Eddystone-enabled Chrome for iOS – how does it work?

Chrome version 44 for iOS (available in the App Store at the time of writing) is the first Eddystone-enabled Mobile web-browser, bringing Beacons to the Chrome Today view widget.

Let me get into the details:

  • the Chrome Today view widget can be included in the iOS Notification Center panel
  • the iOS Notification Center panel appears when you swipe down from the top of the screen and includes calendar-events, weather-info and other so-called App widgets
  • to add new App widgets to the iOS Notification Center on your iPhone/iPad, just click the Edit button at the bottom of the screen: if Chrome for iOS is installed, then the Chrome Today view widget is available and can be added

It is the Chrome Today view widget that:

  • scans close-by Beacons broadcasting Eddystone-URLs
  • shows them (ordered by proximity)
  • allows you to tap and instantly open the Eddystone-URL in Chrome

To repeat a scan, you currently need to refresh the Chrome Today view widget by swiping down on the screen – sorry, no Beacon detection if Chrome is in background (yet…)

The Chrome Today view widget displays:

  • the Eddystone-URL

…be aware that the Eddystone-URL’s length is limited to 17 bytes.; anyway, even if a shortened URL is employed, Chrome will automatically expand it by following redirects

  • the web-page title
  • …more info in the future, for example the <meta> description of the web-page

Chrome 44 for iOS is surely a limited first step, but it gives a hint of what is to come; the next logical step is to roll out similar (…and strongly improved…) features to the Chrome for Android web-browser.

Let’s now talk about privacy protection: Google has put in place several restrictions to guard the privacy of Chrome users (…these restrictions of course don’t affect Eddystone-enabled native Apps…):

  • No Beacon “autoscan”: currently the Chrome Today view widget detects Beacons only when it is manually loaded/refreshed by the user; no background activities are allowed
  • The website referenced by the Eddystone-URL is not contacted by the smartphone until the user decides to intentionally visit it; in this way the website cannot gather info (IP address, cookies, etc.) about “casual passersby”

Please note: to obtain the info to be displayed in the Chrome Today view widget, (the final URL (…following redirects…) and the web-page title), the website is contacted by Google’s own servers

  • Beacon functionalities in Chrome 44 for iOS need to be explicitly enabled: the first time an Eddystone-URL Beacon is detected, the user is asked to opt-in

Andy Cavallini




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