Why were Google Chrome, Gmail apps crashing for some users
Early this morning, Android users around the world reported notifications alerting them that multiple apps had stopped running. The affected apps include Gmail, multiple banking apps, and Google Pay. Google acknowledged the problem with Gmail at 4:35 AM IST and promised an update. Developers and affected Android users on the internet suggested that an update to Android System WebView could have caused the problem.
A Twitter user suggests WebView is the culprit
All of a sudden, loads of Android apps started crashing for me this evening including Amazon Shopping, Gmail. Turns out the culprit is an Android System Webview update. Search for it in the play store and hit uninstall and it fixes the problem. #android #crash #amazon #webview— Craig Rouse (@craigrouse) March 22, 2021
Uninstalling updates to WebView fixed the problem for some users
Android WebView is a critical system component that permanently runs in the background and allows apps to display web content seamlessly. Many people uninstalled a recent update to WebView and successfully restored normal functioning of their devices. However, some people were unable to locate and uninstall the WebView update. Disabling WebView from the Settings app, or disabling Google Chrome reportedly worked for some users.
Google confirmed WebView caused the Gmail crash
At 5:56 AM IST, Google confirmed that the WebView app is causing Android apps to crash. A company spokesperson reportedly said work is underway to fully validate the scope and develop a fix. Popular crowdsourced outage-tracking website Downdetector reported a steep rise in crash reports for Gmail at 5:00 AM today. Reports began to decline soon afterwards.
Uninstalling Google Chrome from Play Store also fixed the issue
Gmail subreddit users reported that updates released earlier today did not fix the issue for everyone and Gmail continued to crash seconds after the app was opened. The latest update to the Reddit post suggests that uninstalling Google Chrome from the Play Store fixes the app crashing issue for everyone. Doing so only uninstalls recent updates which could have caused the problem.
Google confirmed that Workspace services remained unaffected
Google's Workspace Cloud Status Dashboard also reflects that the company is aware of the problem. The dashboard says that the Gmail app for Android will remain inaccessible but Google Workspace services were unaffected. It terms this event as a service disruption and not a complete outage. Additionally, the dashboard suggests that affected users use the Gmail Web interface instead of the Gmail app.
Apple updated WebView equivalent called WebKit just last week
Just last week, Apple also released an update for iOS and macOS which patched a WebKit vulnerability. Apple's WebKit for Safari browser is the equivalent of Android System WebView for Google Chrome. However, it is noteworthy that Apple's update patched a vulnerability that allowed jailbreaking of devices while Google's WebView is being updated to fix a global outage affecting multiple Android apps.
Google claims to have fixed Chrome, WebView
As of 11:48 AM IST, the Workspace Dashboard reflects that the problem with Gmail has been resolved. Updating Android System WebView and Google Chrome browser from the Play Store should fix the issue for all users. It is yet to be ascertained if the updates will fix the app crashing problem for all Android users around the world.