Facebook is getting ready to launch a new in-app browser for Android, which will replace the standard Android System WebView with a more stable solution. Unlike other Android apps that open web links in the user’s preferred external browser, Facebook opens pages within the app itself. Facebook discovered an issue with the way it handles external links, claiming that users update the Facebook app more frequently than the software that powers the in-app browser.
According to the Meta Team, “ Historically, our Facebook in-app browser on Android relied on an Android System WebView based on Chromium, the open source project that powers many browsers on Android and other operating systems. On other mobile operating systems, updating the System WebView component requires updating the entire operating system. On Android, this works differently, allowing the System WebView component and the Chrome app to be updated through Google Play rather than through operating system updates, which is preferable to ensure users have access to critical security updates. Despite this, we’ve noticed that many Android users update their Facebook app but not their Chrome or WebView apps, which may pose security risks and have a negative impact”
To address these issues, Team of Meta have been developing and testing a separate Chromium-Based WebView for a few years, following in the footsteps of browser vendors such as Microsoft Edge, Samsung Internet, and Mozilla Firefox, which all ship custom browser engines on Android. This will serve as an alternative to the System WebView for the Facebook in-app browser on Android. This WebView can update in tandem with Facebook app updates and serve as a drop-in replacement for the System WebView within the Facebook app without interfering with or changing the user experience in any way.
They have been running preliminary tests on this Chromium-Based WebView, and will start rolling it out to more Facebook app users with compatible devices soon.
If you’re unfamiliar with the Android operating system, the benefits listed above may sound like technical jargon. This change will improve security and performance, as well as reduce app crashes when people view websites in the Facebook app.
On Android, Facebook is not the first app to use a custom in-app browser. Mozilla, Microsoft, and Samsung have all released their own versions.
The company emphasises that this change will have no effect on people’s privacy preferences when using Meta services.