Facebook is preparing to launch a new in-app browser on Android, replacing the standard Android System WebView with a more stable solution.
Unlike other Android apps that open web links in an external browser of the user’s choice, Facebook opens pages in the app itself.
Facebook identified a problem with how it handles external links, saying users update the Facebook app more often than the software that powers the in-app browser.
An announcement on Meta’s engineering blog states:
“Our in-app browser for Facebook on Android has historically relied on an Android System WebView based on Chromium, the open source project that powers many browsers on Android and other operating systems.
… over the past few years, we’ve observed that many Android users are updating their Facebook app but not updating their Chrome and WebView apps, which may result in security risks and a negative user experience.”
The company cites susceptibility to zero-day exploits and Facebook app crashes as the significant problems resulting from its reliance on Android System WebView.
To remedy these issues, Facebook developed a separate Chromium-Based WebView that can update in sync with Facebook app updates.
Facebook lists several benefits of switching to a custom browser, including improved stability, security, and performance.
Benefits Of A New In-App Browser For Facebook On Android
A custom in-app browser allows Facebook to roll out the latest Chromium security patches directly to users, which install when users update the Facebook app.
This helps ensure users aren’t visiting pages using outdated software, which may pose security risks.
A custom browser solution should lead to fewer app crashes, Facebook says.
Updating Android’s WebView software at a system level can cause apps to crash, as Android needs to ensure all instances of WebView are stopped so it can install the latest version.
Utilizing a custom version of WebView, exclusive to the Facebook app, means Android no longer needs to crash Facebook when updating the System WebView.
Facebook says its custom in-app browser improves performance concerning rendering web pages and launching Instant Games via Facebook Gaming:
“Our Webview also improves on rendering performance… Because we are able to constrain how the WebView gets displayed within our apps, we can enable the GPU process for our WebView. This improves rendering performance and stability of web pages and Instant Games.”
The benefits listed above may sound like technical jargon if you’re unfamiliar with the Android operating system.
You need to know that this change will improve security and performance and reduce app crashes when people view websites in the Facebook app.
Facebook isn’t the first app to utilize a custom in-app browser on Android. Mozilla, Microsoft, and Samsung all have their own versions as well.
The company emphasizes that this change will not impact people’s privacy choices on Meta services.
Source: Engineering at Meta
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