Special Feature
Part of a ZDNet Special Feature: Coronavirus: Business and technology in a pandemic

Google pauses Chrome and Chrome OS releases due to coronavirus outbreak

Google: "Due to adjusted work schedules at this time, we are pausing upcoming Chrome and Chrome OS releases."

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Google said today it is pausing upcoming Chrome and Chrome OS releases due to the ongoing coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak.

The company cited "adjusted work schedules" as the primary reason for the delay, as most of its engineers are now working from home.

The company published an official statement today after ZDNet reached out for comment last night, when Google failed to release Chrome v81.

YouTube videos, tweets, and blog posts announcing the new Chrome release were posted online yesterday -- most likely scheduled days or weeks in advance.

However, the actual Chrome v81 release never made it to users' devices, and the same videos, tweets, and blog posts were removed shortly after Google's PR realized their mistake.

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Image: ZDNet

While investigating the reasons why the Chrome v81 release was pulled last night, several Google employees told this reporter the v81 release had been postponed due to the coronavirus outbreak and the availability of some engineers in the case of errors or other issues related to the rollout.

Following an inquiry last night, Google made a formal announcement today in regards to the confusion surrounding the abandoned Chrome 81 release and its future releases.

For the moment, Google plans to release all the Chrome 81 security updates as a minor Chrome 80 release, and pause any other major stable rollouts while it waits for things to return to normal.

The decision is understandable, as Chrome is one of the most used software applications in the world, and even the slightest error can cause problems for thousands of users and organizations. Take this incident from November 2019, as an example of how even the smallest Chrome change can cause unimaginable havoc.

Google's official statement on the matter is below, in full:

"Due to adjusted work schedules at this time, we are pausing upcoming Chrome and Chrome OS releases. Our primary objectives are to ensure they continue to be stable, secure, and work reliably for anyone who depends on them. We'll continue to prioritize any updates related to security, which will be included in Chrome 80. Please, follow this blog for updates."

Google Chrome 81 was initially scheduled to be released yesterday, on March 17. Yesterday's release was supposed to add improved support for WebXR (Chrome's Augmented Reality feature), to deprecate the TLS 1.0 and TLS 1.1 encryption protocols, and add initial support for the Web NFC standard.

Updated on March 20, 11:15pm ET to add that Microsoft has also paused updates for the Edge browser as well. The Edge browser is currently based on Chromium, the open-source code at the heart of Google Chrome.