Editorial on Google Chrome v56
First off, let’s just say that I have been a Google Chrome supporter for at least two years. In my mind, it’s done an excellent job isolating and protecting us users from the nasties out there in the world trying to screw with us. I know because as an IT engineer at work, one of my jobs is to test the interactions of new software product versions in our environment. As such, I read up on upcoming releases of our critical applications used in our environment. The Google Chrome browser is one of those applications.
Last Wednesday, Feb 7, 2016, Google released its latest version of their Chrome Browser. I knew in advance that it was coming. I thought I knew how it would affect my user base at work and my devices at home.
I was wrong. In the week since Google released it, I have discovered a failure within printing calendars from OWA (Outlook’s web application for email and calendars for Exchange Servers) and Android device breakdowns. I’m less worried about the printing of calendars which I’m sure will be fixed at some point. I’m more worried about the total disconnect on Android devices.
When I first learned of the upcoming Chrome release, I figured that it would not affect me. All of my devices are relatively new and update frequently. Okay, apparently I was partially correct.
About 3-4 years ago, I bought a Samsung tablet 10.2. It’s been a workhorse in my house ever since. My girlfriend uses it to read her webmail and traverse the various social sites. I use it to make use of the Google Drive features which depend on Chrome. When I am away from my home office, I can pick up the table and write full chapters of a new book on it. Then, when it’s time to do initial editing, my girlfriend will read out loud what I wrote on the tablet while I follow along on mine and make corrections.
With the release of Chrome 56, that all broke and apparently will be gone forever. In researching the question, here is what I found.
Samsung stopped updating the Android OS on my 10.2 tablet at version 4.0.4. Okay, it’s an older version. I get that. But until the other day, I didn’t care. The tablet did everything we needed, browsing, docs, sheets and a bunch of other stuff that is not germane to this editorial.
When version 56 installed, Google in its infinite wisdom simply disabled the installed instance on my tablet. It didn’t say why. It didn’t throw up a message why the program wouldn’t load. Tapping the icon on the screen merely appeared to start and immediately stopped. When my girlfriend told me that her chrome on her tablet had broken, she just handed me the tablet and told me to fix it
Normally, this is a no-brainer for me. I uninstalled the app and went to the Playstore to reinstall it. What do you know? The app wasn’t listed. WTF? When I dug deeper, I found an article in 2015 mentioning that due to the disabling of certain external features, most notably .mobi, Google was going to stop supporting Chrome on certain devices in the future. Okay, to me that means, support will stop answering questions, and I am free to use the software for as long as I want, as long as I don’t call them. Right?
Wrong in this case. Google effectively crashed my installed copy and prevented it from being used at all. Okay then, at first I accepted it and moved on, giving the tablet back to my girlfriend and told her to use the built-in browser that came with the table.
A couple of days later, it hit me. My current cell phone is a Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge. What would happen if I decided to continue to use it for the next, say, 3 or 4 years. Not to say I would, but what if? I still have my Galaxy S3 in use, so it is possible. What if Google decided to build in yet another security feature into Chrome and disable all previous versions of Chrome. What if they decided that the Android OS version was just too old to support the latest and greatest (?) version of Chrome and just killed Chrome on my device.
You would say, just use a different or built-in browser. My answer would be, wrong.
Chrome is the built-in browser on this device. As such, I would have no browser at all, and I suspect a bunch else would break as well since the OS on the S6 Edge is so heavily dependent upon the Chrome backbone.
Would I be able to use the playstore to go out and find the current copy of Firefox, Opera, or Safari? I’m not sure. They would be forcing me to buy a new smartphone when I had a perfectly good working one yesterday.
Is this right? The same goes for my tablet. It was a perfectly good working one yesterday and not today. Its usefulness is now cut in half, and my girlfriend and I are already talking about replacing it.
Now, you Apple people out there would ask, why not buy an iPad, or why didn’t you buy and iPad.
I’ll tell you. I’m an open systems kind-of-guy. I do not like the small little world that Apple forces me into. I do not like how they force you to buy new expensive accessories on each device you own. And by-the-way, Apple builds in their own planned obsolescence into each of their products. Now, before you try to defend your position, just know that I do have an iPad 2. Yes, this is an older tablet, predating my Samsung Tablet. I had figured that it would force me to replace it two years ago. The thing is, I don’t use it very much. In fact, about the only time I use it is to test my website designs on it. And hey, guess what? I haven’t gotten the nerve to load up Chrome on it and see what happens. I will soon, just not today.
In the end, I’m not happy that Google is doing what they are doing, in the interest of making a better, more secure browsing platform. I feel they should have a least let me keep on continue using the older version, and given me a disclaimer. Fine, I’ll accept the disclaimer and continue to be productive. If something happens afterward, it’s on me, and I’m okay with that. #sad