Google muzzles all Chromium browsers on 15 March 2021

Ominous music

A word of caution: long rant ahead. I apologize in advance.
There was an impactful post on the Google Chromium blog, last friday.  I recommend you read it now: https://blog.chromium.org/2021/01/limiting-private-api-availability-in.html

The message to take away from that post is “We are limiting access to our private Chrome APIs starting on March 15, 2021“.

What is the relevance I hear you ask.
Well, I provide Chromium packages for Slackware, both 32bit and 64bit versions. These chromium packages are built on our native Slackware platform, as opposed to the official Google Chrome binaries which are compiled on an older Ubuntu probably, for maximum compatibility across Linux distros where these binaries are used. One unique quality of my Chromium packages for Slackware is that I provide them for 32bit Slackware. Google ceased providing official 32bit binaries long ago.

In my Slackware Chromium builds, I disable some of the more intrusive Google features. An example: listening all the time to someone saying “OK Google” and sending the follow-up voice clip to Google Search.

And I create a Chromium package which is actually usable enough that people prefer it over Google’s own Chrome binaries, The reason for this usefulness is the fact that I enable access to Google’s cloud sync platform through my personal so-called “Google API key“. In Chromium for Slackware, you can logon to your Google account, sync your preferences, bookmarks, history, passwords etc to and from your cloud storage on Google’s platform. Your Chromium browser on Slackware is able to use Google’s location services and offer localized content; it uses Google’s  translation engine, etcetera. All that is possible because I formally requested and was granted access to these Google services through their APIs within the context of providing them through a Chromium package for Slackware.

The API key, combined with my ID and passphrase that allow your Chromium browser to access all these Google services are embedded in the binary – they are added during compilation. They are my key, and they are distributed and used with written permission from the Chromium team.

These API keys are usually meant to be used by software developers when testing their programs which they base on Chromium code. Every time a Chromium browser I compiled talks to Google through their Cloud Service APIs, a counter increases on my API key. Usage of the API keys for developers is rate-limited,  which means if an API key is used too frequently, you hit a limit and you’ll get an error response instead of a search result. So I made a deal with the Google Chromium team to be recognized as a real product with real users and an increased API usage frequency. Because I get billed for every access to the APIs which exceeds my allotted quota and I am generous but not crazy.
I know that several derivative distributions re-use my Chromium binary packages (without giving credit) and hence tax the usage quota on my Google Cloud account, but I cover this through donations, thank you my friends, and no thanks to the leeches of those distros.

Now, what Google wants to do is limit the access to and usage of these Google services to only the software they themselves publish – i.e. Google Chrome. They are going to deny access to Google’s Cloud Services for all 3rd-party Chromium products (i.e. any binary software not distributed by Google).
Understand that there are many derivative browsers out there – based on the Open Source Chromium codebase – currently using a Google API key to access and use Google Cloud services. I am not talking about just the Chromium packages which you will find for most Linux distros and which are maintained by ‘distro packagers’. But also commercial and non-commercial products that offer browser-like features or interface and use an embedded version of Chromium to enable these capabilities. The whole Google Cloud ecosystem which is accessible using Google API Keys is built into the core of Chromium source code… all that these companies had to do was hack & compile the Chromium code, request their own API key and let the users of their (non-)commercial product store all their private data on Google’s Cloud.

Google does not like it that 3rd parties use their infrastructure to store user data Google cannot control. So they decided to deliver a blanket strike – not considering the differences in usage, simply killing everything that is not Google.
Their statement to us distro packagers is that our use of the API keys violates their Terms of Service. The fact is that in the past, several distros have actively worked with Google’s Chromium team to give their browser a wider audience through functional builds of the Open Source part of Chrome. I think that Google should be pleased with the increased profits associated with the multitude of Linux users using their services.
This is an excerpt from the formal acknowledgement email I received (dating back to 2013) with the approval to use my personal Google API key in a Chromium package for Slackware:

Hi Eric,

Note that the public Terms of Service do not allow distribution of the API
keys in any form. To make this work for you, on behalf of Google Chrome
Team I am providing you with:

    -
    Official permission to include Google API keys in your packages and to
    distribute these packages.  The remainder of the Terms of Service for each
    API applies, but at this time you are not bound by the requirement to only
    access the APIs for personal and development use, and
    -
    Additional quota for each API in an effort to adequately support your
    users.

I recommend providing keys at build time, by passing additional flags to
build/gyp_chromium. In your package spec file, please make an easy to see
and obvious warning that the keys are only to be used for Slackware. Here
is an example text you can use:

# Set up Google API keys, see
http://www.chromium.org/developers/how-tos/api-keys .
# Note: these are for ... use ONLY. For your own distribution,
# please get your own set of keys.

And indeed, my chromium.SlackBuild script contains this warning ever since:

# This package is built with Alien's Google API keys for Chromium.
# The keys are contained in the file "chromium_apikeys".
# If you want to rebuild this package, you can use my API keys, however:
# you are not allowed to re-distribute these keys!!
# You can also obtain your own, see:
# http://www.chromium.org/developers/how-tos/api-keys

It effectively means that I alone am entitled to distribute the binary Chromium packages that I create. All derivative distros that use/repackage my binaries in any form are in violation of this statement.

On March 15, 2021 access to Google’s Cloud services will be revoked from my API key (and that of all the other 3rd parties providing any sort of Chromium-related binaries). It means that my Chromium will revert to a simple browser which will allow you to login to your Google account and store your data (bookmarks/passwords/history) locally but will not sync that data to and from your Google Cloud account. Also, location and translation services and probably several other services will stop working in the browser. Effectively, Google will muzzle any Chromium browser, forcing people to use their closed Chrome binaries instead if they want cross-platform access to their data. For instance, using Chrome on Android and Chromium on Slackware.
Yes, Chrome is based on Chromium source code but there’s code added on top that we do not know of. Not everybody is comfortable with that. There was a good reason to start distributing a Chromium package for Slackware!

Now the one million dollar question:

Will you (users of my package) still use this muzzled version of Chromium? After all, Slackware-current (soon to become 15.0 stable) contains the Falkon browser as part of Plasma5, and Falkon is a Chromium browser core with a Qt5 graphical interface, and it does not use any Google API key either. Falkon will therefore offer the same or a similar feature set as a muzzled Chromium.
If you prefer not to use Chromium any longer after March 15, because this browser lost its value and unique distinguishing features for you, then I would like to know. Compiling Chromium is not trivial, it takes a lot of effort every major release to understand why it no longer compiles and then finding solutions for that, and then the compile time is horribly long as well. Any mistake or build failure sets me back a day easily. It means that I will stop providing Chromium packages in the event of diminishing interest. I have better things to do than fight with Google.

Please share your thoughts in the comments section below

FYI:

There are two threads on Google Groups where the discussion is captured; the Chromium Embedders group: https://groups.google.com/a/chromium.org/g/embedder-dev/c/NXm7GIKTNTE  – and most of it (but not all!) is duplicated in the Chromium Distro Packagers group: https://groups.google.com/a/chromium.org/g/chromium-packagers/c/SG6jnsP4pWM – I advise you to read the cases made by several distro packagers and especially take good care of how the Google representatives are answering our concerns. There’s more than a tad of arrogance and disrespect to be found there, so much that one poster pointed the Googlers that take part in the discussion (Director level mind you; not the friendly developers and community managers who have been assisting us all these years) to the Chromium Code of Conduct. I am so pissed with this attitude that I forwarded the discussion to Larry Page in a hissy fit… not that I expect him to read and answer, but it had to be done. Remember the original Google Code of Conduct mantra “Don’t be evil”?

104 thoughts on “Google muzzles all Chromium browsers on 15 March 2021

  1. Thank you Erick for the heads-up!

    In light of recent events, demonstrating how willing and able Google is to muzzle free speech, I say F! Google. I am done with them for life, and in the process of de-Googleing my life as much as I can. So from my perspective, I’ll use Chromium if it remains available on Slackware, because I do not care, nor I want to use Google services, and don’t want Google to track my every move. I’ll want to use multiple browsers to use a technique caller browser isolation (search youtube for it on Rob Braxman’s channel), and so for that purpose it would be useful if Chromium remained available. But that may not be enough of a reason for you to expend all that effort to keep it alive.
    So that you for having been made it available. If you discontinue it, I’ll understand, and be fine with it.

    Cheers,

    Karl


    1. Screw google, I never used the API part anyhow but I did like having your build but if it wastes a day to build screw that. I will just keep using firefox ESR for now. Big tech companies are doing anything they can right now to deplatform people, remove features, and I for one am sick of it. If I had a good alternative to gmail I would use it by now. “Do be evil” should be their slogan.



      1. posteo.de is the best email service and inexpensive, something like 1 euro a month. ProtonMail is done by a government within a government: CERN. As trustworthy as any other EU government, or government which means nadda.


    2. Hi,
      You can have the so called “browser isolation” with firefox profiles. Just create more profiles and use them as different browsers.
      And the browser is not the only thing google uses to track you. Maybe you are using google DNS… A bunch of websites are hosted by google infrastructure and you have no easy way to know that, but google knows when you are accessing these websites…



  2. Thank you Eric for this post.

    As a reminder, Slint users have access to your Chromium packages just commenting out the second line below in their /etc/slapt-get/slapt-getrc
    # The sbrepos repository from Eric Hameleers
    # SOURCE=https://slackware.uk/people/alien/sbrepos/14.2/x86_64/:DEFAULT
    By the way thanks again for providing slapt-get compatible repositories!

    You wrote:
    “I know that several derivative distributions re-use my Chromium binary packages (without giving credit) and hence tax the usage quota on my Google Cloud account, but I cover this through donations, thank you my friends, and no thanks to the leeches of those distros.”
    I hope that the way we give access to your packages to its users don’t make of Slint a leech?

    Other than that I agree with what Karl said. A muzzled Chromium would be fine with me, but If you think you’d better use your time for something else that’s also fine with me, even more so if as you mentioned we can use alternative browsers providing more or less the same features.

    Cheers, Didier



  3. I’ve had a few friends work for google. (Note the past tense.) At a certain age, their exemplary work was suddenly not. Google isn’tt that awesome to work for, and haven’t been not evil in some time. Maybe less evil than their competitors, but…

    I haven’t been using chrome or chromium for awhile. I like having a second up-to-date browser on my box as a just-in-case if firefox quits working, but with firefox ESR and whatever the more current firefox version is, I think I’m covered. Falkon is just added insurance. Aren’t the chromium browsers breaking adblockers soon, too?


  4. I for one do not need it so I would recommend you don’t waste your time on it Eric, use that time to focus on other things. (Family, Friends & Beer…..not in that order)

    BTW, screw Big Tech!!


  5. I use chromium only for webex videoconferencing as firefox seems to have problems with that. I find it useful and don’t need to use any Google services


  6. Hi Eric! Thanks for all these years of providing us superb Chromium packages.
    I would keep using the Chromium browser only for the extensions.
    Otherwise, I would use Falkon which is a very good browser.
    I’ll be OK with whatever decision you make.


  7. Pingback: Links 21/1/2021: Google Tightens the Screws on Chromium, VideoLAN VLC 3.0.12 | Techrights


  8. Hi Eric,

    I installed your packages mostly out cf curiosity and as a possible replacement for Firefox should that time come (meaning my deciding to dump it). I have not really used it much. There is one site I need to use (they handle my pay) that does not like Firefox. The site Officially likes Chrome, Edge and I.E., it accepts Chromium, I am a but surprised the site accepts I.E. The site does accept Firefox, with the caveat that some features might not work. To date I have not found any features that don’t. They always give me an option to complete a questionnaire on my way out on exit. I now participate every time so can add “Please Support Mozilla Firefox” in the open answer part. It will be interesting to see if it accepts Chromium after March 15. I suspect it will. I will keep it around just to test that.

    That is my use case for Chromium. As you can see it’s not much and loosing Sync capabilities removes Chromium as a candidate for replacing Firefox. Firefox is my primary browser anyway on all platforms. So loosing Chromium will not affect me much, if at all.


  9. I use your Chromium build as a secondary browser for specific tasks (Firefox as the primary), but have no interest in any Google-specific functionality. From my perspective, the removal of that stuff is actually positive, but I get that it would be the opposite for Google users. Totally understand if you want to stop providing builds, but I’d definitely keep using the new and (for me) improved version 🙂





  10. I will continue to use your Chromium builds since I never use any of the Google services anyway. Thank you for all of your efforts on behalf of the Slackware community.


  11. Hello Eric,

    thanks for the heads-up and the work all this time. With Chromium and all the rest.

    I like Chromium, it is my main browser always, and I would remain using it mostly even muzzled, and that’s simply because after many years using your packages and following this blog, I trust your work over many others, and I feel comfortable using your software.

    But on the other hand I totally understand that maybe this specific package might start being not worth of your time, so if you decide not to continue compiling it, with the effort we all know it requires, I would take it fairly and still appreciate all the work you did all this time. Thank you very much for that.

    //JM


  12. I use chromium from time to time, since two or three years, only, for the translation function, therefore, I can do without it 😉


  13. I would like to keep using Chromium as my primary browser on Slackware. At the same time I totally understand the pita to work with Google and they policies. I don’t use any “Google features” with my browser (I think). I do some web developing and one thing comes to my mind is browser extensions and “store” where they are distributed. Are they something which will get broken after google’s new policy? So if you keep providing Chromium I would be very happy, if not, I will totally understand. In any case big thank you for your work this far.


  14. If you read the Google Groups discussions carefully, you’ll certainly have seen the suggestions about how to use Google’s own API key on a Chromium browser that was built without such an API key.
    The Google guy remarked that this too would go against their ToS but you can always ask permission from them first. Or request your own Google API key! After all, for a single-user usage scenario, your private API key should not generate too many calls into Google’s system and you would stay below the free usage limit per month (as a developer with an API key, the first 200 dollars each month of API usage through your key are covered by Google).
    The chromium.SlackBuild contains all the information if you need to make Chromium work with an alternative set of Google API key should you obtain such. It is a trivial one-time and run-time action (recompilation is not needed).


  15. Hi Eric

    1. thanks for your Chromium package over the years
    2. I use 2 browsers – one for general surfing and one for my technical support applications/sites
    3. Some sites (very few mind you) work in Chrom* only

    I don’t see it as a big deal to either use a reduced function Chromium or to do away with it completely (seeing as Falkon is there). I do however like the fact that I can sync bookmarks between my desktop Chromium and my phone Chrome …


  16. Hi Eric,
    Thanks as always for the great work. I have been a regular user of your chromium package along with Seamonkey. For the future Seamonkey and Falcon would cover all my needs.
    cheers,
    -Dave


  17. Hi Eric,

    Not to sound like a complete idiot, if one wanted to move away from anything Google (in terms of a Browser), what are the options? It appears to me that many browsers out there are Chromium based, is that not a Google Browser? I am writing this using Falkan, it feels slow and clunky, but this my first time using it.
    If I may be so bold to ask, what browser(s) do you primarily use? I’m mostly curious of alternatives I guess. Anyway, I hope you are well, and truely appreciate everything you do in this space, you’re one of my heros in Linux.


    1. I think that Mozilla’s Firefox browser is the only real alternative to Google’s Chrome or Chromium-based browsers like Opera, Vivaldi, Brave, etc. Even Microsoft Edge has a Chromium core now.
      During the past 8 years I really came to like and appreciate a Chromium browser on Slackware, and it is my preferred browser. I use Chrome on Windows at work, as well as on our family’s shared computers, and also on my Android phone. Having all my data (browser history, passwords, bookmarks) synced across all of these devices greatly simplifies my daily life. I pick up activities on my laptop downstairs that I started on my desktop in the attic, and stuff I researched on my phone while out and about is easy to continue when I get back home, but then on my desktop.

      I am looking for ways to keep using Chromium on Slackware. Sure, using Google’s own API key in an environment variable is a way around the muzzle, but Google stated that this may break at any moment in time without warning.
      But a browser without userdata sync capability is not a solution for me. If Chromium really loses that ability then I will drop it for sure as my preferred browser and switch back to Firefox.
      That would also mean I stop providing packages for it. Someone else can pickup the SlackBuild and maintain it on SBo then.



      1. Hi Eric.

        I hope We can keep Chromium on slackware. It is a shame what happened. Thanks for your support maintaining this browser active in slackware.

        Regards.


  18. Hi, Eric,
    I personally use Chromium due to its internal flash technology. The sync function is good, beu tif it will disappear, I think I’ll fully switch over to firefox, which also offers sync and is my default browser anyway.



  19. Thanks Eric for sharing this information.

    It seems like no one in my family is using the API we are talking about — I’m actually careful not to activate any sync service with google in all my devices.

    Still we all find your chromium packages very useful and we will be glad to keep on using them.

    Here I’ve read you are also thinking about another approach:

    “I am considering an alternative approach to just stopping with my Slackware packages – and that is to inform my users about the public availability of Google’s own API keys, plus the fact that you just have to export them in your shell environment as values for the GOOGLE_API_KEY, GOOGLE_DEFAULT_CLIENT_ID and GOOGLE_DEFAULT_CLIENT_SECRET variables before you start Chromium.”

    https://groups.google.com/a/chromium.org/g/chromium-packagers/c/SG6jnsP4pWM/m/YLgu2-_dCgAJ

    This could be a nice solution.


  20. That’s so google.

    As a web application developer, I have the need to use chromium based browsers for testing purposes as every single one of my customers rely on it at enterprise environment. That being said, I can’t care less about google API as I don’t use any of the cloud resources provided by it. A crippled version poses no annoyance to me.

    From where I sit, it’s entirely up to you, Eric, to keep packaging chromium or not. If you do, I’ll gladly use it as the test bed just as I’m for years now, muzzled or fully functional. Otherwise I’ll just replace it with the proprietary thing… no harm done if you figure out that pull the plug is the best thing for you (I trust on you on taking the community needs into account in such decision).

    As for the political side of the ‘news’, I totally understand if your decision leads to dropping the package for good. Beyond understanding, I stand up on your side to support whatever the choice you come up on this matter.

    Less google (and apple, and facebook, and twitter, and amazon, and microsoft, and oracle…) in the world is always good news.


  21. As an aside, I’m not very optimistic about the future of Firefox, and even less of Thunderbird that is not supported any more by Mozilla. So whichever it be we’ll need a browser based on Chromium (which Joanmarie Diggs aka Joanie does a hell of a job to make fully accessible with the Orca screen reader).

    Off topic: I was pleased to see that Plasma5 includes settings to enable a screen reader. I assume that this will make easier to enable Orca under Plasma5. Will look at that (but don’t hold your breath, my TODO list is long).


  22. Thank you for this detailed and well thought-out explanation. My default browser is Firefox, but I keep a Chromium install as a backup. A couple of years back I had issues with a UK website that did not work well in Firefox, but that has now been resolved.

    Google seems to have fallen a long way from its founders’ original purpose, and now seems intent on becoming the new Microsoft. This is strange, as Microsoft seems finally – and albeit slowly – realising the errors of its ways! It seems to be a problem for a lot of businesses that simply grow too big, and get taken over by “professional managers” who appear hell bent on ruining hard won reputations (did I hear someone mention Boeing?).

    I would like to add my thanks for your efforts in making Chromium – as well as so much else – easily available to Slackware users. But if you find the effort not worth the results, I will not miss it. I’m sure I can find another browser that will act as a backup if I need it.

    Best Wishes, and keep up the good work!


    Pete


  23. I use your Chromium pkg on my desktop pc when I access Hulu and other such sites. Chromium transmits location data that Firefox seems to not be able to do. I really don’t use the sync features, but I don’t have much use for it either. Perhaps my only use case is for photos….


  24. Not entirely surprised over google’s actions.
    It’s hard to avoid google completely (especially when using an android phone) but I don’t bother about sync features.
    I can understand if you decide to give up your chromium maintenance and if so, I’ll do my best with alternatives (e.g Vivaldi). But having found your chromium browser invaluable from time to time (e.g. for some web-based video conference applications) I will miss it should it disappear, so I hope you will continue your work.


  25. Thank you for providing us the package. I barely use it these days but liked to keep it as fallback, in case.
    Thank you for telling about Falkon which will from today be my fallback.

    For the sync thing I prefer vivaldi. That’s what I use for specific (and work) browsing. I hope it will not be affected. For personnal stuff I have luakit from SBo.

    From today I stop using your chromium.


    1. Actually Vivaldi have implemented their own version of Google’s Cloud sync using the protocol information which is available in the Chromium sources (https://chromium.googlesource.com/chromium/chromium/+/trunk/sync/tools/testserver/) but they are keeping the source code of that implentation under wraps. Note that Vivaldi is *not* an open source browser. Like Chrome, most parts are open but some parts that have been added are not available as source code.
      It would mean that Vivaldi’s sync feature is *not* affected by Google’s decision to nuke Chromium access to their private Google API services.


  26. I for one am going to uninstall chromium from my PC’s and phones immediately in protest, and refuse to reinstall them until alienBOB’s key rights are permanently restored.


  27. For me, my primary browser is Firefox, for testing purposes or certain sites that only work well with Chromium, I use your Chromium-build. Thanks a lot for that. Without Chromium I would resort to the rpm Developer Builds of Microsoft Edge for these “edge-cases”, which run perfectly fine under Slackware current using rpm2tgz. My concern with Falkon is that there probably won’t be many updates to it in Slackware 15.0 and Chromium gets a lot of critical security updates all the time.


  28. Not sure why Google is so frightened but something certainly has them spooked. I like the translator feature of Chromium but i dont generally use it. I would welcome an alternative to mozilla and google.
    So it doesnt matter much to me.
    Thanks for all you do


  29. First, thank you for your efforts, time, and finances to provide the Slackware community, and some trolls, the Chromium browser in a complete integration packet. Alphabet/Google seems to feel they now have enough market share to monopolize the Chromium development. I’m not a developer, just a user. But I have to tell you that haven’t used the Chrome or Chromium products in a long time. I’ve been a PaleMoon and Vividali user for more than 5 years. I simply don’t trust that Mozilla Foundation and Google wouldn’t do what they are now doing, locking their open development from the very people who have helped make the product popular (to say nothing of the financial boosts they’ve gotten from monetizing the search engine queries). I realize that Vivialdi is a Chrome based product, but I only use it on websites (USPS Postal) which won’ t work with Gecko based products. It must be extremely maddening to think that your efforts have been repaid so insultingly. I can only say “there is no free lunch” with proprietary software. Because Google owns the majority of the development of Chromium, I never considered it FOSS.


  30. ” my Chromium will revert to a simple browser which will allow you to login to your Google account and store your data (bookmarks/passwords/history) locally but will not sync that data to and from your Google Cloud account. […] Will you (users of my package) still use this muzzled version of Chromium?”

    If you continue to provide it, I’d switch to using it full-time! Currently I use Chrome as my main browser (with sync off) and only use your Chromium build (usually incognito) for testing. I don’t sync my bookmarks or other data (HATE that feature – had it cause nothing but trouble!) and would love to not have to deal with it at all.

    So my vote is to keep it.


  31. My provisional planning is as follows:
    * I continue providing Chromium packages for Slackware 14.2 and -current that include my API key, until March 15th. Nothing will break.
    * In the meantime I will also build a Chromium package without applying my Google API key, so that there is something to experiment with (what will break; what will continue to work); and it allows to validate that other API keys are in fact usable with this version of the browser when exported in the shell environment.
    * On March 15 (if Google’s mind did not change and they actually revoke access to their ‘private’ API services) I will reset the passphrase for my API key so that any Slackware Chromium package out there will stop taxing my API quota. Any complaints on mailing lists of derivative distros using my packages (not yours Didier, thinking more of Porteus and Puppy) I will ignore.
    * On the condition that individual usage of API keys results in restoring full functionality in the browser, I’ll keep building and providing updates to Chromium for Slackware. Everyone can simply request their own API key, the process is properly documented at https://developers.google.com/places/web-service/get-api-key . Until Google breaks API key provision through the shell environment variables of course… as that would be end of story for me.


  32. Thanks for your efforts Eric! I will keep using Chromium as long as you provide a package or Slackbuild for it. Personally don’t care or need any of the Google services.



  33. Hi Eric,

    Thanks so much for maintaining Chromium for so many years. I mainly use Firefox for privacy reasons, and it provides syncing across multiple devices. It can even sync login details with your Android apps using Firefox Lockwise.

    I use your chromium package for browsing occasionally. But my main use of your chromium is to check compatibility of webpages with Chrome. So even though I’d like to keep using your Chromium package, I’m happy either way, as I’ll check compatibility with Chrome itself (Although I rather not install closed source software on my desktop).

    I’d also like to mention that there are quite a few open source browsers out there that might be worth having a look at as a replacement (mostly Chromium based). Most notably, Brave browser. It has some cool features, such as CryptoWallets, syncing, built-in Tor and adblock, etc.


  34. I don’t use Chromium, but huge respect for your work.
    Since you recommend Falkon, I tried to use it in the past and I really like it but… I can’t login to Google Services (like gmail), because google denies it, they say “the browser is not supported”. This is not how the web should work…
    Is this the fate of Chromium without Chrome APIs or is it an unrelated evil practice by Google?


    1. Many sites are selectively allowing only the major browsers to browse their content, weird but true.
      Falkon has a built-in UserAgent switcher (Preferences > Other) and you can select from a number of pre-defined well-known compatible browser identities (Chrome, Firefox, Opera, Safari). That should get your Gmail working.



  35. I use your Chromium bulld but I don’t use any Google services. As long as you provide a package I’ll use it and if you drop it I’ll drop it – simple as that.


  36. alienbob, you asked: remember the original Google Code of Conduct mantra “Don’t be evil”?
    And I must say: Google IS EVIL! If you have interest in this topic, a quick look on your preferred search engine will show many reasons why google is evil. Several years ago I found out in practice google was breaking the password of zip files attached to emails I was sending (gmail). Google was deliberately breaking password of my zip files to parse it contents! Since then I avoid everything that is google. Nowadays I use only the search engine (better than alternatives) and android stuff, and sometimes chromium.

    As many said, many websites don’t work in firefox. Chromium to the rescue!
    And web development is so more easier in chromium than in firefox.
    So I think is an option good to have.


  37. I mostly use chromium for video streaming. Youtube, twitch etc. I’ve never used any of the Google services; and personally the less Google in the browser the better :D.


  38. hi eric,

    many thanks for all the work you do in slackware; it is much appreciated by me.
    i don’t use syncing at all.
    i only use your chromium build to get into sites that don’t work well on FF.
    i essentially do my tests w/ chromium – then i kill the browser once i’m done.

    chromium listens on port 5353 which makes me feel uneasy.

    like most other comments; if u provide it will use it.
    if not…i will go elsewhere

    again…thx for all your hard work on this!



  39. Hi Eric
    Many thanks for providing your Chromium builds over the years – greatly appreciated by many users worldwide.
    Particular thanks for the new 32-bit 88.0.4324.96 version which does not display the “Aw Snap” caused by the new glibc-2.32 in Current.
    I do repackage your builds to make them suitable for Puppy Linux users (due to Puppy foibles like running mainly as root, and a slightly different menu category structure). I do apologise if by doing so I’ve caused you expense due to Google’s licence conditions – I wasn’t aware that this was a side effect of my actions!
    We would be very happy if you were to continue the builds without the Google API additions. The strength of your builds (particularly the 14.2 builds) is the wide range of systems they run on and this is greatly appreciated. There are other 32-bit builds I can use (from Arch32, Mint, Snap, Debian….) which don’t have your additions and work perfectly adequately but yours have the greatest flexibility and application.
    So my vote is – remove the troublesome Google API addons but please continue to produce your Chromium builds if at all possible.
    Many thanks
    PeeBee


  40. If you really feel that time spent building muzzled Chromium packages would be better spent on other things – then stop doing it.
    I’m sure most/all Slackware users would understand. If not, they should do.


  41. I saw an increasingly distorting Google Doodle on the Chromium wall early last year and have switched back to Firefox. Thank you, though, Eric for all you’ve done with it in the past. I had many solid years of use from your builds.


  42. If you have to choose between working on Chromium or another package / project, and Google is being big dicks – please, spend your time on the other things. I would keep using your Chromium if you kept providing it, but it’s my backup browser, for important but only occasional use. I already only use it as a “simple” browser. While I also appreciate the additional removal of Google intrusiveness you do, your other packages are more valuable to me than Chromium (on 14.2 I have your LibreOffice, OpenJDK, and in Python 3) and I would use another de-Googling “simple” browser (Falkon, or maybe Vivaldi) for browser isolation (or do that in FF with multiple profiles as @djunzu mentioned above) and for occasional sites where FF doesn’t work well. (FTR I have been on sites that work better with FF than Chromium or Chrome.)

    TKS


  43. Pingback: Chromium and Chrome Are Not Free Software But an Example of Microsoft-Fashioned Openwashing Tactics | Techrights

  44. Thanks for all your hard work Eric! I have lost patience with Google myself as have a lot of others. I recently moved on from your Chromium package to Brave browser for more control and to play with the new IPFS goodies. It was not due to your package as it was perfect but Googles overreaching tentacles


    1. Hi Eric, I currently do use chromium, but have been moving back to firefox/seamonkey over the last half year.
      i will not be upgrading chromium in the future due to my comfort levels with google.


  45. Pingback: Google: le coup de poignard dans le dos ( de Chromium) | le blog d'Olivyeahh

  46. Pingback: Google's Sync API lock: Linux distributors struggle with Chromium [ January, 2021 ]

  47. The problem with Falkon – as with other QtWebengine based browsers is – that QtWebengine lags behind the current Chromium stable release. Current QtWebengine 5.12.2 has Security fixes from Chromium up to version 86.0.4240.183. This means Falkon has still all vulnerabilities which were discovered since then (86.0.4240 was released 2020-10-06), some of them were rated “high risk” and one even “critical”. This situation will worsen, since there will be no more free release of Qt 5.x.

    So it would be good if Slackware users would still have access to a current Chromium build. If this build doesn’t have access to Googles Sync API any more, so much the better.


  48. The problem with people encouraging me to keep building packages for Chromium without API keys is that you do not seem to understand that I spend large amounts of time in building each major release of Chromium, and the follow-up updates keep me busy for a day every time (don’t think the changes to the SlackBuild are always trivial) to keep this browser running on Slackware 14.2, and as a 32bit version.
    There needs to be a personal reward for all this work. If I can’t get any value out of Chromium then I stop packaging it, simple as that.

    For me, the value of Chromium is a binary which I compile on Slackware itself, with access to Chrome Sync. If Chrome Sync is taken away from me then I can just as well switch to Google Chrome, as Chromium loses its value for me.
    And since I will not switch to Google Chrome on my Slackware computers, Mozilla will gain one user when I (hopefully) setup my private Firefox Sync server and switch to Firefox as my default browser.


  49. @Harry, Eric and all: There are no perfect solutions, are there? Chromium may not be acceptable for Eric after March. As I wrote earlier, I’ll use Chromium as long as he offers it, but if his time is better spent on other things, then I and many others here support him doing that. I like Falkon but was also concerned about whether it was keeping up with security updates – a must for me (and should be for everyone) even if feature updates fell behind. Ditto Iridium, although a developer claimed some time ago that they were keeping up. Vivaldi is kept up to date and seems easy enough to install in Slackware, but parts are closed source. Brave is open as far as I understand and I think it is kept updated, but some people disagree with their business model. Otter: open and uup to date, but maybe the same QT5/QT6 problem as Falkon. Un-Googled Chromium, anyone? Others? Then do you want to compile something as big as Chromium yourself? (I don’t.)

    Maybe I’ll just try to find a Chromium AppImage (which some people also don’t like for several reasons, large total package size being just one) and see if I can run it on Slackware and de-Google it myself.

    Eric, just in case it might come across this way – by listing potential negatives of options, I’m not trying to pressure you to keep producing Chromium. The opposite, actually – exploring options, of which there are several. Touching on pluses and possible minuses of each, a way of helping myself and maybe others weigh them, and maybe someone else can add to those points, including how someone would de-Google Chromium.

    TKS


  50. Hi Eric,

    Huge thanks for all your work:) I am using Firefox for most of my tasks. Never used Google/Chrome Sync and have no plans to change that. I used your Chromium rarely for some out of tree work, sometimes for specific web development. I will not miss it. Thanks for asking:)


  51. Hey Eric,

    I would actually prefer it that way as it makes Chromium a more private browser when not tied into Google’s services. Thanks for all your hard work over so many years btw.


    1. One possibility is indeed to build Chromium without my key/id/secret and leave it up to the individual user to obtain a combination of key/id/secret.
      Note however that individual developer keys will also be locked out of using Chrome Sync. The only way to keep using Chrome Sync will then be to find the official Google id/secret and copy those into an initialization script. I explain how to do that inside the chromium.SlackBuild and I can confirm that it works. An early post in the aforementioned topic in the Chromium Packagers group has direct links pointing to the location of this id/secret in the Chromium source code and I used those strings as a Proof of Concept which was successful.
      I am still undecided. I invested in using Chromium on multiple computers with their data synced across all of them and am unwilling to let go of that. Still, if I have to I will switch back to Firefox fulltime.


      1. Don’t you think that probably Google will change these keys every few release, precisely to avoid people finding them out?

        I understand that we could potentially get them again every time, but not sure if it will become harder over the time, and will make your effort and time wasted.

        Anyway, you are the one doing the work, you should be the only one deciding if it is worth if for you.


        1. If Google revoke their current id/secret then all Chrome installations world-wide will stop working and it’s not certain whether all these installations will and can even be upgraded to the latest version with working id/secret.
          I do not expect that they are willing to deal with the fallout.


  52. Pingback: What’s The Deal With Chromium On Linux? Google At Odds With Package Maintainers - Latest Hacking NEWS - Lazy Hackers LLP

  53. Pingback: Whats The Deal With Chromium On Linux? Google At Odds With Package Maintainers – Hackaday – Web Tech Mojo

  54. I like Chromium, but the Google-specific stuff that the Google assholes are killing in Chromium is not something that makes much of a difference to me. Please carry on packaging it, even without those features.



  55. Your Chromium packages are very helpful for using websites that don’t work well with Firefox. I would miss them if they went away. I don’t care about the API key as I would never store anything personal on Google’s servers, or any other server run by any other big tech company. Thanks for all your hard work.


    1. // Your Chromium packages are very helpful for using websites that don’t work well with Firefox.//

      Yes, this is why I use Chromium. I have several 32-bit laptops and 32-bit Eric’s chromium pkgs are very useful for me. I don’t need any Coogle’s API


  56. I’m a bit late to commenting on this thread. Still (1) thank you for so clearly explaining the issue; and (2) I do note use Chrome or Chromium on my home computers and stick with Slackware’s Firefox and Seamonkey packages.

    Seamonkey’s HTML editor and IRC client are pretty good, and Firefox still offers the most UI and page display customization.

    I personally, wouldn’t be bothered if you stopped building Chromium.


  57. My use case for Chromium is simple: Amazon’s kindle web reader for whatever reason doesn’t work in Firefox for me. Works in Chrome and Chromium. I only use Chromium for this over Chrome because it came in a nice slackpkg that you build for us… I’m more than content to just use the /extra/ script for Chrome to keep this use case going should you decide this isn’t worth your time anymore.

    Thanks for the hard work as always Eric.


  58. First thank you for your essential work!
    I personally not rely on synchronization but understand the frustration and disappointment over Google now shrinking the code-base of Chromium affecting people who over time have relied om continuity and have build a working personal cross device and platform “ecosystem” and now see it scrapped for no reason.
    I hope you just move on and find another solution. Someone once said “the web never forget” and those using Slackware now understand why Chromium no longer will be provided.
    Personally I will miss “AlienBobs Chromium 32bit” as the organization I work for did choose Googles G-suite as collaborative platform including Google Meet video conferencing that works on my two older laptops running Slackware 14.2 (I choosed 32 bit as I daily use a particular Windows app that synchronize with my iPhone under Wine).
    I guess the upcoming new Windows Manager will strain these two machines, and compiling Chromium probably a task beyond the laptops as well as my own capabilities.
    My Slackware is updated and pretty safe with firewall.rc, services disabled etc., but the time is now for a Windows 10 laptop with Google Chrome installed (If the mountain will not come to Muhammad…)
    Thank you again for all your invested time and talent!


  59. Hey Eric!
    Thanks for everything you do for Slackware!

    I personally don’t use chromium at all.

    I’m currently cleaning up anything related to big tech.
    If they want to act like publicists they should be held accountable for everything illegal that exist on their platforms. I’ve been looking at manyverse for cloudless social networking instead.

    I’ve flashed lineage and rooted my phone, no Gapps at all. F-droid do have some good apps. You can always get APK’s from other places for apps that only exist on google play, if you really need an app (just hope it doesn’t depend on Gapps functionality). If it’s an app you paid for though you are probably out of luck if you delete the google account.

    Blokada seems to do a good job at blocking things you don’t want to give internet access. I tried blocking everything google related on the phone at first but it crashed the modem which in turn rebooted the UI if I activated mobile data networking, now if this is an intentional thing I can only speculate.

    Look at the way google treats the android open source project(AOSP), AOSP is always behind. Now with their new GBoard keyboard we are probably not going to get swipe typing pushed into to the AOSP keyboard. If they could have conquered the mobile market without android being open source they probably would have done that. Now they hold mobile phone manufacturers at ransom with their gapps. Customers expect Gapps to be there.

    Hopefully the pinephone project will lead to more Linux phones in the future. 🙂

    Thanks again for all the time you spend on Slackware!


  60. Eric,

    As others here have stated… MUCH THANKS for your past Chromium packages!

    While I do NOT use Chromium these days as my primary browser (I use FF), I have always kept an instance of it on my Slackware installations. As to your question in your post above:

    > Will you (users of my package) still use this muzzled version of Chromium?

    I will.

    I don’t use anything Google, if I can help it. I definitely do NOT use their sync service w/ Chromium, either. I make regular manual backups for it on my own system.

    > I think that Mozilla’s Firefox browser is the only real alternative to Google’s Chrome or Chromium-based browsers

    I definitely agree with you on this. While Chromium was originally a viable alternative to FF, Google’s tentacles have reached too far into the heart of that software for my tastes. I’ll stick with good ol’ Mozilla for as long as they’re still around.

    Regards,

    ~Eric L.


  61. taking the wagon late,
    thanks for the chromium package still syncing with google tools.

    Wondering if this is not an aftermath of this GDPR thing enforced since may 25th, 2018 and all the recent confrontational approaches between some govs and big tech ?
    Google, and others, may want to favor proprietary and strict gov regulations at the cost of open-source.


  62. I saw this coming, it has been a pattern of Google for years: build a superior product and when people and organizations have become dependent on it cut it out from under their feet.

    My opinion is to ditch it when you can and save your energy and time for more productive or restful activities.

    Thank you for all your time and effort, it is appreciated.


  63. Hi Eric,
    Your work is greatly appreciated, many thanks for it!

    as for me i’ll use the unsynced Chromium version, never cared about Google tools.

    All the best,
    George



  64. Thank you for chromium-ungoogled.
    I’m giving it a try as my default browser on Slackware64 current and I’m liking the speed vs. firefox (both start up time and loading pages). I’m having an issue with making it work with kwallet as password manager.
    When I use option –password-store=kwallet, I get errors telling, among other things, that “org.kde.kwalletd was not provided by any .service files”. In Plasma, service is org.kde.kwalletd5.
    I couldn’t find any pointers on the web on how to make ungoogled chromium work with kwallet in KDE5.
    Do you have the same issue?




  65. I was trying to get it to work with the keepassxc extension but no luck. In fact I couldn’t install any extensions/addons like adblock plus. Is this a consequence of being cut loose from google?



    1. Thanks for that. Got it installed and my desired extensions installed. Only one problem remains. The KeepassXC browser extension is not finding the pw database. Works fine in Eric’s regular Chromium build. I tried adding –password-store=keepassxc to the commandline startup but no dice. Also tried path to the database without success. Do you have any idea what it needs to be?


      1. I don’t use keepassxc. Does the extension allows you to select the chromium pw database which is /home//.config/chromium-ungoogled/Default/Local Data?
        If not, chances are that the extension is looking into .config/chromium/Default/Local Data because it’s a chromium extension. You can create a symlink in that case to the chromium-ungoogled pw database.



        1. OK, what I ended up doing was simply making a link from .config/chromium-ungoogled to .config/chromium and now keepassxc-browser add-on works in chromium-ungoogled. Probably could have dug deeper to find the exact differences but will save that for a rainy day. Or did that actually just turn chromium-ungoogled into chromium? Well it works so will leave it be. Thanks again for your suggestions.


          1. At some point between now and March 15th I will write a proper blog post about transitioning to Un-Googled Chromium. Including how to install extensions and how to make KeepassXC work with it,
            For now the hint; in the keepassxc program settings, go to Browser Integration –
            Advanced. Enable “Use a custom browser configuration location”, select “Chromium” as the browser type, and enter “~/.config/chromium-ungoogled/NativeMessagingHosts/” in the filepath entry field. When you click “OK”, a file “org.keepassxc.keepassxc_browser.json” will be written by KeepassXC in that location and when you next start chromium-ungoogled you should see that the KeepassXC extension icon turns green. Open its settings and connect to the KeepassXC database.
            Note that this custom setting enables KeepassXC for the Ungoogled Chromium, without breaking that functionality for standard Chromium! Win-win.


          2. Many thanks Eric, your procedure worked a treat. I removed my chromium-ungoogled install and remnants from .config since I had done to much messing about. New install, changed keepassxc settings as you described and everything is working fine now. Nochmals vielen Dank.


        2. as far as I know, KeepassxC does not access you Chromium password database, it starts fresh and will only add passwords for the sites you visit after enabling the KeepassXC extension in your browser. Correct me if I am wrong!

          I had never used this extension so when I installed it today (and added a ‘keepassxc’ package to my repository) I just went into Chromium’s password settings, clicked ‘export passwords’, imported that CSV file into a new (temporary) KeepassXC database and then merged that temporary database into my actual Browser Password database I had created earlier.


  66. I think I figured it out regarding ungoogled chromium and kwallet (it also applies to chromium)
    Detailed information is given at https://itnext.io/chromium-linux-keyrings-secret-service-passwords-encryption-and-store-d2b30d87ec08?gi=1636d0c9c1dc.
    In a nutshell, when I first start ungoogled chromium, I’m prompted to enter the kwallet password (I don’t use the automatic opening of kwallet at login because I use my gpg key as password). When I save a password, it appears in settings/password section and it’s easily visible. So my understanding is that the password was saved in plain text. As explained in the above link, when I close ungoogled chromium, the password is saved in sqlite DB Login Data in which the password is encrypted.
    To check that point, I log out and relogged in KDE and when browser started, I cancelled entry of kwallet password. In settings/passwords, no password is available.


  67. Hi Eric,
    Another note regarding chromium-ungoogled, Widevine will not install automatically, at least I could not get it to work out of the box probably because Chromium gets it from a google server but I may be wrong. I had to manually add the library using instructions from https://ungoogled-software.github.io/ungoogled-chromium-wiki/faq#linux
    After making it work with manual installation, I built a package by modifying your chromium-widevine-plugin Slackbuild (some quick dirty changes to retrieve library from stable google chrome debian package). I can share my Slackbuild but I don’t know how (post it at LQ?) but I guess that you’ll update more easily your own script than you’ll clean up mine.



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