Google Chrome Experiment Crashes Browser Tabs, Affecting Companies Worldwide

Google Chrome Experiment Crashes Browser Tabs, Affecting Companies Worldwide


Recently, the Chrome team conducted an unannounced Chrome experiment and companies reported the crash of thousands of browsers, putting IT admins into difficulty.

It all began on Wednesday, November 1 in enterprise networks, impacting Chrome browsers running on Windows Server “terminal server” setups. Thousands of employees from many companies claimed that Chrome tabs were abruptly going blank, displaying a “White Screen of Death” (WSOD) error.

“This has had a huge impact on all our Call Center agents and not being able to chat with our members,” someone with a Costco email address said in a bug report. “We spent the last day and a half trying to figure this out.”

“Our organization with multiple large retail brands had 1000 call center agents and many IT people affected for 2 days. This had a very large financial impact,” some users confirmed.

Eventually, the root cause of the bug was identified and traced back to a feature called “WebContents Occlusion,” designed to suspend Chrome tabs when moving other apps on top of them and limit resource usage when you’re not using the browser.

“The experiment/flag has been on in beta for ~5 months,” explained David Bienvenu, a software engineer at Google, in a Chromium bug thread. “It was turned on for stable (e.g., m77, m78) via an experiment that was pushed to released Chrome Tuesday morning. Prior to that, it had been on for about one percent of M77 and M78 users for a month with no reports of issues, unfortunately.”

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