Google to implement WebView 'Safe Mode' after widespread Android app crash event

Android WebView
Android WebView (Image credit: Jerry Hildenbrand / Android Central)

What you need to know

  • Google explains why the WebView crashes happened, which was due to a bug.
  • The company laid out ways in which it plans to improve Chrome and WebView from now on.
  • A WebView "Safe Mode" would revert back to a stable version in case of future error.

Remember last month when all your apps started crashing for no reason? The problem was caused by a bug that was introduced within WebView and Chrome that affected many of the best Android phones like the Samsung Galaxy S21. Fortunately, there were ways to get around this by uninstalling updates to WebView and Chrome, but it left a lot of people scratching their heads. The Google Workspace team has now addressed the issue while also laying out ways it will improve things from now on to prevent things like this from happening again.

A bug within Chrome & WebView's experiment & configuration technology caused instability for Android applications which incorporated WebView to surface web content. This bug caused those applications to crash on the affected devices. The fix required distribution of updated binaries for Chrome and WebView; these new releases were made available for distribution via Google Play for automated and manual updates.

Many apps depend on Android System WebView for displaying web content, as explained by our Jerry Hildenbrand. It's inexorably tied to Google Chrome, so they both receive updates at the same time. When the WebView crashes occurred, devices on certain Android versions were unable to manually uninstall the update to WebView that caused the issue, but uninstalling Chrome updates would accomplish the same goal.

To make things easier for everyone, Google has outlined ways to improve the update process for WebView and Chrome going forward, starting with an audit for WebView to make sure each release is ready for primetime. Google also plans to make sure it can update both apps faster in the Play Store and improve its testing process. Perhaps the most notable change is the new WebView "Safe Mode" that Google plans to implement, which will revert WebView to a "known-good state" if any such errors occur.

It's also important to note that Google plans to improve its communication with Android users, which can help better prepare users should something like this happen again. Hopefully, with all the precautions Google is taking, we can avoid any more large-scale situations.

Derrek Lee
Managing Editor

Derrek is the managing editor of Android Central, helping to guide the site's editorial content and direction to reach and resonate with readers, old and new, who are just as passionate about tech as we are. He's been obsessed with mobile technology since he was 12, when he discovered the Nokia N90, and his love of flip phones and new form factors continues to this day. As a fitness enthusiast, he has always been curious about the intersection of tech and fitness. When he's not working, he's probably working out.