COVID-19 Fears Bring Google Chrome Dev to Screeching Halt

The novel coronavirus is making Googlers work from home. What la GOOG calls “adjusted work schedules” caused by SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19) mean the Chrome and Chrome OS teams will focus only on security updates, for now.

Why can’t Google, of all companies, figure out how to work from home? It turns out that this isn’t the real reason.

AppSec/API Security 2022

What’s really going on is good, old fashioned, concern for employees’ well-being—plus a desire to not destabilize people’s connections to the outside world. In today’s SB Blogwatch, we uncover the truth.

Your humble blogwatcher curated these bloggy bits for your entertainment. Not to mention: You can make a difference.


With Great Responsibility

What’s the craic? Sergiu Gatlan reports—“Google Prioritizes Security Updates After Halting Chrome Releases”:

 Release of future Chrome and Chrome OS versions is temporarily paused because of adjusted work schedules. … The Google Chrome development team will continue to work remotely throughout the current novel coronavirus outbreak and will prioritize security updates.

As proof, Google Chrome 80.0.3987.149 was released right after the company announced that Chrome v81 was delayed, with security fixes patching 13 high severity vulnerabilities. … v81 was supposed to start rolling out on March 17th. [It] should have included support for form elements featuring a modernized look, hit testing for augmented reality, app icon badge support, and initial support for Web NFC.

Is that really the full story? Catalin Cimpanu reads between the lines—“Google pauses Chrome and Chrome OS releases due to coronavirus”:

 YouTube videos, tweets, and blog posts announcing the … Chrome v81 … release were posted online yesterday — most likely scheduled days or weeks in advance. … However, the actual Chrome v81 release never made it to users’ devices, and the same videos, tweets, and blog posts were removed shortly after Google’s PR realized their mistake.

Several Google employees told [me] the v81 release had been postponed due to the [non] availability of some engineers in the case of errors or other issues related to the rollout. … The decision is understandable, as Chrome is one of the most used software applications in the world, and even the slightest error … can cause unimaginable havoc … for thousands of users and organizations.

From the horse’s mouth, please. The anonymous Googlers responsible blog thuswise—“Upcoming Chrome and Chrome OS releases”:

 Due to adjusted work schedules at this time, we are pausing upcoming Chrome and Chrome OS releases. Our primary objectives are to ensure they continue to be stable, secure, and work reliably for anyone who depends on them.

We’ll continue to prioritize … updates related to security, which will be included in Chrome 80. … The stable channel has been updated to 80.0.3987.149. … This update includes 13 security fixes.

It’s not just Chrome. Self-confessed “verbose dude” Ryne Hager is remarkably succinct—“Google Play Store app submission reviews may take 7 days or longer”:

 Google is warning developers that app reviews may take seven days or more as a result of work schedule adjustments. … Some updates might take longer to go through if they happen to trigger a manual review.

“Due to adjusted work schedules at this time, we are currently experiencing longer than usual review times. While the situation is currently evolving, app review times may fluctuate.”

Google isn’t entirely clear about what precisely triggers an app review. While all new app submissions require one, updates for specific categories of apps … also trigger a manual review. [Otherwise] there isn’t any apparent rhyme or reason.

Eliciting cheers from eyelidlessness:

 [It] has a follow-on effect of reducing the possibility that end users experience problems due to breaking changes or bugs, which is also important considering nearly everyone is depending on the internet at this time. … I want to say that I appreciate [the] decision.

But jeers from phantomfive:

 My company had no slowdown when we made the switch to [working from home]. I’m not saying we are special, but I thought Google could figure out how to do this—especially their open source team, since open source teams typically all work remotely.

Seems legit. munificent explains deeper:

 Googlers (like myself) are probably the least materially affected by COVID-19. We are well compensated and most aren’t living paycheck to paycheck. We have great medical benefits.

Working from home is fairly feasible for most teams. … Google already has much of that infrastructure in place.

Even so, my rough estimate is that my team is about 30% less effective right now … because staying focused on code during a global pandemic that will kill … people, is causing massive suffering for people who aren’t as fortunate as we Googlers, and may lead to a depression the likes of which haven’t been seen in a hundred years.

We’re all trying to survive a monumentally catastrophic event with our health and wits intact the best way we know how. The history books are going to write about how millions [of] people self-quarantined to protect the older generation.

No one’s going to give a damn that Chrome skipped a release or two.

And it’s brought home the nature of what we’re dealing with—to dizel123, for example:

 It seems like the entire planet was completely unprepared for this. … A large and growing number of companies worldwide are changing people’s work schedules.

Meanwhile, are you pondering what Anonymous Coward’s pondering?

 Wonder if they’d consider doing this permanently? The world can only get better if Chrome’s development is permanently paused.

And Finally:

Reasons to be cheerful
“We can and will beat this but we need to take action. This is a balanced look at what we face without resorting to scare tactics nor ignoring the facts.”

Previously in And Finally


You have been reading SB Blogwatch by Richi Jennings. Richi curates the best bloggy bits, finest forums, and weirdest websites… so you don’t have to. Hate mail may be directed to @RiCHi or [email protected]. Ask your doctor before reading. Your mileage may vary. E&OE.

Image source: Codie Morgan (cc:by-sa)

Richi Jennings

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Richi Jennings

Richi Jennings is a foolish independent industry analyst, editor, and content strategist. A former developer and marketer, he’s also written or edited for Computerworld, Microsoft, Cisco, Micro Focus, HashiCorp, Ferris Research, Osterman Research, Orthogonal Thinking, Native Trust, Elgan Media, Petri, Cyren, Agari, Webroot, HP, HPE, NetApp on Forbes and CIO.com. Bizarrely, his ridiculous work has even won awards from the American Society of Business Publication Editors, ABM/Jesse H. Neal, and B2B Magazine.

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