For years now, Google Chrome has been an absolute dominant force in the world of web browsers, but since the relaunch of Microsoft Edge based on Google’s Chromium, that position has been challenged. Now, Google is preparing to drive more Android owners back to using Chrome through targeted notifications.

Over the admittedly brief history of the Internet, there have been a number of fierce competitions, commonly called “browser wars,” between companies, in an effort to get more people to use their particular web browser. Mozilla and Netscape waged war against Internet Explorer, and Chrome fought and won against Firefox. Most recently, Microsoft Edge and Samsung Internet have begun to wage war against Chrome on desktop and Android respectively.

Now, we’ve found that Google is preparing to try and win back some of those who have left Chrome for other browsers, starting on Android. Based on our reading of a series of code changes [1, 2, 3], we believe Google Chrome for Android will send you a notification if you haven’t used Chrome in a while.

For now the “feature” is locked behind a new flag coming soon to chrome://flags.

Enable re-engagement notifications

Enables Chrome to use the in-product help system to decide when to show re-engagement notifications.

#reengagement-notification

So far, Google has included three potential notifications to be sent, most likely to test and see which notification may be most effective in bringing folks back to Chrome.

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Digging a bit deeper, we found what specifically would trigger Chrome to send one of these notifications. If you indirectly open Chrome by opening a “Chrome Custom Tab” in an app, Chrome will take that opportunity to check how long it’s been since you’ve used Chrome. Then, if you have more than one browser installed, you’ll receive a notification suggesting that you use Chrome.

As this code is only just beginning to appear in Chrome, we likely won’t see these notifications begin to appear from Chrome for Android until at least version 86, which isn’t due to release until October.

9to5Google’s Take

Speaking frankly, this is one of the more egregious and aggravating potential “features” I’ve seen Google work towards in Chrome. Considering Chrome is installed by default as a system app — meaning it can’t be uninstalled, only disabled — on some Android phones including Pixels, these notifications could become even more frustrating.

At the core of the issue though, Google Chrome, a browser that already has an overwhelming lead — used on over 60% of all mobile devices including iPhones — should not need to resort to pestering their users to come back. If anything, I could see this further driving people to uninstall Chrome, at least on devices that are even allowed to.

Hopefully, Google can come to their senses and drop this “feature” before it makes its way to most peoples’ phones in October.

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