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.
The company cites vulnerability to zero-day exploits and Facebook app crashes as major issues caused by its reliance on Android System WebView. To address these concerns, Facebook created a separate Chromium-based WebView that updates in sync with Facebook app updates. Switching to a custom browser has several advantages, according to Facebook, including improved stability, security, and performance.
The advantages of a new Facebook in-app browser for Android
- A custom in-app browser enables Facebook to distribute the most recent Chromium security patches directly to users, which are installed when the Facebook app is updated.
- This ensures that users are not visiting pages with outdated software, which may pose security risks.
- According to Facebook, a custom browser solution should lead to fewer app crashes.
- Updating Android’s WebView software at the system level may cause apps to crash, as Android must ensure that all instances of WebView are stopped before installing the latest version. Because the Facebook app uses a custom version of WebView, Android no longer crashes when updating the System WebView.
- According to Facebook, its custom in-app browser improves performance when rendering web pages and launching Instant Games through Facebook Gaming.
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.
Facebook isn’t the first app on Android to use a custom in-app browser. Mozilla, Microsoft, and Samsung have all released their own versions. The company emphasizes that this change will have no effect on people’s privacy preferences when using Meta services.