An experimental feature silently rolled out to the stable Chrome release on Tuesday caused chaos for IT admins this week after users complained of facing white, featureless tabs on Google’s massively popular browser.
The issue affected thousands of businesses’ terminal servers, with multiple users on the same server experiencing “white screen of death” at the same time.
Someone posting on the Chromium bug tracker mailing list described the problem as follows:
We have confirmed and replicated; when any user on a shared session citrix box locks their screen, all Chrome windows stop rendering (“White screen of death”) until ANYONE unlocks their screen, upon which, all Chrome windows resume rendering. This looks like random behaviour to the user but we have confirmed lock/unlock is the culprit.
The person added: “We have fixed this temporarily by starting chrome with –disable-backgrounding-occluded-windows,” applying the fix through a group policy object.
Google software engineer David Bienvenu jumped in to explain:
The experiment/flag has been on in beta for ~5 months. It was turned on for stable (e.g., m77, m78) via an experiment that was pushed to released Chrome Tuesday morning.
At 1824 UTC last night, Bienvenu rolled back the experiment change, noting “I’m not sure how long it takes to go live, but once it’s live, users will need to restart Chrome to get the change.”