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The endless browser wars


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The endless browser wars


Chromium users beware.

Or so it seems. Much of what appears to be Chrome (or Chromium) functionality is, in truth, provided by servers in Google's data centers. These include bookmark synchronization, the safe-browsing feature, search suggestions, spell-checking, and more. These features are not part of Chromium, but Google has long provided API keys for distributors of Chromium builds to use, ensuring that Chromium users had equal access to them.

That era is coming to an end, though. On January 15, the Chromium blog carried this brief notice that, as of March 15, non-Chrome builds of Chromium would lose access to these APIs. The loss of the bookmark-synchronization API, in particular, has drawn a fair amount of attention, but there are quite a few others that, it seems, will be restricted as well. After that date, users wanting to use those features will have to run Chrome to do so.

In other words, as of March 15, Chromium-based browsers will become rather less capable than they were the day before; this will reduce the value of Chromium to many of its users. Some of them will certainly throw in the towel and just install Chrome instead. Anticipating this, distributors are already wondering whether packaging Chromium (evidently not the easiest of tasks) is still worth the effort. Longtime Fedora developer Tom Callaway, for example, posted a Twitter thread in which he said: "I am seriously reconsidering whether there is any value in a crippled version of Chromium remaining in Fedora/EPEL".

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  • Root Admin

Sadly it is both costly and political issues involved and very little choice. That is part of the issue with having anyone having a monopoly on anything. Sooner or later they will use that power over others.

Even Firefox has way too much influence from Google for various reasons.


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Since the entire reason I use a non-Chrome Chromium based browser is to avoid Google's tracking and advertising, I never used those features anyway (and was warned against them by my browser in its settings for the same reason, because they use Google's servers and are therefore subject to Google's data collection and retention policies).  I'm sure this will impact users who enjoy non-Chrome Chromium based browsers for other reasons, such as enhanced features that vanilla Chrome does not include, but hopefully developers of alternative Chromium browsers will provide some sort of alternatives or options for exporting synced settings to use across devices/browsers; as it is, exporting/importing bookmarks is a pain, and seldom works the way one might expect it to, placing imported bookmarks into a separate folder rather than the root of the browser's bookmarks folder which can be frustrating if you use the bookmarks toolbar (a pain I've dealt with on both Chromium and Firefox browsers; ironically, this is one feature I've noted that Microsoft gets right with Internet Explorer since favorites for that browser are stored in the user's data folder on disk as actual links/shortcuts, so importing favorites is as simple as copy/paste for the folders and shortcuts, with the entire original structure being retained; I wish I could say the same for these 'superior' modern browsers, but exporting/importing to HTML always ends up changing how bookmarks are structured).

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Seems edge will not be affected (other than its Linux version).

"Not every Chromium-based browser will be affected by the API change. Vivaldi, which is based on Chromium, uses its own sync engine, as does Microsoft Edge (though Edge for Linux currently lacks support for it)."


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