Google's WebView is a vital component of the Android OS that lets app developers render webpages in apps without requiring a full browser. Now, the tech giant has announced that WebView component will actually become a part of Chrome to bring in more data and memory efficiency.
In order for Chrome to handle WebView rendering, users will have to be running on Android 7.0 Nougat with Chrome v51, or higher. On its developer page, Google mentions, "Starting with Chrome version 51 on Android N and above, the Chrome APK on your device is used to provide and render Android System WebViews. This approach improves memory usage on the device itself and also reduces the bandwidth required to keep WebView up to date. You can choose your WebView provider by enabling Developer Options and selecting WebView implementation. You can use any compatible Chrome version (Dev, Beta, or Stable) that is installed on your device or the standalone Webview APK to act as the WebView implementation."
The standalone WebView APK will no longer be updated by the tech giant, as long as Chrome WebView rendering remains enabled. Developers can activate this new feature by enabling the 'Multiprocess WebView' option. This will run web content on apps through a unique sandboxed process.
However, this is an optional feature and developers can opt out of it by selecting WebView Implementation in Developer Options. Developers can then opt for the standalone WebView APK, over the new Chrome WebView rendering if required.
WebView has constantly been tweaked by Google through the years, and it has changed vastly from where it started long ago. The component was based on the Webkit engine, which was replaced by Google's Chromium engine when Android 4.4 KitKat launched, resolving the reported vulnerability in WebView and also enabling quick binary updates to the component via OEM updates. Android 5.0 Lollipop then unbundled WebView from the operating system, allowing it to be downloaded and updated separately by users from Google Play - without requiring an OEM fix.