Last month, a WebView bug became the biggest story in Android after users reported app crashes across all sorts of devices. Though a temporary solution was quickly discovered, a permanent update wasn't issued until the following day, leaving phones in a buggy state overnight. In response to this incident, Google has published a complete list of upcoming improvements it plans to implement to help ensure these types of crashes never happen again.
If you're experiencing a bunch of apps suddenly crashing on your recent Samsung phone, you're not alone. This afternoon US time, reports from dozens, then hundreds of users on the Samsung subreddit started coming in, complaining of apps crashing on their phones, constantly and seemingly at random. It's causing some major headaches. You can quickly fix the problem by disabling the Android System WebView app, or updating it via the Play Store or APK Mirror.
Chrome on Android has been a bit more crash-happy over the past few months. There were reports of WebView (the Chrome-based engine that powers web content inside apps) having problems last year, and Google has acknowledged Chrome 83 crashes on select Asus devices. OnePlus phone owners have also had to deal with buggy Chrome behavior, as the app has been freezing and crashing on some OnePlus devices for the past several months.
The component of Android responsible for rendering web pages inside apps (login screens, simple browsers, etc.) is the WebView. It became a separately-updated component with Android 5 Lollipop, and then Chrome started to handle WebView entirely in Android 7 Nougat. Starting with Android 10, Chrome no longer serves as the system WebView... sort of.
WebView, the component of Android that renders web pages inside apps (like login screens), is updated through the Play Store. This means that security issues are less of a concern, but it also means bugs can crop up outside of system upgrades. Case in point: an annoying bug is causing web pages inside apps to freeze and crash.
About a month ago we reported Google was working on a dark theme for Chrome, in preparation for a wider night mode throughout Android Q. Although this was a very anticipated feature, we expected it would only darken the menus and navigation bar but still render web pages in their original colors. This was before our colleagues over at 9to5Google discovered the browser is actually able to alter a site's design and display it in a darker skin.
Google has maintained a list of malicious websites, such as those hosting malware or phishing scams, for nearly a decade. The company's Safe Browsing API allows web browsers to access the blocklist, and show a warning if the site is dangerous. Chrome, Safari, Firefox, Opera, and countless other browsers use the Safe Browsing API.
As unfortunate as it might be, it's a given that using the internet extensively may compromise your privacy. Tracking codes that can follow you across sites have become incredibly common, often used to create targeted advertisements for users. At this point, Google probably knows more about me than I do.
Android has long provided a way for developers to show web content in apps without implementing a full browser with WebView, but the nature of this component has changed a lot over the years. It became Chromium-powered, was unbundled from the system, and then got a beta channel. Starting in Android 7.0 Nougat, WebView will actually be Chrome.