into the statutory regulator of the UK infosec trade.

    Government plans, quietly announced in a consultation document issued last week, include a formal register of infosec practitioners – meaning security specialists could be struck off or barred from working if they don't meet "competence and ethical requirements."

    The proposed setup sounds very similar to the General Medical Council and its register of doctors allowed to practice medicine in the UK.

    Continue reading
  • Microsoft's do-it-all IDE Visual Studio 2022 came out late last year. How good is it really?

    Top request from devs? A Linux version

    Review Visual Studio goes back a long way. Microsoft always had its own programming languages and tools, beginning with Microsoft Basic in 1975 and Microsoft C 1.0 in 1983.

    The Visual Studio idea came from two main sources. In the early days, Windows applications were coded and compiled using MS-DOS, and there was a MS-DOS IDE called Programmer's Workbench (PWB, first released 1989). The company also came up Visual Basic (VB, first released 1991), which unlike Microsoft C++ had a Windows IDE. Perhaps inspired by VB, Microsoft delivered Visual C++ 1.0 in 1993, replacing the little-used PWB. Visual Studio itself was introduced in 1997, though it was more of a bundle of different Windows development tools initially. The first Visual Studio to integrate C++ and Visual Basic (in .NET guise) development into the same IDE was Visual Studio .NET in 2002, 20 years ago, and this perhaps is the true ancestor of today's IDE.

    A big change in VS 2022, released November, is that it is the first version where the IDE itself runs as a 64-bit process. The advantage is that it has access to more than 4GB memory in the devenv process, this being the shell of the IDE, though of course it is still possible to compile 32-bit applications. The main benefit is for large solutions comprising hundreds of projects. Although a substantial change, it is transparent to developers and from what we can tell, has been a beneficial change.

    Continue reading
  • James Webb Space Telescope has arrived at its new home – an orbit almost a million miles from Earth

    Funnily enough, that's where we want to be right now, too

    The James Webb Space Telescope, the largest and most complex space observatory built by NASA, has reached its final destination: L2, the second Sun-Earth Lagrange point, an orbit located about a million miles away.

    Mission control sent instructions to fire the telescope's thrusters at 1400 EST (1900 UTC) on Monday. The small boost increased its speed by about 3.6 miles per hour to send it to L2, where it will orbit the Sun in line with Earth for the foreseeable future. It takes about 180 days to complete an L2 orbit, Amber Straughn, deputy project scientist for Webb Science Communications at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, said during a live briefing.

    "Webb, welcome home!" blurted NASA's Administrator Bill Nelson. "Congratulations to the team for all of their hard work ensuring Webb's safe arrival at L2 today. We're one step closer to uncovering the mysteries of the universe. And I can't wait to see Webb's first new views of the universe this summer."

    Continue reading
  • LG promises to make home appliance software upgradeable to take on new tasks

    Kids: empty the dishwasher! We can’t, Dad, it’s updating its OS to handle baked on grime from winter curries

    As the right to repair movement gathers pace, Korea’s LG has decided to make sure that its whitegoods can be upgraded.

    The company today announced a scheme called “Evolving Appliances For You.”

    The plan is sketchy: LG has outlined a scenario in which a customer who moves to a locale with climate markedly different to their previous home could use LG’s ThingQ app to upgrade their clothes dryer with new software that makes the appliance better suited to prevailing conditions and to the kind of fabrics you’d wear in a hotter or colder climes. The drier could also get new hardware to handle its new location. An image distributed by LG shows off the ability to change the tune a dryer plays after it finishes a load.

    Continue reading
  • IBM confirms new mainframe to arrive ‘late’ in first half of 2022

    Hybrid cloud is Big Blue's big bet, but big iron is predicted to bring a welcome revenue boost

    IBM has confirmed that a new model of its Z Series mainframes will arrive “late in the first half” of 2022 and emphasised the new device’s debut as a source of improved revenue for the company’s infrastructure business.

    CFO James Kavanaugh put the release on the roadmap during Big Blue’s Q4 2021 earnings call on Monday. The CFO suggested the new release will make a positive impact on IBM’s revenue, which came in at $16.7 billion for the quarter and $57.35bn for the year. The Q4 number was up 6.5 per cent year on year, the annual number was a $2.2bn jump.

    Kavanaugh mentioned the mainframe because revenue from the big iron was down four points in the quarter, a dip that Big Blue attributed to the fact that its last mainframe – the Z15 – emerged in 2019 and the sales cycle has naturally ebbed after eleven quarters of sales. But what a sales cycle it was: IBM says the Z15 has done better than its predecessor and seen shipments that can power more MIPS (Millions of Instructions Per Second) than in any previous program in the company’s history*.

    Continue reading

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2022