Sync and other features may stop working in some Chromium browsers in March 2021

Martin Brinkmann
Jan 16, 2021
Google Chrome

Third-party Chromium web browsers will lose Sync functionality and other functionality as Google will limit access to "private Chrome APIs" starting on March 15, 2021.

Google announced the plan to limit access to APIs on January 15, 2021 on the official Chromium blog. According to the provided information, certain, unnamed, third-party Chromium-based browsers use features that were not intended for use outside of Google Chrome.

Google mentions Sync and Click to Call specifically in the blog post, but those two appear to be not the only ones. There is no full list of APIs that Google considers for internal use only. A developer page on the Chromium web page lists more than 20 different APIs that are not available by default when creating a Chromium-based browser.

Besides Sync, APIs listed on the page include the Translate element, Safe Browsing, or spelling.

All of the listed APIs are not intended for use in distributions, according to the page.

Many of the Google APIs used by Chromium code are specific to Google Chrome and not intended for use in derived products.

Google discovered the use of these APIs in a recent audit. The company notes that it discovered that some third-party Chromium-based browsers integrated Google features into their browsers, so that "a small fraction of users could sign into their Google Account and store their personal Chrome sync data, such as bookmarks, not just with Google Chrome, but also with some third-party Chromium-based browsers". Google will limit access to private Chrome APIs on March 15, 2021.

The company does not mention the names of the browser's that it discovered during the audit. It seems unlikely that major Chromium-based browsers use this. Browsers like Microsoft Edge or Vivaldi use their own sync infrastructure and functionality.

It is most likely that smaller browser projects that use Chromium as the base have discovered this method.

Chromium itself in fact, if you download and run it, comes without certain Google APIs such as Sync. The browser displays a warning on first run about it, and you won't find features such as Sync in the settings or be able to use Translate on sites you visit.

chromium google api keys missing

Google's announcement is vague as it lacks vital information. A likely explanation of what is going on is the following: some browser makers found a way to use certain APIs, the ones mentioned on the developer page linked above, that were not intended by Google for use in distributed third-party browsers; this allowed the makers of the browsers to use Google infrastructure, e.g. storage space and servers, to provide the functionality. Major Chromium-based browsers are likely not affected by the change.

Users of affected browsers may use the My Activity Page to download data to their devices or delete it. It is unclear if the data would sync with Google Chrome if Chrome would be set up for syncing.

Now You: what is your take on this?

Sync and other features may stop working in some Chromium browsers in March 2021
Article Name
Sync and other features may stop working in some Chromium browsers in March 2021
Some third-party Chromium web browsers will lose Sync functionality and other functionality in March 2021 as Google will start to limit access to "private Chrome APIs" starting on March 15, 2021.
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  1. Chris said on January 22, 2021 at 3:31 pm

    the issue is not only with chromium builds there is also third party ChromeOS builds that will be hit by this, f* google’s monopoly all the way.

  2. Anonymous said on January 20, 2021 at 2:58 am

    An afterthought about Safebrowsing removal:

    And then Google and their lapdogs will say the ritual “Don’t use forks of our corporate browsers they are not secure” lie, now no longer only for those forks that commited the crime of ungoogling themselves, but even for those that were willing to collaborate and include safebrowsing but failed to please Big Brother for one reason or another and so were forbidden to use it.

  3. Anonymous said on January 20, 2021 at 2:48 am

    “Besides Sync, APIs listed on the page include the Translate element, Safe Browsing, or spelling.”
    “this allowed the makers of the browsers to use Google infrastructure, e.g. storage space and servers, to provide the functionality.”

    Wait, wait, wait… Safebrowsing, uhm. Personally I think that Safebrowsing is a typically Google-like evil way to provide security by needlessly attacking privacy and I’m glad that they prevent some from using it. By contrast, in the new mobile Firefox, it’s no longer possible to even disable it, at all, Google knows most of what you download with it among other things (Yes, check it, I’m serious).

    But look at that now from Google’s point of view. They distribute happily their shitty Safebrowsing in other massively used browsers from organizations that are friendly to them like Mozilla Corporation, because “security for everyone, at our own costs, and we’re not interested in spying, promises” ! But now to punish some tiny Chromium forks with a ridiculous load on their servers because they didn’t approve its existence, they are going to cut access of its users to Safebrowsing. This is how sincerely they believe in their “security” mission.

    Their browser DRM plugin is another example of how they can hurt competing browsers by denying them access to one of their poisons that they unfortunately succeeded in making popular.

  4. Ryan said on January 17, 2021 at 9:02 pm

    The issue is mostly Linux distros and devices like the Raspberry Pi I assume. They often bundle Chromium as the default browser. I know RPI allows you to sync… guess that’s gone soon :-(

    These are NOT competitors to Chrome that are leeching off of them to be greedy. These are projects trying to expand Google’s technology to new realms, such as small ARM SBC’s.

    I assumed it was to Google’s benefit that I accessed my paid G Suite services, youtube, etc. from Chromium when on a device that doesn’t support full Chrome.

  5. ULBoom said on January 17, 2021 at 4:13 pm

    Looking at the developer page link, google wants the little guys to pay for these API’s?

    I don’t know what’s going on here but google doesn’t do much without some financial reason.

  6. swan said on January 16, 2021 at 5:20 pm

    is this also going to affect yandex browser?

    1. Mike said on January 17, 2021 at 1:05 pm

      If yandex doesn’t have their own servers and rely on google’s then they should buy some.

  7. Good Times said on January 16, 2021 at 3:50 pm

    So what you’re saaaaaying, is that these browsers will be a bit more de-googled and uncluttered with google superbloat useless megagarbage. This is a bad thing how exactly..?

    1. Anonymous said on January 16, 2021 at 8:54 pm

      Exactly, the first post by “Douglas”s is the most idiotic post I’ve seen in a long time. A completely de-googled chromium is a good thing.

      1. ULBoom said on January 17, 2021 at 4:33 pm

        That’s what they said, degoogled chromium is a good thing.

        However, try ungoogled chromium and see how much you like it. It barely works OOB. With some extensions installed it’s OK but they come from google. I have it as a secondary browser with DDG as my homepage (which can be set for more privacy) and it works well. But you need to download an extension to access the google store (whatever it’s called this week), then another to have DDG open in new tabs and another to be able to delete browsing data at will without f**king with buried settings.

        And an external utility to block webRTC. There are still ads and some trackers that can be stopped with an extension…

        Round and round we go…

    2. John said on January 16, 2021 at 8:30 pm

      The smallest browser forks may be unable to create and maintain their own sync infrastructure because of limited developer hours available and limited finances (Some of them don’t even have their own servers, which is necessary to host a sync infrastructure). This will negatively impact them because many users consider sync a “must have” feature so that they can use their phones and tablets to pick up right where they left off on their computers and vice-versa.

      I don’t personally use sync, in part to maintain flexibility to choose the best desktop browser and the best phone browser for me at any given time, even if they are maintained by two different companies or are even based on two different families of browsers from the ground up. For example, right now my Windows default browser is Vivaldi and my Android default browser is Iceraven ( ). One is Chromium (Blink)-based and the other is Firefox (Gecko) -based. Both of those can sync, just not with each other (Vivaldi can sync with Vivaldi, Iceraven can sync with Firefox- if desired, which I don’t.).

      Not everyone is me, though. I think most people, or at least a sizeable majority of them, probably do use sync.

      This may lead to more smaller forks being based on Firefox (Which has not any plans to stop allowing it’s sync to work with third-party browsers) rather than Chromium in the future, which would be a good thing for rendering engine diversity. So, it’s not all bad. It is bad in the sense that as sync has become a more and more basic feature that more and more users demand, forcing new browsers to come up with their own sync systems instead of letting them use Google’s is a barrier to entry, growth, and even to the continued existence of modest unfunded forks based on Chromium, though. This sort of restriction is sort of against the spirit of free open-source software, even though it probably conforms with the FOSS licensing requirements applicable to the product. This will probably be closely examined by regulations in places like the EU to see if it complies with their anti-trust laws.

      1. James Kirk said on February 1, 2021 at 2:58 pm

        How has your experience been with IveRaven on Android?

      2. Mike said on January 17, 2021 at 1:11 pm

        @John I am sorry but if they host my data on Google, then these forks have no reason of existance. I can put them there myself with Chrome, I don’t need their help for that.
        Also I don’t think the spirit of open source or any kind of FOSS licensing says anywhere that Google should pay their bills. That’s unreasonable.

      3. Ryan said on January 17, 2021 at 8:57 pm

        What about devices that don’t have a build of full Chrome available for them, such as Raspberry Pi?
        I guess firefox is always an option :-P

    3. Benjamin said on January 16, 2021 at 5:30 pm

      Google is bad it is, that is how. How this is? It is a corporation a mighty one and a oligarchic dictatorship it is as well…

  8. pHROZEN gHOST said on January 16, 2021 at 2:03 pm

    Does Brave use its own sync API? Or, is Google taking a shot at them?

    1. Mikhoul said on January 16, 2021 at 11:40 pm

      Brave use their own server and if you want more privacy with Brave you can even use your own server.

      1. pHROZEN gHOST said on January 17, 2021 at 6:21 pm

        Nice to know this. Thanks.

  9. mo said on January 16, 2021 at 1:49 pm

    Which third party browsers based on Chromium use Google’s sync? The main ones (Edge, Opera, Vivaldi, etc.) all use their own.

  10. Searoso said on January 16, 2021 at 12:30 pm

    It’s getting quite in predicted direction.

  11. Douglass said on January 16, 2021 at 10:45 am

    Building anything on Google code, long-term, is a recipe for disaster.

    Many of us learned, long ago, to never depend on Google.

    The list of canceled or restricted Googled projects is far longer than the ones still available. This is especially notable given that Google hasn’t even been in existence for very long.

    1. KERR said on January 18, 2021 at 3:42 am

      I agree with Douglass.

    2. Anonymous said on January 16, 2021 at 8:50 pm

      You have no idea what you are talking about.

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