Google, Microsoft and Mozilla have warned users of Chrome, Edge and Firefox that a unified update will soon be made to all three browsers which could bring down some of the world’s biggest websites.
Firefox, Chrome and Edge will soon break a number of high profile websites
MORE FROM FORBESGoogle Scraps Flawed New Chrome Browser Tracking SystemBy Gordon Kelly
In a move which has echoes of the Y2K bug, Chrome. Edge and Firefox will soon move to version number ‘100’ and this will cause some of the web’s biggest sites to fail because they cannot process visits from browsers with three digit version numbers. Some of the sites currently impacted include Bethesda, T-Mobile, HBO Go and Yahoo!
Why are three digit browser versions so difficult to process? It comes down to outdated code.
Most websites check the version number of your browser when you visit for security. If you are running an older, unsupported browser (in Chrome, the common cut-off point is 40) then you will not be allowed to open the site for fear it may have been compromised by hackers. The problem is the outdated code in these sites only checks the first two digits. So Chrome, Edge and Firefox 100 will be read as ‘10’ and blocked.
So why are all three browsers moving to version 100 at the same time? In short: to pressure web developers to upgrade. Most developers have subsequently updated but there are eye-opening exceptions, such as those listed above, and you can find more on this tracker.
And time is running out. The stable versions of Chrome and Edge (which both run Chromium) are 98 while Firefox is on 97. For context, Chrome was running version 95 in October.
So what can you do?
Emergency countermeasures have been announced for Chrome and Firefox. Depending on how many websites fail upon launch (and no-one will truly know until launch), Google’s backup plan is to freeze Chrome’s version number at 99 in its ID code while Mozilla will try a combination of version number freezing and issuing hotfixes for individual sites. Microsoft has yet to comment.
All of which means, the circa four billion users of Chrome, Edge and Firefox could be in for a bumpy ride over the next few months.
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