Facebook Android app to drop system web view

October 2, 2022 in Android by Brenton ‐ 2 min read

Meta has announced the Facebook Android app will soon use its own Chromium-based web view for web links.

Engineering at Meta:

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.

For example, people with outdated versions of the Chrome and WebView apps may be more susceptible to zero day exploits and other security holes that might have been fixed in newer versions of Chromium. In addition, we also observed that, due to the way Android loads the System WebView, when users were updating the System WebView app, they were experiencing a Facebook app crash.

To help solve these issues – and following the precedent of browser vendors such as Microsoft Edge, Samsung Internet, and Mozilla Firefox who all ship custom browser engines on Android – we have been building and testing a separate Chromium-Based WebView for a few years.

In short, because of the way that Android updates the system web view Facebook have decided to drop the use of it altogether and build their own web view that’s updated at the same time the Facebook app is.

By building their own web view, Facebook is also able to improve performance by using a device’s GPU to render pages and games.

The fact that in Android 13 there’s still no way to detect when the system web view is being updated is damning, and made even worse given third party apps that use it will crash if they happen to use the API at the same time an update is occurring.