If Apple had silently decided to stop providing security updates for nearly 1B of their users, the public outrage would be hard to ignore. Unfortunately for Android users, this is exactly what Google did when they chose to stop supporting WebView for those with older versions of their operating system –a shocking revelation when you consider that nearly 60% of devices fall below the Android 4.4 KitKat cutoff.
When a lot of the latest security exploits are found in WebView, is Google courageous or stupid to discontinue support? On one hand, it makes good business sense –allowing Google to focus their development efforts on fewer versions of Android, which means updates and upgrades should be delivered faster (a methodology that has worked reasonably well for Microsoft over the years, with their policy of sun-setting of support on older versions of operating systems in due time… though they usually give actual notice to users ahead of time). The other benefit as I see it, is it encourages users to upgrade their Android operating system in a more timely manner –which would be a much easier pill to swallow if upgrading was a choice users were always able to make and not reliant on manufacturers rolling it out for them.
WebView provides functionality to Android apps that allows for the display of web pages without having to launch a separate web browser application, making it a beloved and often-used feature (for developers and hackers alike).
So far Google isn’t talking about this change, but it seems unlikely that users are going to let them off the hook that easily. Chances are good that they will point out that third-party developers could always choose to provide ongoing support for WebView separate and apart from their updates, but that seems inefficient and maybe even dangerous for users who are less than tech-savvy.
Jillian Koskie is an experienced software developer, content writer, project manager and usability design expert. With over 17 years in these roles, Jillian has enjoyed applying her skill-set to assist clients and users across a wide variety of sectors including: legal, health, and financial services. Combining these professional opportunities with a love of technology, Jillian is pleased to contribute articles, opinions, and advice to numerous news outlets, websites, and publications.