[Update: It’s back] Facebook seems to have removed the option to open links in other browsers

Update 1 (06/25/2021 @ 00:34 AM ET): The “links open externally” option has quietly reappeared in the Facebook app. Click here for more information. The article, as published on June 24, 2021, is preserved below.

The Facebook app seems to have removed the option to open links in third-party browsers. Many Facebook users on Android are reporting that URL links no longer open in their default third-party browser.

Earlier, the Facebook app for Android offered an option to open links externally. i.e., in a third-party browser. This option was available under Settings > Media and contacts > browser settings. But it no longer exists there, as confirmed by many Facebook users on Reddit and Twitter. Now when you click on a link in Facebook, it opens in Facebook’s in-app browser. The option seems to have disappeared for many users over the past few months. Facebook’s support page still says the option is there.

As you can see in the screenshots below (H/T @ashk4n), the latest version of the Facebook app doesn’t show the toggle that allowed users to open a link in an external browser.

The exact reasoning behind this change isn’t immediately clear. However, the timing of this change has many suspecting it’s related to Google phasing out third-party cookies for tracking web browsing. For starters, Google is working on a new web technology called Federated Learning of Cohorts (FLoC), which the Search Giant says will eventually replace third-party cookies.

FLoC is being advertised as a more privacy-focused alternative to third-party cookies. Instead of following users individually across websites, it creates large groups of users with similar interests. It then hides you within these groups so ad companies can’t identify you individually. Facebook’s move to block third-party browsers from handling links seems to be a pre-emptive response to this change.

In our testing, we found that this change hasn’t rolled out to everyone just yet. For example, the option is gone on Mishaal’s Realme GT and Pixel 4. However, the Facebook app on his Pixel 4 still opens links in Chrome rather than Facebook’s in-app browser.

At the time being, there’s no way to bypass this change. All links will open into Facebook’s in-app browser by default. However, you can click on the three-dot menu in the upper-right hand corner and select the “Open in browser” option.


Update 1: “Links open externally” option is back

The option to open links in an external browser has quietly returned to the Facebook app. The toggle — which disappeared for some users several months back — returned to the same location in Facebook’s settings as detailed in the company’s support page. If you don’t see the toggle, try updating to the latest version of the mobile app.

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