We are back again with Google I/O 2021, the big virtual event organized by Big G to take stock of the latest updates of all the ecosystem products: if progress in the field of artificial intelligence has definitely stolen the scene, with so many ads related to AI applications that in the near future we can use, such as Google MUM to improve the understanding of queries, some small anticipation has also arrived in the field of SEO and web development.

News about SEO: updates for Web Vitals and Web Platform

It is an interesting insight by Detlef Johnson on Search Engine Land that accompanies us to the discovery of the ads and SEO news arrived during Google I/O 2021 and, in particular, on what is coming for the Web Vitals and the Web Platform, consists of open Web technologies that “allow the Web to function as a virtual substitute for an operating system and browsers that provide experiences similar to applications, something that users expect from companies like Google”.

Overall, what emerges from the event is that there are (still) many things to expect in terms of technologies available on Google, which is working to offer more browser and API support for Web Platform technologies, some of which are already ready.

It is therefore important to keep up with the fast pace of these changes in website development, web app creation and technical SEO work, because these innovations can impact on the ranking and the ways in which we can engage the website audience, clearly determining factors for online business.

What is changing on Chromium and Chrome

The first news front is related to Google Chromium, which is the basis of some of the leading web browsers market, such as Chrome, Microsoft Edge and others.

Google Chrome is indeed dominating the market, with a diffusion share that is currently at almost monopoly levels (basically, as Google searches over other rivals), and has become the main browser on which to write code, also taking care to provide a fallback for unsupported features or sticking to technologies that are also supported by Safari and Firefox.

The only competitor browser that exceeds the double digit in terms of users’ market share is Safari claimed, no doubt, by Webkit that powers iOS’s in-app Web view. It is important to realize that the latest Google development companies announced at Google I/O coincide with unprecedented increases in browsing activity.

In particular, a multi-market study on the Globalwebindex coronavirus indicates that at a key moment, July 2020, there was a rapid growth that generated these data:

  • 70% more time spent on mobile phones.
  • 47% more time spent on laptops.
  • 33% more time spent on PC or desktop.

New safety features

Going into the details of ads on this front, the first novelty concerns the introduction of a safety sandbox feature that isolates instances of inline frames. As Johnson explains, “the <iframe> cross-site content embedded in a page as a Youtube widget now runs in an autonomous process, separated and detached even from the process that manages the embedding page itself”.

The isolation security architecture from V8 to Chrome is designed to prevent leakage of information by heart bleed and an evil Javascript.

Announcements on cookies and APIs in Chrome

Google also announced that the change previously launched on the default cookie management behavior for the access to third-party websites is now also active in Firefox, as well as in Chrome and Edge. These are the new Samesite cookie guidelines for operational access to third-party cookies, that regulate browser management behavior and affect all those who access third-party cookies or provide third-party websites with access to site cookies.

Being third-party cookies so widespread, the Chrome team has announced a new “API family” such as federated login, personalized ads and conversion tracking that may provide alternative routes for use cases that previously might have required a third-party cookie implementation. The proposed API “Attribution Reporting”, for example, can move the burden of monitoring conversions from cookies that track users through the sites to the browser itself.

In addition, to avoid trackers linking personal identification data with the timing of conversion events, Attribution report API transmissions introduce delays and noise to prevent anyone from successfully tracking certain users and conversions in this manner. The API, along with a handful of other Apis, is available in source testing for a test on its website in preparation for the final launch.

New features for Progressive Web Apps

There is also a wide range of news coming for Progressive Web Apps, where there are at least five important interventions. According to the expert, the Web Platform “is rapidly becoming the web as an operating system with applications-like experiences, at least in theory”. It will inevitably take time to get carried away with these experiences, which can have a long learning curve and require a decent amount of work to implement for developers, but it will be possible really “do fascinating things with cutting-edge web technologies“.

  • Contextual menu and badge

After installing a PWA with an icon on home screens and desktops, you can now write “shortcuts” that display “quick actions” as context menu items (right click or two-finger tap) with support operating systems, that include Android Chrome OS, Windows and macos. A new Badging API also allows you to “decorate your app icon with a notification number“.

  • Declarative Link Capturing

A “Declarative Link Capturing” API offer will soon be available in the form of proof of origin: it allows links outside the PWA context “to open the PWA in a similar way to what you might have experienced by clicking on a link to the URL of a Youtube video that opens an installed Youtube app, instead of a browser tab that opens with the Youtube website”. It is an “excellent function like deep linking, but in the context of an app”.

  • The manifest file

User interfaces for installing Chrome on desktops and Android Web apps are getting “new dialogues and brilliant information panels to provide users with more details and instructions to simplify the installation process”. Developers can provide custom text and images by specifying them in the manifest file of the Wep app.

  • API for the placement of multi-screen windows

This new API allows PWAs to detect all connected displays and control the position of the window on those screens. This feature should be useful for web-based presentations and video conferencing, and perfectly meets the needs that have emerged as a result of the dramatic increases in navigation activity seen since 2020.

  • File system access API

Last but not least, web apps can now access the user’s file system and “your app will be able to work with existing files and keep the status on disk”. A new file management API can record the web app as a type handler file, so that users open files by starting the web app to manage them, just like a native app. An experimental version will be available by the end of the year.

What to expect from Web Assembly

There was also a focus on Web Assembly (Wasm), which promises the compilation of executable binary code that will run in Javascript engines. In particular, one of the main complaints, performance issues, could be resolved, because V8 now supports modern Cpus with SIMD instructions to improve multimedia performance.

The nicest thing about Wasm is that by compiling up to the binary specification you can encode web applications using virtually any language, not just Javascript,” says Johnson, who remembers how noteworthy projects are written in Rust, for instance, and that “compiles to executable binaries using Javascript in modern browsers”.

Core Web Vitals: the start in mid June, also on desktop

The most anticipated topic by SEOs is however the one related to the Core Web Vitals, the essential web signals that are part of the expected Google Page Experience algorithmic update, which will be launched shortly.

There are two great news on this front, in addition to other more technical news: the update should start in the middle of June to become fully operational by the month of August (we talk about timeline for Google US, at least) and, contrary to what previously provided, the Core Web Vitals also apply to desktop sites and not only for mobile browsing.

Google Page Experience also for desktop sites

By the end of the year even desktop websites will be affected by the new ranking factors of the Page Experience, since “we believe that the page experience is fundamental regardless of the surface on which the user is browsing the Web”, as revealed by Googler Jeffrey Jose during the last Google I/O.

Other announcements on SEO and performance

But the sessions of the Google event also dealt with other aspects that affect the SEO and, in particular, the technical SEO.

  • Ranking and laboratory tests

Very interesting the clarifications on the scores of the laboratory tests, which reveal us that “the rankings adapt according to the scores collected on the field”. The good news, as Johnson explains, is that Lighthouse is “calibrated to be representative of a user in your higher percentiles”: this means that “If you get good lab scores, then nine times out of 10, field users will send even better scores to Google for adjusting the user experience rating factor”.

  • Background images

Again, Lightouse will soon help us to solve a possible critical node, ie identify what could be the Largest Contentful Paint of the page, providing a clarifying miniature; In addition, the tool will be optimized to ensure greater accuracy when it comes to backgrounds and carousel images.

  • Changes the measurement of layout shifts

There are also changes to the way to calculate the Cumulative Layout Shift, so to fix an “annoying problem”: before, the shift used to pile up during the entire duration of the browsing session of the page, but this did not take into account some possible user behaviors (some people simply load and wait, but others can also both keep on browsing and scrolling up and down), and therefore the score did not guarantee the level of accuracy needed. Google now “samples the 5-second interval, which tabulates to the highest travel score”.

  • Content visibility

The relatively new CSS content-visibility property can now be used to improve performance scores with the value set to auto. This gives the browser permission to “skip rendering the content of that item if it is not currently visible in the user’s display, and then lead to better performance than the amount of content in those elements”.

  • Prerendering

Although several browsers have implemented the prerendering feature, allowing for example “developers to report Urls in your main navigation to be stored in the browser cache for quick click loading”, there are some issues with cross-site security, media content that could be played suddenly and even unintentionally disconnect users from authentication. Google plans to provide an improved prerendering API by the end of the year.