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InfoQ Homepage News Meta Launches New Chromium-Based WebView for Android

Meta Launches New Chromium-Based WebView for Android


Meta has been developing its own Chromium-based WebView for Android for a few years and has now started rolling it out to users of its Facebook app. The new WebView, which has not been open-sourced yet, improves security, stability, and performance, says Meta.

While Android allows users to upgrade the system browser separately from the OS itself, many users update their Facebook app but not Chrome or the WebView app, says Meta.

This WebView can update in sync with Facebook app updates, and function as a drop-in replacement for the System WebView inside the Facebook app without compromising or changing the user experience in any way.

Keeping the WebView up-to-date will thus prevent potential stability and security issues caused by outdated versions. Meta says they will rebase their WebView code on the latest Chromium codebase at regular intervals, thus benefiting of any security patches to the latest Chromium. Additionally, since the Facebook app is now independent from the default OS WebView, when users decide to upgrade the latter, the OS will not need to kill the Facebook app to force it to reload its WebViews.

Most significantly, Meta says its new WebView improves performance by running its compositor, i.e., the component that decides how to display a page, on a GPU thread.

The System WebView compositor needs to account for the various ways Android allows apps to display it. Because of this, it needs to run synchronously with the Android widget layout, which means that it is unable to run in a separate GPU process.

While the new Android WebView has not been open-sourced yet, Meta says they will submit any major changes to upstream Chromium.

Meta's announcement has raised some privacy-related concerns on Twitter and Reddit. While Meta is not the first vendor to use its own Web-engine for Android, just last month iOS developer and Fastlane creator Felix Krause warned of Meta injecting JavaScript code in the WebViews used by its Instagram and Facebook apps even when visiting external web pages. This is similar to what popular apps like TikTok, Amazon, and others all do, Krause found out. While realizing that injecting JavaScript is not a sign of any wrong-doing, Krause set up to raise awareness of such practices.

As a last remark, the Facebook and Instagram apps both offer the possibility to visit any external link using the default browser, thus letting users and organizations more concerned about their data privacy bypass the embedded WebView.

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