Google is preparing to make some pretty big changes to Chromium-based browsers, starting with Chrome version 89 which will require a chip with SSE3 on desktop platforms.
The change will only happen on x86 systems, and Google says it’s likely that only a small number of users will actually be affected, as the number of computers still using SSE2 is quite low at the moment. Indeed, the expected impact on the use of Chrome should be extremely low, given that the devices affected will mostly work with processors before an Intel Core 2 Duo chip. As most post-2005 processors already support SSE3, hardware will need to be over 15 years old to be affected by this change.
“Chrome will no longer be usable on computers with x86 processors that support ESS2 but not ESS3. This should reduce Chrome usage on Windows to a very small extent. Our analysis indicates that there are a very small number of Windows devices using Chrome with x86 processors that do not support SSE3,” says Google.
Google Chrome 87 will begin to display a notification if SSE3 is not detected, in order to prepare the user base for the change that will occur in version 89. Google expects the impact on Windows and Linux to be insignificant, while on Mac, there will be no impact at all as the company only offers 64-bit builds “which allows us to assume SSSE3 support”.
Windows will be the only operating system affected by this announcement, as macOS, Android, and Chrome OS all already require SSE3 support to function. It is also likely that Microsoft Edge will be affected by this end of support, given that the browser is based on Chromium.
It goes without saying that this change is unlikely to be noticed by the majority of Google Chrome users, but on the other hand, some will no longer be able to install the latest version of the browser. Since ESS2 launched in the early 2000s, few modern computers are still using the latest versions of Chrome, and that’s why the company expects the impact to be as low as possible.
There has been no official confirmation as to why support for these older processors is being removed, but given the estimated low number of users who will be affected by the update, it is reasonable to assume that a sufficient number of people using more modern hardware will see an improvement in performance to warrant removal.