Google fixes Chrome 79 data loss bug on Android

The bug has been fixed in Chrome 79.0.3945.93 for Android, a Google spokesperson told ZDNet.

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Google has started rolling out today a fix for a bug in Chrome 79 that reset or caused data loss for some Android apps last week.

The bug impacted only Android apps built to run on top of WebView, a slimmed-down version of the Chrome browser. On Android, this component is embedded in other apps to play web content without showing the entire Chrome browser UI and is often used as a container to install web apps as standalone mobile apps on Android devices.

The Chrome 79 data loss bug

Chrome 79, released last week, contained a bug that impacted Android apps that relied on the WebView component.

Chrome 79.0.3945.79 for Android changed the location of the Chrome user profile directory.

User data generated by APIs like AppCache, File System, localStorage, IndexedDB, Service Workers, and WebSQL was left in the old location when users updated from Chrome 78 to Chrome 79, and was never moved into the new directory.

Initial reporting cited only localStorage and WebSQL data as being impacted, but ZDNet learned in the meantime that other APIs were also impacted. Other storage areas, like cookies and sessionStorage, were not affected.

After the update, Android users found that many Android apps -- which they didn't know were running on top of Chrome/WebView -- had suddenly reset, lost their data, or locked them out of their accounts.

At the time, many app developers complained to Google that they were being review-bombed with one-star ratings because of borked Chrome update, even if it was not their fault.

The data was not lost, just misplaced

The Chrome team intervened over the weekend and stopped the Chrome 79 rollout to prevent the update from reaching more users.

Because Chrome updates are deployed in tiers, the bad update didn't reach a large number of users. During its initial rollout week Chrome 79 was scheduled to be rolled out to 50% of users. ZDNet learned that the update rollout was paused before it reached 15% of the entire Chrome for Android userbase, a much smaller number than initially reported.

Last week, Chrome developers were unsure if the user data they forgot to migrate from Chrome 78 to Chrome 79 was still on users' devices or not. There was a genuine fear the data might have been cleared in the update process, and lost for good.

However, after further investigations, a Google spokesperson told ZDNet the data is intact and will be restored this week for all affected users.

"This app data was not lost and will be made visible in apps when we deliver an update this week," a Google spokesperson said. "We apologize for any inconvenience."

App devs don't have to do anything

The bug will be fixed in Chrome for Android, version 79.0.3945.93, which Google is currently pushing to users this week.

Chrome and WebView updates are synced on Android devices, meaning the new Chrome version will also update the Android WebView component at the same time, effectively fixing all impacted apps.

The fix will restore user access to their old data, and website owners and app developers impacted by the bug won't have to take any measures on their side -- except wait for the update to ship.