Future of Chromium in Ubuntu with Google blocking sync

On March 15th, Google will revoke third-party access to the sync API. As a result, all distro packages of Chromium will stop syncing passwords and other user data.

How does this affect the Chromium packages in Ubuntu and the Snap store? What is the plan for Chromium in Ubuntu and the Snap store on/after this date?

Pinging @oSoMoN since I think he’s responsible for the packages.

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It will be ungoogled-chromium. Google giveth Google taketh.

It’s being discussed on Call for testing: chromium-browser deb to snap transition , it’s still unclear what the options are really

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It is something like CentOS Stream right ? I tried to download Chromium from their website yesterday. There no sign and finally I managed to land on a download page which said that Chromium builds will be unstable.

It is something like CentOS Stream right ?

Not really.

The Chromium project has never provided stable builds. Stable builds are only provided by distributions. The “Chromium” snap is built by Ubuntu developers, not Chromium developers. That has been the case for the last decade.

Chromium needs an API key to connect to Google services for synchronizing user data and passwords. Each distribution has their own API key for Chromium. They received these keys about 8 years ago with the explicit permission to use these keys for the Chromium builds. Google will revoke these API keys on March 15th. Moreover, Google is claiming that these keys were never allowed to be used for Chromium packages in the first place.

So distribution maintainers can still build and distribute Chromium, but Chromium will not be able to connect to Google services anymore to synchronize passwords and config.

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Unless something changes in Google’s stance, chromium packages in Ubuntu and in the snap store are equally affected as packages in other distributions, i.e. Google sign-in integration will have to be disabled, and as a result sync will stop working.

There seems to be some uncertainty around whether the use of other third-party Google APIs will continue to be allowed. The last we’ve heard from Google suggests that at least the Safe Browsing API will not be affected.

I will try to keep this thread updated with relevant news and packaging changes.

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Very confusing move by Google. How hard would it be to sunset the Chromium snap and move everyone using it to another Chromium fork like Brave?

Brave is not a chromium fork, it’s another browser that happens to be based on chromium. And even if it was technically feasible, I don’t think it would be right to force another browser on users who chose to install chromium. Let them decide if they are fine with the loss in functionality, or if they’d rather install another browser.

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Is there any progress on having a snap for Google Chrome? That would make the transition a lot easier for users who like it.

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There is a flatpak package that works pretty well:

https://flathub.org/apps/details/org.chromium.Chromium

That’s seems to be Chromium, built from the open-source code just like the Ubuntu snap package (which I’d say works very well). @merlijn-sebrechts was asking about an official Google Chrome package (with Google’s branding and closed-source bits), since that will be the only version that can use Google sync going forward.

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Create a meta package that would install Firefox when you go sudo apt install chromium or sudo snap install chromium. Firefox works really well without any google services.

geez, firefox is such a beast … better make it install https://snapcraft.io/mosaic

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I can’t believe this :astonished: :astonished:

Probably won’t have to worry about the company behind that browser changing the terms of service, either!

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The current dev and beta versions of the Chromium snap removed the keys needed for sync in anticipation of the revocation in March. So it seems like this is really happening. :frowning:

Ideally, Chromium should inform users of this change when it first starts up without these keys. I really like the “deb to snap” information page. (If you have the snap installed, open file:///snap/chromium/current/firstrun/snap-en.html to see the page). Can we have a similar page for the sync issue? What would such an information page say?

My thoughts

  • I think the page itself should list a recommended alternative but it should also contain a link to a community-maintained list of other alternatives.
  • Given how Google f*cked us over with this decision, I’m not too keen on promoting Google Chrome as an alternative. Moreover, Google Chrome is not available on all platforms supported by Snap.
  • I think it’s important to have a guide for how to export passwords and browsing data from Chromium and import it into the alternative. People who care about the sync issue will care a great deal about this data when moving to another browser. Maybe have a link to a wiki page about moving to another browser where the community can contribute guides for their favorite browsers?
  • I think it makes sense to use Firefox as the recommended alternative.
    • It’s in the Ubuntu archive maintained by Canonical so users can expect the same level of support.
    • It’s completely open source.
    • It’s also available as a Snap maintained by Mozilla themselves.
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Surely that’s a job for the upstream Chromium project? Given all builds of Chromium are affected in the same way, not just the snap.

I still fail to see why people are really up in arms about this. They want to use open-source browser but yet use Google’s sync service which might negate the fact since it goes through Google’s servers. Point being your data might be used to server ads as your history and such are on their servers. I might not know the details one weather or not if they do “snoop” on your browsing history, but the way I see it is this is a good thing, we are getting a pure open source version of Chrome w/o Google stuff. If people still want it then the can easily install Google Chrome, if not they can use Chromium as is or Firefox with it’s sync or even Vivaldi and its sync.

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This is not the case and this is a dangerous myth. Chromium will still send data to Google after March. Google will still be able to track Chromium users after March. Only the sync is disabled, features like Safe Browsing, which sends websites you visit to Google, will still be enabled.

Google Chrome only supports a limited set of distributions, CPU architectures and versions. Chromium supports almost everything thanks to the hard work of hundreds of packagers.

Google Chrome also isn’t available in regular repos or as a Snap or a Flatpak, adding extra hurdles to installation and updates.

People are upset because this move severely limits the number of people and distributions that can have the full Chrome/Chromium experience and it flushes a literal decade of work by hundreds of packagers down the drain with a month’s notice.

Want the most popular browser on your new Linux distribution? Well, you better make sure to keep compatibility with RHEL or Ubuntu because otherwise you’re screwed…

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Thanks for the through response, I did not really know about all these. Especially about the smaller distros not having a proper Chrome build, which makes sense as on their (Google) website they only have RPM and DEB version.

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