Google’s Sync API lock: Linux distributors struggle with Chromium


Google’s decision to block access to the sync function for Chromium and Chromium-based browsers has led to discussions about the future of Chromium packages in various Linux distributions. The Fedora project is already preparing an update that will disable the sync function in Chromium.

Google’s move is causing many Linux distributors to rethink their commitment to Chromium packages. On his blog, a maintainer who provides Chromium for Slackware explains, Google itself provided the necessary API keys in the past and granted permission to use them in Chromium packages. He also puts the question of ending the packaging of Chromium if the browser would not be attractive for a large number of users without the sync function. Slackware users would then have to install the browser from other sources.

Like that Chromium 88 release announcements for Fedora can be seen, the package maintainer Tom Callaway has already deactivated the sync function. How the package maintainers of other distributions will deal with Google’s decision cannot be foreseen at the moment. They will also be forced to switch off the sync function in the respective Chromium builds by mid-March if they want to continue offering the browser.

In a short blog post, Google explained, during a review it was found that users could use the sync function via Chromium-based browsers. The synchronization of data, such as bookmarks and passwords, is reserved for Google Chrome alone. Access to the relevant APIs will be blocked on March 15th. According to Jochen Eisinger, engineering director at Google, safety concerns or cost considerations do not play a role in the decision. Instead, they want to ensure that the users of the Google APIs move within Google’s guidelines.

The cut affects the Chromium packages of all Linux distributions, but also BSD operating systems. In the announcement, Google explainsthat users keep their data in the View Google activity overview and about the Google Takeout website can download. Local data remains available.


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