The web has evolved greatly. It used to be the case that most traffic originated from PCs, but over the past decade, it’s shifted to laptops, smartphones, tablets, smart displays, and even smartwatches. That’s empowered developers to create rich and immersive content, but also presented new challenges — especially when it comes to content designed with keyboards in mind. To help ease the transition, Google engineers have been working on implementing a new API called the Keyboard Lock API into Chrome 66.
One limitation we’ve seen with complex and immersive websites, lately, is that they lack access to special keys and keyboard shortcuts in fullscreen view. Take for example a website that uses keyboard inputs for shortcuts, navigation, menus, or in-game functionality. Right now, it’s impossible for that website to recognize certain inputs because they’re captured by a machine’s browser or operating system.
That’s where the Keyboard Lock API comes it. It can allow websites to capture keys and key combinations that are normally reserved for other programs, like the Esc key or Cmd/Alt-Tab.
While digging through the Chromium Gerrit repo, we discovered a merged commit that shows Google’s experimenting with the Keyboard Lock API in Chrome. As of right now, it’s implemented for development and testing, but the goal is to make it available in version 66 Chrome.
It won’t necessarily be plug and play. The World Wide Web Consortium’s (W3C) abstract on Keyboard Lock notes that most platforms will require a special system key press handler that can filter keys at the platform level, and that said handler will have to be registered whenever a new key or key combination’s processed. Also, the API only operates on a “best effort” basis — it won’t override the default OS behavior for every possible key combination.
But if all goes according to plan, a future stable version of Chrome might support custom key combinations that were never before possible on the web.
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