Google on Tuesday released a fix for Chrome and the related WebView software that had wiped out access to data stored by some Android apps. Google, which had stopped releasing the update after the data-loss problem emerged, apologized for the problem in a statement Tuesday.
Chrome 79 and the related version of WebView, which lets developers use web programming techniques in their Android apps, didn’t delete the data. But the Chrome 79 update that started arriving released last week made it impossible for apps to reach that data, which caused problems like losing access to saved games and in-game bonuses. And the fix, by restoring earlier data, can wipe out anything new that’s been saved or affected people.
Fewer people were affected than initially thought. The bug report said Google paused distribution of the software at 50% of the millions of Android users, but in fact the update had been sent only to less than 15%.
Modern app foundations like Android, iOS, Windows and the web are complex and rapidly changing, a reality that makes it hard to ensure all apps work as they should. But given our increasing reliance on these foundations, even small problems can affect millions of people.
Chrome’s influence in this domain is powerful. In addition to its use in WebView for Android apps, other browser makers including Microsoft, Samsung, Brave, Opera and Vivaldi use the open-source Chromium project as the basis for their own browsers.
The problem affected several programming interfaces that developers cold use to store data with the browser and WebView could store data. That included Service Workers, AppCache, File System, localStorage, IndexedDB and WebSQL.