When you open a link in another app, it usually launches in your browser (eg, Chrome) or a custom tab. Facebook opens pages in its own in-app browser, which is powered by Android System WebView. Facebook’s main app will soon change what underpins its built-in browser.
Facebook for Android will soon use its own browser engine which is still based on Chromium but is no longer the same component used by the vast majority of other Android apps.
Meta cites security as the primary reason for the change as its WebView alternative will be updated alongside the Facebook app:
…Over the past few years, we have observed that many Android users update their Facebook app but do not update their Chrome and WebView apps, which can lead to security risks and negative user experience.
To ensure security with this new approach, Meta will “rebase our WebView to the latest Chromium versions at regular intervals” to get the latest security patches.
Stability is cited as another reason for change. Facebook wants to explain how whenever Android System WebView is updated through the Play Store, apps using it crash as part of the natural upgrade process. Going forward, there will be only one Facebook app update. Meta also expects improved performance and rendering stability and plans to “continue to submit any major changes to Chromium upstream.”
For users of the Facebook app, the company – which gets better end-to-end control this way – expects no further UI/experience changes. At the deployment level:
We’ve done initial testing on this Chromium-based WebView, and we’ll start rolling this version out to more Facebook app users with compatible devices.
It’s unfortunate that Facebook doesn’t opt for custom tabs, which share cookies with your main browser and reduce the need to re-login to sites. Custom tabs also allow you to use existing password and payment method managers. Also, transferring an open tab to the main browser does not require the page to reload.
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