Thousands of browsers crash after Google’s silent Chrome experiment

It was not pretty this week when thousands of businesses were left with empty white browser screens after Google did a silent experimental change on Chrome.

Businesses that used virtual machine environments like Citrix to access Chrome ended up being blocked and with the bowser being totally unresponsive. This left IT administrators confused and upset as businesses tried to make their typical updates on Chrome.

Thousands of complaints were logged, forcing Google to let it be known that it had launched an ‘experiment’ on stable versions of Chrome which changed the browser’s behavior. The experiment was done ‘silently’ without any warnings being given to IT admins or users. Google just simply went ahead with the experiment which enables the new WebContents Occlusion feature to suspend Chrome tabs when other apps are moved over them in order to reduce source usage when the browser is not in use.

David Bienvenu, who is a software engineer at Google, said that this feature has been on beta for 5 months as a Chromium bug thread. And it had been on for about one percent of stable M77 and M78 users for a month without any issues. It was turned on Tuesday for everyone unfortunately resulting in blank screens.

Costco IT admins said their Call Center agents were bombarded with calls and were not able to chat with their members. They said it wasted a lot of time taking them a day and a half to figure out what the problem was.

One IT admin who spoke with The Verge and alerted it to the issue at hand said they felt this was a shady deal that Google could silently change something without warning anyone and impacting over 100,000 people whenever it wants to. This same concern was expressed on Google’s support forum by hundreds of responses and on Twitter and Reddit as well.

Needless to say it has left IT admins upset and angry because they have wasted valuable time and resources trying to fix the issue on their end when it was a Google action that resulted in the inconvenience to their businesses. It leaves them questioning why Google thought it necessary to make the change silently in the first place. 

One IT admin said he was stunned in response to Google’s confirmation of its action and questioned whether Google understands the impact that was created for thousands of IT admins because no warnings or explanations were given beforehand. He stated that their businesses were not Google’s test subjects and that IT admins run professional services for multi-million dollar programs.

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