Thousands of Google Chrome users have been left without service after the company rolled out a new power-saving feature that instead left thousands of users staring at a blank screen.
As ZDNet explains, the problem was traced back to a feature called ‘WebContents Occlusion’, which suspends Chrome tabs when you move another window on top of the browser to free up system resources.
It has been in testing in Chrome Canary and Beta for months, but when Google rolled it out in the stable release the complaints started flooding in.
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The average home user wasn’t affected, but businesses running Chrome in virtual machine environments found their staff staring into a white screen of death as their Chrome tabs went blank seemingly at random.
For companies that rely on web-based tools, and whose IT policies mean they can’t simply switch to a different browser, work ground to a halt.
“Do you see the impact you created for thousands of us without any warning or explanation?” one angry business user posted on the Chrome bug tracker.
“We are not your test subjects. We are running professional services for multi million dollar programs. Do you understand how many hours of resources were wasted by your ‘experiment’? Not acceptable.”
How to fix it
Google has now rolled back the WebContents Occlusion change, and Google software engineer David Bienvenu advised affected users to update and relaunch the browser.
The update should have reached all users now, but if you’re still having problems or haven’t received it, you can also solve the problem by visiting chrome://flags and disabling both chrome://flags/#web-contents-occlusion and chrome://flags/#calculate-native-win-occlusion.
Many IT admins are still unhappy though, and are petitioning Google to let them turn off all experimental flags for Chrome to avoid it happening again.
“Are we running Beta/Dev/Canary versions of Chromium where those experiments should take place?” asked one user. “No, most of us are on Stable/Enterprise channel, and therefore shouldn’t have ours messed with at all.”
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