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CrXPRT support through 2022

CrXPRT testers may remember that back around the time that we began the CrXPRT 2 development process, the Chrome team announced that they were phasing out support for Portable Native Client (PNaCL) in favor of WebAssembly (WASM). As a first step, they changed the Chrome OS setting that enabled PNaCL by default. At the time, this caused problems with the Photo Collage workload in CrXPRT 2015, and even though we identified a workaround, details in the Chrome team’s announcement led us to conclude that the workaround might stop working in June 2021. Because of this change, we decided that the best decision would be to remove the workload from CrXPRT 2, and keep existing CrXPRT 2015 testers informed of any changes with the workaround.

In 2020, the Chrome team also announced that they would be phasing out support for Chrome Apps altogether starting in June 2021, and would shift their focus to Chrome extensions. This change would have required us to reassess the viability of CrXPRT in anything like its current form.

We’re happy to report that the Chrome team has extended support for PNaCL and existing Chrome Apps through June 2022. Barring further changes, this means that CrXPRT 2015 (with the workaround) and CrXPRT 2 should continue to serve as reliable Chrome OS evaluation tools for some time.

If you have any questions about CrXPRT 2, please let us know!

Justin

A CrXPRT fix for Chrome 76

After Chrome OS version 76 moved from Chrome’s Beta channel to the Stable channel last week, we became aware of an issue that occurs when CrXPRT’s Photo Collage workload runs on a Chrome 76 system. We found that the Photo Collage workload produces an error message—“This plugin is not supported on this device”—and the test run does not complete.

The error occurs because the Photo Collage workload uses Portable Native Client (PNaCl), and starting with version 76, the Chrome team changed the way the OS handles PNaCl tasks. Technically, Chrome still supports PNaCl, but the OS now disables the capability by default. Chrome’s current plan is to end support for PNaCl by the end of this year, focusing related development efforts on WebAssembly instead.

We’ll investigate the best path forward during this transition, but for now, testers can use the following workaround that allows CrXPRT to complete successfully. Simply navigate to chrome://flags on the test system, and find the Native Client flag, which is set to “Disabled” by default. Click the toggle switch to “Enabled” to allow native client capabilities, restart the system, and kick off a CrXPRT test in the normal manner.

We’ll update the CrXPRT web page and test documentation to include information about the workaround. In the long term, we’re interested in any suggestions you have for CrXPRT—whether they’re related to PNaCl or not. Please let us know your thoughts!

Justin

A new playing field for WebXPRT

WebXPRT is one of the go-to benchmarks for evaluating browser performance, so we’re always interested in browser development news. Recently, Microsoft created a development channel where anyone can download early versions of an all-new Microsoft Edge browser. Unlike previous versions of Edge, Microsoft constructed the new browser using the Chromium open-source project, the same foundation underlying the Google Chrome browser and Chrome OS.

One interesting aspect of the new Edge development strategy is the changes that Microsoft is making to more than 50 services that Chromium has included. If you use Chrome daily, you’ve likely become accustomed to certain built-in services such as ad block, spellcheck, translate, maps integration, and form fill, among many others. While each of these is useful, a large number of background services running simultaneously can slow browsing and sap battery life. In the new Edge, Microsoft is either reworking each service or removing it altogether, with the hope of winning users by providing a cleaner, faster, and more power-efficient experience. You can read more about Microsoft’s goals for the new project on the Microsoft Edge Insider site.

As we’ve discussed before, many factors contribute to the speed of a browsing experience and its WebXPRT score. It’s too early to know how the new Microsoft Edge will stack up against other browsers, but when the full version comes out of development, you can be sure that we’ll be publishing some comparison scores. I’ve installed the Dev Channel version of Edge on my personal machine and run WebXPRT 3. While I can’t publish the scores from this early version, I can tell you that the results were interesting. Have you run WebXPRT 3 on the new Microsoft Edge? How do you think it compares to competitors? We’d love to hear your thoughts.

Justin

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