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Google responds to last month's WebView nightmare on Android

It's developing a new 'Safe Mode' for the app to prevent a repeat.

PARIS, FRANCE - DECEMBER 14: In this photo illustration, the logos of the applications, YouTube, Google Earth, Google Maps, Gmail, YouTube, Hangouts, Google, Gmail, Chrome, Drive, Google Earth, and Chrome are displayed on the screen of an iPhone on December 14, 2020 in Paris, France. A global bug has affected Google services since midday. An unprecedented incident: most Google services, including YouTube and Gmail messaging, experienced a major global outage on Monday, December 14 at midday. Google indicated on its dashboard accessible online that all its services were affected, and this for "the majority of users". (Photo illustration by Chesnot/Getty Images)
Chesnot via Getty Images
Saqib Shah
Saqib Shah|@eightiethmnt|April 21, 2021 5:28 AM

Android's WebView component provoked a widespread crash last month that caused dozens of apps to stop running, including Gmail, Google Pay and several banking apps. The severity of the error — which lasted for up to eight hours before a permanent fix was issued — has prompted Google to make additional changes with the aim of avoiding another calamity.

In a new status report, Google explains the causes of the crash and details the WebView improvements it plans to implement. Any apps that relied on WebView to open web pages crashed as a result of a bug in the software's experiment and configuration technology, the company noted. In order to fix the issue, Google had to issue new versions of both Chrome and WebView via Google Play for automated and manual updates.

Key to its WebView improvements is a new "Safe Mode" that would see the app revert to a good state should history repeat itself. Google also plans on accelerating Chrome and WebView updates on the Play store. In addition, it's pledging to audit the app and better communicate with users during incidents. In a nod to the businesses and developers that were likely inundated with complaints for a crash they didn't cause, Google says it will work with its partners to provide commentary on incident impact and resolution status. 

Google responds to last month's WebView nightmare on Android