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Chrome users irked by bugs

Chrome has become the dominant force in web browsing because of its ease of use, ubiquity, and stability. But for some users, it’s proving to be a problem.

Google Chrome has, over the last decade, become the world’s most used browser. Compared to Internet Explorer at its height, Google’s market share is dominant – more so than the browser that competitors wanted to be curtailed in popularity because it was thought to be anti-competitive.

In late March, Google released Chrome 100, its centennial update to the browser. It was just a normal update to the desktop version of the browser that included a new logo, security improvements, development features, and more to its users. However, it also came with a catch.

The problem rears its head

Shortly after downloading, a number of Chrome users began noticing something unusual about their browser’s behavior. For some extensions – important parts of the browser that help improve its ability, including interacting with some of the world’s most popular features, products and services – there was an issue that meant that users struggled to use them.

One company that develops browser extensions, CrankWheel, reported an issue just a few weeks after Chrome 100 was released. “We started getting reports from several users that clicking the CrankWheel button in their browser was not causing anything to happen,” said Jói Sigurdsson, founder and CEO of the CrankWheel screen-sharing extension. “Our initial suggestion to users was to disable and re-enable our extension, and that seemed to do the trick.”

However, the issue began to reappear – and Sigurdsson even encountered it themselves. Sigurdsson began to investigate and discovered that it wasn’t an issue with the extension – it was a broader problem with the browser and Chromium.

Getting it fixed

Bugs happen in software all the time, and are identified, raised, and usually quickly fixed. Sigurdsson reported the problem as an issue on the Chromium issue tracker, providing screen recordings that helped show the reproduction of the error and offering additional details that could hopefully help fix it. At the same time, Sigurdsson also contacted the Chromium Extensions mailing list to see if others had experienced the same problem.

They had. It turns out that the bug is one that has affected an unknown number of Chrome extensions and is estimated to have an effect on between 3% to 5% of users who have the affected extensions installed on their browser.

The extensions believed to be affected include very large ones used by millions of users, including LastPass and Norton. But despite the large numbers of users affected, the bug remains outstanding.

Bounties galore

The problem is so prevalent and widespread that there are two separate bug bounties set up to try and encourage individuals to find fixes that prevent it from happening anymore. Two $4,000 bounties are up for grabs, while there was a gig hire website job listing designed to help solve the problem.

The concern is that it’s not just limited to Chrome. Microsoft Edge, a competing browser, also uses Chromium to be built, and there are reports that users face the same issue there.

It’s an example of how minor errors can have huge consequences when dealing with such intricate pieces of software that are so widely used.

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