When you open a link while in another app, it usually launches in your browser (e.g., Chrome) or a Custom Tab. Facebook opens pages in its own in-app browser, which is powered by the Android System WebView. The main Facebook app will soon change what underpins its in-app browser.

Facebook for Android will soon use its own browser engine that is still based on Chromium but is no longer the same component used by the vast majority of other Android apps.

Meta cites security as the first reason for this switch as its WebView alternative will be updated alongside the Facebook app:

…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.

To ensure security with this new approach, Meta will “perform rebases of our WebView onto the latest versions of Chromium at regular intervals” to get the latest security patches.

Stability is cited as another reason for switching. Facebook wants to address how every time Android System WebView is updated via the Play Store, apps that use it crash as part of the natural upgrade process. In the future, there will just be one Facebook app update. Meta also expects improved rendering performance and stability and plans to “continue to submit any major changes to upstream Chromium.” 

For Facebook app users, the company — which is getting more end-to-end control this way — does not expect any other changes to the UI/experience. In terms of rollout:

We have been conducting early tests on this Chromium-Based WebView, and we will begin rolling out this version to more Facebook app users that have compatible devices. 

It’s unfortunate that Facebook is not opting for Custom Tabs, which share cookies with your main browser and cut down on having to sign in to sites again. Custom Tabs also let you use existing password and payment method managers. Additionally, transferring an open tab to the main browser does not require the page to reload.

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About the Author

Abner Li

Editor-in-chief. Interested in the minutiae of Google and Alphabet. Tips/talk: abner@9to5g.com