Eleven days ago, we excoriated Microsoft for its now-scuttled plan to add “warnings” to Windows 10 that would nudge users away from using Chrome and Firefox and towards Microsoft’s own browser, Edge. After ferocious outcry, Redmond backed away from this plan, rightly perceiving the issue as a bridge too far when it comes to spreading FUD about its competitors in an attempt to boost its browser’s market share. But Google’s most recent behavior with Chrome 69 isn’t doing it any favors, either, and the company has adopted some new approaches that blur the difference between what it means to be logged into Chrome or not, overriding previous user settings in the process. The company’s explanation for these behaviors, furthermore, does not hold water.
Let’s start at the beginning. Prior to Chrome 69, Chrome offered an optional sign-in feature. This feature had nothing to do with your various accounts on services like Gmail or YouTube — instead, it allowed Google to synchronize things like cookies and bookmarks across all of the devices on which you used Chrome services. Many people embraced the feature, but Google kept it opt-in. The old login icon looked like a blank outline of a person. When clicked, it displayed the following message:
But now, Google has changed this message. Download and install Chrome 69, and the browser now treats this sign-in option as exercised if you log into any Google account. In other words, Google now treats the Chrome sign-in and the Google account sign-in as equivalent.
There was no reason to make this change. The stated rationale for this change, as expressed by Google engineer and manager Adrian Porter Felt is as follows (thread linked below, but we’ll summarize:)