Google Chrome 100 eclipses sites that can’t rank as high
Google on Tuesday released Chrome 100, an iteration of the popular browser that can trip websites not written to handle three-digit version numbers. It’s a problem that, although rare, also affects Mozilla Firefox and Microsoft Edge users.
The problem occurs because developers sometimes try to customize their websites for specific browser versions. Browsers share their version number with a short text description called a user-agent string, but website scripts sometimes only extract two of the three digits in the version number.
Problems can include websites not working at all or displaying one Popup falsely stating that your browser is out of date. Problems using Chrome, Firefox and Edge have been reported by Mercedes-Benz, a license plate renewal tool in Ontario, Canada, IMB Bank in Australia and India’s Space Resource Organization, among others. Some websites built with the Duda website builder tool were also showing issues, according to Chrome’s bug tracker.
Software that breaks over time is not uncommon. Programmers make mistakes, software fundamentals like iOS and Windows change every year, engineers update Internet communication standards, and online services change their programming interfaces. However, with billions of Chrome users, this ticking Chrome version update clock is a widespread problem around the world.
The browser version number issue is similar to the Y2K issue 22 years ago, when software that only recorded the last two digits of the year was dumped when 1999 became 2000. A similar problem occurs in 2038 when using a 32-bit number, which some computers use to count seconds from January 1, 1970 is no longer sufficient.
Mozilla has warned of similar problems for Firefox, which is expected to hit version 100 on May 5th. Firefox includes a list of “Interventions” that can fix problems like the version number issue with certain websites. Microsoft Edge, which is now based on Google’s open-source Chromium browser foundation, can also have problems.
Updates and new version numbers were a rarity until the 1990s, when software was updated by issuing new floppy disks or CD-ROMs. But Google changed all that in 2008 with the release of Chrome, introducing a quarterly update cycle that brought new version numbers every three months. Mozilla’s Firefox followed suit, and Chrome has since switched to an even faster six-week, and now four-week cycle.
The idea that’s becoming more common in the software world is that it’s easier for developers and software users to manage lots of small changes than infrequent, disruptive overhauls. In fact, software becomes a continuously updated project that can respond more quickly to security issues and provide new features as soon as they are ready.
Chrome 100 also patches a number of security vulnerabilities and updates the browser’s icon with simpler, brighter colors and better stylistic alignment across Android, iOS, macOS, Chrome OS, and Windows.
Additionally, on Wednesday, Google released Chrome OS 100, the variant of Chrome that powers Chromebook laptops. It includes a new app launcher and search tool, a feature for creating animated GIFs, and advanced voice dictation abilities.