December 17, 2019

Chrome 79 for Android rolled out earlier this week with phishing protections and the ability to reorder bookmarks. A WebView issue related to that version is affecting third-party Android apps and causing user data loss.

Update 12/17: Google now has a fix for the “WebView bug.” According to the company today, old data from Chrome 78 (and earlier) that disappeared with Chrome 79 “will be made visible in apps” again after a new browser and WebView update (79.0.3945.93) this week.

“App data was not lost,” just inaccessible following an incomplete internal migration. The AppCache, File System, localStorage, IndexedDB, Service Workers and WebSQL APIs were impacted, but cookies and sessionStorage went unaffected. Meanwhile, the initial version of Chrome 79 was scheduled to be rolled out to 50% of users, but only reached 15% by the time it was pulled.

This means that users who have used the current version and lost access to their old data will get their old data back at the cost of losing access to data newly created since the original M79 update.

However, this comes at the expense of new information that was created over the past week. The team’s next task is to “explore options to potentially recover data in any new files that were moved out of the way.”


Some apps are not native and essentially just wrappers for webpages. Developers that build applications in this manner get the latest browser APIs and features when Google updates Android System WebView through the Play Store. That is the case on Android 10, while older versions of the OS leverage Chrome.

Android WebView is a system component powered by Chrome that allows Android apps to display web content. This component is pre-installed on your device and should be kept up to date to ensure you have the latest security updates and other bug fixes.

On Friday morning, Android developers reliant on WebView and local storage began encountering an issue where their apps lost data after users updated to version 79 of WebView. Those affected took to Chromium’s bug tracker, and have described the incident as a “catastrophe” and “major issue.”

To end users, it’s as if apps were entirely reset and just downloaded for the first time. This includes saved data disappearing or being logged out. Given the level of system opacity, most will blame developers for a problem that’s out of their hands.

By that afternoon, Google engineers responded and isolated the issue to “profile layout changes” where “local storage was missed off the list of files migrated.” A member of the Chromium team apologized Saturday morning, with the Chrome/WebView rollout halted after 50% of devices already received the update. At the highest priority level (P0), Google is currently “working on a solution that minimizes the data loss, and that can be rolled out safely.” The last guidance for a patch is 5-7 days.

So far, no notable Android apps seem to be affected, but be sure to comment if you’ve encountered data loss.

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