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Chrome’s Lack of Support for showModalDialog Breaks Some Enterprise Web Apps

| by Abel Avram on Sep 16, 2014. Estimated reading time: 3 minutes |

Google Chrome no longer supports window.showModalDialog, breaking several enterprise apps such as OWA, EAC, SAP, and others.

Google decided earlier this year to deprecate window.showModalDialog in Chrome 35 due to its related code complexity:

This feature has an incredibly high cost in terms of code complexity since it requires us to run an event loop on top of an arbitrary JavaScript stack.  It also complicates the web platform by making task dispatch reentrant and hard to reason about.

The feature was completely removed in Chrome 37 considering a statistic that says only 0.006% of the web pages make use of it, a number that is dropping as we speak. The problem is that this statistic does not seem to take into account internal web enterprise applications that use it, such as Outlook Web App (OWA), Exchange Administration Center (EAC), some SAP software, Sitecore, a CMS tool, and possibly others. And some users have been affected by it as the following quotes show:

Hugh David Smith: Chromebook users can now no longer use OWA. This is a major step back for my enterprise use. There need to be continued support for Modal Dialog until there is a Exchange Client, or MS updates their solution. I am not sure what I am going to do now, I don’t have a Windows machine anymore.

bryanluvgod: This is a huge mistake by the Chrome group. I have TONS of end users who are individual business owners and our company has a "Bring your own device" policy so we cannot regulate what machines they purchase. And what motivation does Microsoft have to patch Exchange to enable compatibility with Chrome? None...they'll recommend users to use a compatible browser, such as Internet Explorer. Google usually doesn't let me down, but they sure have this time.

Peter Dolcy:  This is also a problem at our district.  Teachers are unable to attach or click to when using OWA.

sabbede: Large enterprise using OWA (2010sp3), and we set Chrome as the default browser on all our workstations. … Google, can we please have our modal dialogs back until the internet catches up?

P.S., I work for one of the 10 largest corporations in the world.  I won't say which, but suffice to say that we have a rather large number of users affected.

fl...@gmail.com: I'm dying here. I cannot add attachments, or use the To, CC or BCC options in Microsoft Webmail in Chrome. Chrome is critical to my success at work. Please don't force me to move to I.E. ... I really don't want to, but e-mail is too essential to my work.

neilwj.p...@gmail.com: you are going to lose your enterprise users/market share because of this. But as you aren’t an enterprise or business class browser I guess it’s ok. Our 13000+ business users will revert to IE...yours and their loss.

The immediate solution is to switch to IE or Firefox. For those willing to stay on Chrome, one way to temporary solve this problem is to enable this deprecated feature in Enterprise Policy settings, which can be done until April 30, 2015 as shown here or here, although some have complained the fix is not working for them, especially Windows Home OS users who do not have the possibility to alter policies. Another partial solution is using a ShowModalDialog polyfill as explained in this post, but some of the functionality is still not restored. Another solution is for Microsoft and other makers to update their software to make it work again with Chrome, but for some this might be too much work.

A number of issues were opened on Chromium, but they were all marked as duplicate of this, which has been closed as “Won’t Fix”. The conclusion? The Chrome team has made their mind to get rid of showModalDialog and they don’t seem to want it back.

This issue raises important questions for enterprises: should one depend on software made for the general public and not for the enterprise? Should one install software that is being regularly updated by its manufacturer as it is the case with Chrome? While Google’s rapid development pace is an example for others, their tendency to get rid of everything that carries a technical debt, deprecating and later eliminating features, sometimes has a major impact on enterprises with lots of internal business applications that might be broken in the process with serious consequences.

Another issue with free software like Google’s is well conveyed by the following question appearing on many forums, even highly related ones such as blink-dev:

Douglas Chagas: Can anyone from Google answer us?

Needlessly to say that many times such questions remain unanswered.

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