Google Chrome has gained some psychic powers in the latest beta release. In an effort to make pages load faster, Google’s browser will now prerender pages as you type in the URL bar.
The latest Chrome beta is available through the Google Chrome beta channel. Be aware that the beta channel has more bugs and potential problems than the stable Chrome release.
The new prerendering feature in Chrome 17 beta is reminiscent of Google Instant, which returns search results as you type. Here, instead of pulling in search results, Chrome watches what you’re typing and makes educated guesses about the pages you’re likely to visit. “If the URL auto-completes to a site you’re very likely to visit, Chrome will begin to prerender the page,” writes Dominic Hamon, a software engineer at Google.
The end result of the new prerendering feature — provided Chrome guesses correctly — is that frequently visited pages will load a bit faster. In my testing the new feature seemed to work most reliably with bookmarked pages (which means the URL is guaranteed to auto-complete). The rest of the time it was hard to notice any real speed improvement. If you login to Chrome and allow your Google account to track your browsing history, Chrome might be better at guessing which pages to prerender.
Along with the prerendering, Chrome 17 also extends Chrome’s Safe Browsing tools to help protect you from malicious sites and, now, malicious downloads. Like Firefox, Chrome now scans downloaded files (for now .exe and .msi files) looking for viruses or malware attacks. If a file you’ve downloaded is known to be bad, or comes from a site with a “relatively high percentage of malicious downloads,” Chrome will warn you about it and suggest you discard it.