Google has only just announced significant cuts to Chrome browser development. But today it is taking things even further.
In a shock move first spotted by ChromeUnboxed, Google has warned users that the the impact of COVID-19 means it has had to scrap the next major release of Chrome entirely.
03/25 Update: Microsoft has now followed in Google’s steps, confirming it will also cancel the next major version of Edge. Given that Edge is now built on a Chromium core like Google Chrome, Microsoft had little choice but to follow suit. “In light of the current circumstances, the Edge team will pause updating the Stable channel to Edge 81 consistent with the Chromium Project. We are committed to continued security and stability updates to Edge 80. We’ll have more to share on this next week,” the company explained. Opera is also based on Chromium and while it has not made an announcement to stall new versions, that seems like a matter of time. Firefox, on the other hand, is based on its own Gecko engine and it remains to be seen whether the company chooses to continue releasing new versions at this time.
03/26 Update: In a surprising move, Google has now decided it will resume Chrome and Chrome OS release updates. Here is the new timetable:
- M83 will be released three weeks earlier than previously planned and will include all M82 work as we cancelled the M82 release (all channels).
- Our Canary, Dev and Beta channels have or will resume this week, with M83 moving to Dev, and M81 continuing in Beta.
- Our Stable channel will resume release next week with security and critical fixes in M80, followed by the release of M81 the week of April 7, and M83 ~mid-May.
- We will share a future update on the timing of the M84 branch and releases.
Separately, Google has issued a further important Chrome update today, stating that it will introduce new Terms of Service for all users that take effect on March 31. “Understanding these terms is important because, by using our services, you’re agreeing to these terms,” the company explains. The key changes cover the sections: Service Provider (tweaks to Google’s company details), Age Requirements (a new minimum of 13 years old to manage a Google account without parental/guardian permission), Permission To Use Your Content (Google will only publish content you have made visible to others), Liabilities (important changes here, including Google’s limited liability – $500 or 125% of the fees paid to use the service, aka not much! – in the event of a breach of its services), Disputes, Law and Courts (“California law will govern all disputes” except in exceptional circumstances). The full ToS is worth a read, especially if you now find yourself with the time to do so.
“As we adapt our future milestone schedules to the current change in schedule, we have decided to skip the M82 release to ensure we keep users safe and focus all efforts on maintaining stability,” explained Jason Kersey, Google’s director of technical program management.
M82 is the codename for Chrome 82 and it would have been the backbone for the next big upgrade of Chrome on Windows, Mac, Android and Chrome OS. Kersey states that every element of the release will be abandoned with plans to skip to Chrome 83 (M83) at some point in the future:
- We will abandon current M82 branches, remove infra support, and stop testing/merges to the branches
- We will not push any new M82 releases to Dev, and we will stop stabilization for Beta.
- We will move Dev channel to M83 asap
- We will keep Beta channel on M81 until M83 is ready to be promoted
In fairness to Google, while this comes as a shock because it is an unprecedented move in Chrome’s 11-year history, we are currently living in unprecedented times. Moreover, while Chrome feature development is in hiatus, Google will continue to deliver security patches for the current version of Chrome, protecting the browser’s 2BN strong userbase.
So where do we go from here? There will be more cancellations. Chromium, the core for Google Chrome, powers numerous web browsers, including Microsoft Edge. All are now hamstrung and you can expect Microsoft to lead the way in making a similar announcement for Edge this week.
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