19
Aug
facebook-icon

It looks like Facebook is again testing a new bit of functionality in its Android app with a subset of users. After the most recent update, people are suddenly seeing a built-in browser that loads timeline links rather than booting you out to a full browser. Whether this is a good thing or a bad thing depends heavily on how you feel about the Facebook app in general.

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The browser appears to just be a WebView like many other apps use. Plenty of Twitter apps do the same thing when you open a link, for example. In this case, you get a drop down menu with forward/back buttons, copy link, open with, and save. So it's an extra step to get the link into a real browser, but Facebook gets to keep you in the app longer. That's really all it wants. If you wander off to the browser every time you open a link, you might get distracted and look at fewer ads on Facebook. That'd be a shame.

No one at AP is seeing this behavior as of yet, but it's widespread enough that we've gotten a few tips. It might roll out to everyone, or Facebook could pull it back and stick with the current system. We shall have to wait and see what the will of Zuckerberg dictates.

[Thanks, Jakob Fries, @Oneyoufellfor]

Ryan Whitwam
Ryan is a tech/science writer, skeptic, lover of all things electronic, and Android fan. In his spare time he reads golden-age sci-fi and sleeps, but rarely at the same time. His wife tolerates him as few would.

He's the author of a sci-fi novel called The Crooked City, which is available on Amazon and Google Play. http://goo.gl/WQIXBM

  • Deeco

    Son of a B!#tch

  • Cory S

    It's been doing this for me for a few days now.

  • David Li

    If it's a full screen WebView, then I'd rather it redirect me to my default browser so I have additional functionality like bookmarks and tabs.

  • Ben Said

    Would be nice if it didn't open the back door of your battery and let all the energy drain out of your device.

    • archercc

      Its why I havent used the app since Android 2.3. Its always installed as a "service" and can suck my nuts.

  • http://jordanhotmann.com/ Jordan Hotmann

    Why do people still put up with Facebook's crap?

    • Deeco

      Because every crappy people are still on it.

      • Defenestratus

        Sheep follow others blindly in a flock. Are you a sheep?

        • someone755

          Most of us are forced to be one... ;-;

    • simp1istic

      What exactly is your issue with this?

  • Ted Turner

    It can be disabled in the options.

    • ThatBabyAintMine

      That circle checkbox looks really out of place with holo design of that settings page

    • TheOneYouFellFor

      Pretty shameless it's opt out though IMHO.

    • Stoffers

      For now.

    • Matt Pankey

      Yeah I turned that shizz off.

    • David Becker

      Thank goodness. No one is going to take my link bubble away from me!
      https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.linkbubble.playstore

    • Róbert Márton

      As of the last update from couple days back, this feature has been disabled and it's not even optional anymore, there's no such entry in the setting menu... Reinstalling previous version, because I really liked this feature...

  • http://turbofool.com Jarrett Lennon Kaufman

    This started happening to my girlfriend last night, but not me. She was not amused.

  • Arthur Jolivet

    Yesterday, I have quit Facebook beta because it lasts updates has made a "grey screen of dead" when I launch Facebook so I couldn't use it. And an hour ago the new update of stable channel has integrated this grey screen. It appears I'm the only person (no comment on Facebook beta page)

    • Deeco

      I quit weeks back, they bloody update it every other day.....like SHEEEEET MAN!

      • Ambroos

        You should try the alpha. I've seen updates happen multiple times a day, but it is nice to see early phases of new features. Interesting, as a developer.

  • Tomáš Petrík

    Started happening to me last week, I disabled it in the app's settings immediately. My two main reasons were:
    1) You don't get tabbed browsing (only can have one link open at a time)
    2) You are not logged to the services you usually are in your browser (such as Disqus right here)

    • ElTimo

      You forgot (3) It's goddamn stupid.

  • http://bjunity.org/ Bill B

    Like messaging, Facebook will break out this functionality as a separate app in 3...2...1...

  • sergejsbabikovs

    Works quite well.

  • Michael

    Mine has been doing this for about two weeks. If I remember correctly, I am still on the beta release channel of the app (disabled it when it had compatibility issues with ART, but the regular version had the incompatibility as well - but don't know if I ever re-enabled the beta).

    I personally like it because of the weird back button problems you have reported on before - normally FB links opened in Chrome, then when I hit Back it would take me to my home screen and leave the tab in Chrome for some reason, whereas it should be closing that tab and returning to my last activity.

  • TheOneYouFellFor

    OMG i was mentioned by AP staff aaand Artem replied to my E-mail! https://31.media.tumblr.com/tumblr_mdlpee8HyK1rxis0k.gif

  • moelsen8

    yikes

  • FRGuzman

    Just checked and I'm getting this too. At least it is quite zippy in opening links.

  • Peter Blanco

    It did for me, I disabled it. Give me my damn Material Chrome Beta.

  • Carlos López™

    That opcion was in Facebook App on iOS a lot time ago. But it's nice, i always complain that you have to opnen another app to see the links and then go back to facebook app again. But this opcion for me is pretty cool!

    • Cristiano Allan

      I think the same! Is really nice being able to quick look some news and other stuffs just going directly by the link inside the Facebook app... I liked it!

    • Justtyn Hutcheson

      In iOS that makes sense. In Android, when you hit the "back" button after opening a link, you taken back to where you were in the FB app, so this feature is completely unnecessary. I understand cross-platform consistency in app functions, but you need to design with consideration for the platform's default behaviors as well.

  • Cristiano Allan

    I like it! I was waiting for it since I watched my iPhone user friend being able to do it. BTW I have this feature for the last 2 weeks... '-'

  • Brandon Pinch

    Saw this start working at least within the last week

  • DanSan

    Knowing facebook it definitely stores some sort of web history. anyone know where or if its viewable in the activity log at all?

    • Wesley Modderkolk

      Afaik they already did so when you clicked on links on the timeline.

      • mgamerz

        But now when you click on links in that page it will log that as well.

        • Wesley Modderkolk

          Ah yes, in that way.

        • Ambroos

          With the amount of Facebook social buttons on websites you can pretty much rely on them knowing exactly what you do around the web whatever browser you use.

          • mgamerz

            Yeah but this ensures it regardless.

      • DanSan

        I dont remember ever seeing a spot for that.

  • ShahinTr

    It is quicker in terms of loading as it doesn't require another app to open, however, last thing I want to leave on its browser is my history.

  • mgamerz

    Fancy. Now it can track your web browsing even better.

  • ms87

    Mine's been doing this for a few weeks now - not sure what everyone's whinging about, it's faster than opening in the Chrome app and there's a open with button if you still want to open in Chrome.
    If you don't like it, turn the setting off

    • mattcoz

      So you can confirm that there is a setting to turn this off?

      • Matt Pankey

        Yes you can turn it off in app settings.

  • Ray

    Just another way Facebook can harvest (steal?) more information from you.

    Has anyone noticed the recently added permissions which include Read / Modify the Clipboard? Not needed prior to 1-2 updates ago. Now they can take all the information stored on the clipboard as well.

    Not to mention all the Audio related permissions that got added as well.

    • Felipe Pimenta

      Clipboard: As on the screenshot, it uses to be able to copy the link.

      Audio (if you mean microphone) it is used to be able to identify shows and music if you allow when you post something. It has been around for quite awhile already.

      • Ray

        Never needed these permissions before and I could do all that.

        If you use the beta they might have been around for a while. The 'stable' version (if you can call it that) has only just recently added these permissions - not the most recent update but the one before.

        This update added Read/Modify Clipboard as well as Audio Focus, Media Volume and Ring Volume. Based on old screenshots I took, these also were never in there. If I disable these permissions, I can no longer control the volume while the app is open. Again, this was never an issue prior to this update.

        • Ambroos

          You can't complain about things not working if you forcefully disable permissions, something you aren't supposed to do in Android.

          • Ray

            You're missing the point.

            I'm not complaining that things aren't working. I know that if I block them they wont work - that's a given.

            What I'm saying is that prior to the last update or two, these permissions weren't previously required to perform the tasks which now require separate permissions - for example, copying and pasting (Read/Write to the Clipboard).

  • http://jpmurray.net Jean-Philippe Murray

    I've been having this option for a little more than a week now, I really like it. Somehow, it's quickier then switching to Chrome...

    • Justtyn Hutcheson

      When you need to switch to Chrome, FB must send the intent to Chrome, and the app need to open, open a new tab, then resolve the link. That is a roughly 100-200ms delay, and is really noticeable. Opening a webview within an app is nearly instantaneous because it just needs to resolve the link address, as the webview engine is part of the base OS and doesn't need to "load" the way an app does. However, you also lose the features in Chrome, such as the page being available in your history, synced to other devices, any logins that you may have saved, etc. etc. Whether or not that is important will likely vary from link to link.

      • http://jpmurray.net Jean-Philippe Murray

        Indeed, it's true. Although most of the links I open are purely recreative, and don't really need them in my history and such. And for those cases, I don't know if it's too a feature I'm getting and nobody else has, but I can "save" posts in Facebook for later consultation.

        At this point, any relevant piece of information I want to keep, I can save and then, if I want it somewhere else, open it in my desktop browser. But yeah, I guess it's not perfect for everyone.

  • European

    Have had it for days

  • WORPspeed

    Glad I don't have the FB app installed and jsut a bookmark to the webpage instead

  • Renan Lazarotto

    Getting worse everyday...

  • cy_n_ic

    I can see it now. Im sorry but you can not view this link without installing facebook browser for mobile. You can still see all the links from facebook, and transition from facebook to browser is seamless. Blah...

  • cabbieBot

    I haven't ever used an in-app browser when I could help it...wasn't a recent Android official release supposed to bring a webview powered by Chrome instead of Webkit? Are apps using it now, and does it work well?

    • Justtyn Hutcheson

      4.4 Kit Kat swapped the previous WebKit webview engine for one based on Chromium, and 4.4.3/4.4.4 rolled the Chromium version from 32 to 36, with some 6-7k bugfixes/updates. Any apps using webview work without any modification, as the only thing that changed is the engine, not the APIs themselves. From what I've seen, the new webview is significantly faster and more stable, seen especially when scrolling.

  • NM

    Maybe they added it so you don't have to see the chrome tab crash while facebook forcibly reclaims its crapload of RAM.

  • Brian Koppe

    I disabled this as soon as I got it on Facebook Beta.

  • andrevs

    I.ve got this feature about a week ago :D

  • BBpost

    Or you could just use m.facebook.com and never have any of these issues.

  • a

    This is bad for YouTube links and it's irritating

  • master94

    I really don't care. Good for FB bad for Google but how does it affect me? All the people complaining need to realize they aren't being forced to use fb. Don't like it leave. I did, plenty of apps that can replace it if you look

  • Baha Lajmi

    Finally

  • George Lazu

    On iOS it's been going on for quite some time.

  • Felipe Pimenta

    I like this, a lot. Not only it helps with the delay to open the browser app of your choice and etc, it helps with my data plan. My carrier doesn't count data used over official Facebook and Twitter apps. That means my very limited 100 Mb/month isn't as drained as fast as it is. Sadly, I don't have that feature yet.

  • Suzana

    I could do it a few days ago and I was the happiest, because it meant I could finally uninstall all those browser apps from my phone, but now it disappeared once more and I am not able to bring this back either by clearing out space or checking the app settings as shown already. I am quite upset... I even reinstalled it again altogether and it still seemed gone forever... :( what can I do?? it was soooo perfect this new thing...