You may remember last month when your phone refused to run any apps, even though there weren’t any updates completed, and it didn’t matter whether you were using a Pixel or not. That’s because Android’s WebView component was not working correctly, and lasted for eight hours before Google issued the fix. Some users were incorrectly informed to uninstall that WebView component from their phones, but that is not a great solution and leads to even more issues.
Now that Google has had some time to think about what happened, the company is working on a new “Safe Mode” implementation for WebView. In a report, Google provides details as to what actually caused the crash to occur, along with a series of plans designed to stop this problem from affecting Android users in the future. For reference, Google had to release new versions of both Chrome and WebView in order to get everyone’s phones back in working order, and you definitely don’t want to go eight hours without being able to use your phone.
Here are Google’s plans for how to improve WebView:
- Audit WebView and its related dependencies for production readiness.
- Implement a WebView ‘Safe Mode’ which will handle this class of configuration error and revert back to a known-good state.
- Improve our experiment testability and roll-out process.
- Accelerate the update mechanisms for Chrome and WebView via the Play store.
- Better communicate throughout incidents with our users, and provide commentary with our partners on impact and resolution status.
While all of these are important, I would argue that the last bullet point is the most important of them all. When the problem started occurring, Google likely had some idea of what was going on, but remained quiet and left its users in the dark. This is what led to other sources suggesting that you uninstall WebView completely, which is a rather important integration in Android overall.