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Google tests fix for Chrome bug that crippled some Android apps

A data storage change cut off access for some Android apps to data like game history and login information.

A Google Chrome lapel pin
A Google Chrome bug cut off some Android apps' access to stored data.
Stephen Shankland/CNET

Google is scrambling to fix a data-storage problem that crippled some Android apps that use the company's Chrome browser technology. It halted distribution of the latest version of its Chrome technology to Android and began testing a fix this weekend.

The fix itself isn't perfect, though. Google faced a choice between restoring access to older data or keeping any new data users might have created. The patch restores access to old data, which means some people could be faced with a second round of data loss.

Google had distributed the new software to 50 percent of users, developers said on a discussion about the bug report, but it's unclear how widely the interfaces were used or how seriously users were affected.

The move, one developer said in a bug report, is a "disaster." And a chess app developer complained that in one of his apps, Chess Free, players lost diamond and boosters they'd obtained, and in another, Chess Online, players lost login information and therefore access to their game history.

The problem illustrates the difficulties of maintaining and improving today's software foundations. Companies like Google, Apple and Microsoft want to move as fast as possible to modernize those foundations, and the internet provides a conduit for keeping those projects continually fresh. But the software foundations are so complex and used in so many ways that it's difficult to find every potential problem.

Still, Google has mechanisms like the Canary, Developer, and Beta versions of Chrome designed to catch such problems before full distribution. Those mechanisms don't extend to Android testing of apps that use WebView.

Chrome and WebView offer various ways to store data on a phone, tablet or personal computer. With version 79 of Chrome on Android and the related Android WebView technology variation, though, Google changed how data is stored using two programming interfaces, WebSQL and LocalStorage. That cut off the access by some websites and apps to old data.

Google didn't immediately respond to a request for comment.

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