A silent experimental change made by Google in Chrome browser this week left thousands of businesses with unresponsive browsers and struggling to find any solution. Businesses using Chrome within shared virtual machine environments were greeted by a white screen on open Chrome tabs and the browser unusable. With businesses managing deployment of Chrome updates, a sudden change in the browser's behaviour left them baffled, leading them to flood Google's support forums and Chromium bug tracker.
“ALL users on that Citrix server running Chrome, Chrome will stop updating the screen until ANY user unlocks their session on this same Citrix server,” the person who filed the bug report on Chromium bug tracker noted while trying to explain how to reproduce it. The replies in the bug tracker revealed that the problem was not just limited to Citrix, other virtual machine environments were also impacted.
Following the angry and frustrated complaints on Chromium bug tracker and Google support forums, the company's executives revealed that they have been testing the experimental change in beta for five months and it was finally released made live for stable version users on Tuesday.
According to a report by The Verge, Google had made the change to “reduce resource usage when the browser isn't in use.” It seems Google forgot to take into account the virtual machine usage while making the experiment live.
Google rolled back the change on Thursday, however until then the IT admins around the world were forced to struggle with an unknown issue without a solution. Some had managed to find a workaround but for others it was simply a time and resource waste.
“We're a large school district with 2,000 managed Enterprise Browsers and over 11,000 Chrome OS devices. We specifically do version control via the Admin Console and a central update server for applications to explicitly avoid these scenarios,” an IT admin from US's Shenendehowa Central Schools district wrote on Chromium bug tracker. “If you're going to make configuration changes in the background rather than sticking to software revisions to make changes, perhaps we should be turning our eye toward Office 365 and another competitor browser for our environment.”
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