Google released a new version of its Web browser Google Chrome to its stable channel today, the main channel favored by many, if not most, of Chrome's 160 million users. The updated version offers improvements in security and stability, says Google, most of which will function behind-the-scenes for a better browsing experience.

However, improvements to the browser's graphics capabilities will be more noticeable to users. With added support for hardware-accelerated 3D CSS, Web applications using 3D effects will be "snazzier," Google says. So, what does that mean?

3D CSS

With 3D CSS, which is now available in Google Chrome, the browser has access to the computer's hardware to speed up the experience of viewing 3D effects. To see what this looks like in action, Google offers a link to a Chrome experiment called "Shaun of the Sheep." This cute cartoon (which works only in Chrome), demonstrates how 3D CSS lets you rotate a video, scale it up and down, turn the reflection on and off and activate a rotating carousel of videos.

In addition to 3D CSS Transforms, the experiment also takes advantage of hardware-accelerated HTML5 and the new audio-video format, WebM, open-sourced by Google last year.

More Security Tools

Also new in this release are enhancements to Google's Safe Browsing technology, which has now been improved to warn you before you download certain malicious files. Chrome has improved this detection process so that it can detected the malicious files without having ever seen what URL you visited. More details on that process are described here.

Bye-bye, Flash Cookies!

Google's close relationship with Adobe has allowed it to integrate Flash LSO (local shared objects) deletion right into the Web browser, so you can better manage your online privacy. These objects, often referred to as "Flash cookies" are similar to their "browser cookies" counterparts, in that they contain information used to customize your Web browsing experience, or hold data like your login info for a website. Unfortunately, Flash cookies are harder to delete than regular cookies - until now, Chrome users were only able to manage or delete cookies using this online tool. Now, you'll be able to delete the cookies from your browser Settings. Just click on the Wrench, go to Tools, Clear Browsing Data and select "Delete cookies and other site and plug-in data."

And More...

You can also launch your Chrome Web apps by name within the Omnibox in Chrome 12, the Settings pages have been updated, there's improved screen reader support and finally, you can say farewell to Google Gears. The Gears plugin will no longer be supported in this or any future releases of Google Chrome to provide offline access to Web applications. Those duties will be taken over by HTML5 going forward, starting with Gmail Offline, expected by Q3 2011.