Google Stops Supporting Old Unsupported Code

I give software companies a lot of shit for failing to keep their customers secure but I also acknowledge that the task is really difficult. This is especially true when your customers are running old versions of your software and either refuse to or cannot upgrade. Microsoft continued supporting Windows XP for a decade, which is probably a century in software terms. When it cut off support many people still running Windows XP complained that they were being put at unnecessary risk. But software companies can’t support every version of every software product they’ve released. Google recently announced that it was no longer going to support Android WebView and now people are complaining that they’re being put at unnecessary risk because they’re running a old version of Android:

Owning a smartphone running Android 4.3 Jelly Bean or an earlier versions of Android operating system ?? Then you are at a great risk, and may be this will never end.

Yes, you heard right. If you are also one of millions of users still running Android 4.3 Jelly Bean or earlier versions of the operating system, you will not get any security updates for WebView as Google has decided to end support for older versions of Android WebView – a default web browser on Android devices.

WebView is the core component used to render web pages on an Android device, but it was replaced on Android 4.4 KitKat with a more recent Chromium-based version of WebView that is also used in the Chrome web browser.

Admittedly only supporting the latest version of Android is pretty shoddy but who is really to blame? Google has released a new version of Android, 4.4, and is supporting it so why aren’t customers upgrade? Because device manufacturers and carriers are standing in the way.

The smartest thing Apple did with the iPhone is cut the carriers out of the update cycle. When Apple wants to release an update it just released an update. Furthermore it has been doing an OK, albeit not great, job of supporting older devices.

Most devices require the device manufacturer to release an update and each carrier to sign off on it before it gets pushed to customers. Android device manufacturers have also been stopping updates for older devices at breakneck speed. Oftentimes you’re fortune to have your device supported with updates by the manufacturer for the entirety of your two year contract. And even if the manufacturer does a good job of supporting your device the carrier through inaction many prevent the update from being released to its customers.

I don’t think Google should bear most of the blame here. The real culprit are the companies that have prevented their customers from upgrading to the latest version of Android. Unless mobile handsets move to a model similar to desktops and laptops, where customers are free to install whatever operating system version they desire, we’re going to continue seeing instances where software developers drop support for legacy products and leave massive numbers of users without needed support.