Facebook launches new in-app browser for Android
Facebook is preparing to launch a new in-app browser on Android, replacing the standard Android System WebView with a more stable solution.
Unlike other Android apps that open web links in an external browser of the user’s choice, Facebook opens pages within the app itself.
Facebook has identified a problem with the way it handles external links, saying users update the Facebook app more often than the software that powers the in-app browser.
An announcement on Meta’s engineering blog states:
“Our in-app browser for Facebook on Android has historically relied on an Android system web view based on Chromium, the open source project that powers many browsers on Android and other operating systems.
…Over the past few years, we have observed that many Android users update their Facebook app but do not update their Chrome and WebView apps, which can lead to security risks and negative user experience.
The company cites susceptibility to zero-day exploits and Facebook app crashes as significant issues resulting from its reliance on Android System WebView.
To address these issues, Facebook has developed a separate Chromium-based WebView that can be updated in sync with Facebook app updates.
Facebook lists several benefits of switching to a custom browser, including improved stability, security, and performance.
Benefits of a new in-app browser for Facebook on Android
A custom in-app browser allows Facebook to roll out the latest Chromium security patches directly to users, which install when users update the Facebook app.
This helps ensure that users don’t visit pages using outdated software, which can pose security risks.
A custom browser solution should lead to fewer app crashes, Facebook says.
Updating Android’s WebView software at the system level can cause apps to crash because Android needs to ensure that all instances of WebView are stopped in order to install the latest version.
Using a custom version of WebView, exclusive to the Facebook app, means that Android no longer needs to crash Facebook when updating System WebView.
Facebook claims that its custom in-app browser improves performance when it comes to rendering web pages and launching Instant Games through Facebook Gaming:
“Our WebView also improves rendering performance…Because we are able to limit how the WebView is rendered in our applications, we can enable GPU processing for our WebView. This improves rendering performance and stability web pages and instant games.
The benefits listed above may sound like technical jargon if you are unfamiliar with the Android operating system.
You should know that this change will improve security and performance and reduce app crashes when people view websites in the Facebook app.
Facebook isn’t the first app to use a custom built-in browser on Android. Mozilla, Microsoft and Samsung also have their own versions.
The company emphasizes that this change will not impact users’ privacy choices on Meta services.
Source: Engineering at Meta
Feature image: Emre Akkoyun/Shutterstock