On March 15, projects based on the Chromium based browser will no longer have access to several of its APIs, which will be private and affect, for example, geolocation or the synchronization of Google accounts.
The situation reminds us that Chromium, like Android, was not as Open Source as you might think. Many Linux users and developers are now protesting a decision that affects them especially, but also has an impact on projects such as Microsoft Edge, Brave or Vivaldi.
Maybe it’s time to have a truly Open Source Chromium based browser
Tom Callaway, who manages the Chromium package on Fedora, explained how “that will make the Fedora Chromium build significantly less functional, “and the problem will be the same in any other distribution that uses Chromium based browser.
This developer recalled how Google has been allowing access to these APIs since 2013 (Google account synchronization, geolocation, ‘Click to call’, Chrome Spelling API, Contacts API and Chrome Translate Element) and layer that access not because they want to cover a hole security, but because “they want everyone to use Chrome.”
Similar comments were coming from Eric Hameleers, who runs Chromium at Slackware, explaining that he will no longer include the browser in the distribution. “I will not package and distribute Chromium for Slackware if the package is covered by the lack of Chrome Sync login”.
It is true that the Linux share is very low compared to that of Windows or Mac systems, but in those systems many other alternatives such as Opera, Brave, Microsoft Edge or Vivaldi are based on Chromium to offer their benefits.
The fact that Google has access to these options means that all of them can be affected to a greater or lesser extent , and although Microsoft, for example, has the capacity to react – in fact, they eliminated or modified 50 Chromium features by adopting this base for their new browser – others may not have it.
The solution could be to have a totally Open Source Chromium that could also offer APIs equivalent to those that Google closes (and the rest of those it uses) with equivalent services, but totally Open Source.
In many cases this is not trivial, but Firefox shows that it is possible to have an effective totally Open Source alternative and that it also facilitates access to features such as synchronization of accounts, bookmarks, history or passwords.
That said, it is important to note that when that support for Chromium APIs disappears, the data will still be there for users who have used these APIs during all this time, but it will be available only locally.