Google is looking to change the language used in Chrome and Android in a more thoughtful direction. The changes spotted in the respective code repository point toward the use of terms that are more descriptive. That’s as opposed to being derived ‘metaphorically’, as Googlers’ comments have defined the change. Specifically, the terms in question are “blacklist” and “whitelist.”
Commonly used to denote whether something has been blocked entirely or allowed, blacklist and whitelist have been used in code and in user interfaces for a very long time. On the user-facing side, they’re generally seen where Settings can be adjusted to allow or disallow software or features.
Purely for example, Android might show a list of apps that are ‘blacklisted’ from running in the background. Conversely, it might show a list of apps that are ‘whitelisted’ and can run in the background under any circumstances.
Google is swapping out the terminology for the words “blocklist” and “allowlist” instead.
These changes are already effectively in place on the user-facing side of things
It would be easy to suggest that the terminology change is fueled by recent protests across the US. Especially since the two terms could be viewed as racially-charged. That presumption wouldn’t be without justification. In 2019, Google documents issued guidance on writing “racially neutral” code. And the two terms appeared due to the fact that they “reinforce” the ill-conceived notion that black equates to “bad” while white equates to “good.”
That was actually the first appearance of the terms “blocklist” and “allowlist” as well.
The terms were subsequently all but removed from the user-facing UI. Now, work is well underway to change the code across the board. For Chromium, that code change requires that over 2,000 references to the word “blacklist” are replaced.
Those are set to be replaced by a single commit, which effectively only requires that the term is searched out and a single letter ‘a’ replaced with the letter ‘o’. There are a few instances where more work than that will be required, comments note. But that will get the ball rolling. Coming in behind that change, another code commit will be rolled out that “renames the directory/files and updates the necessary build system rules.”
On the mobile end of things, for Android, the start of the efforts is presently geared toward the term “whitelist.”
In both instances, work to swap out the ‘other’ terminology will presumably follow.
This is a welcome bit of news from Google
News that Google is actively working to change things up comes not a moment too soon. In fact, just a month ago, it was reported that the company may have made cuts to its diversity programs in a bid to fend off blowback from conservatives. Google followed up on those reports to explain that simply wasn’t the case. But that didn’t necessarily help its public image.
The company is currently fighting battles on multiple fronts ranging from dealing with fraudulent news and apps related to COVID-19 to lawsuits brought against it by the US government. The latter cases generally center around Google’s collection and handling of user data.
So any positive changes that can be made internally or otherwise could go a long way toward bolstering the company.